Is Fear Making You Procrastinate?

Fear is an odd emotion.

It can be helpful, such as warning us not to go down a dark alley at night. But fear can also be unhelpful, such as preventing us from following our dreams.

When fear creeps into my life, it usually leads to procrastination. I put off my goals and avoid tough decisions all because of fear.

When I’m sitting in my office and I decide to stall before starting a project, fear guides my mouse curser to the gossip blogs.

When I’m unsure about sticking to my diet, fear drives me to root around the fridge for unhealthy snacks.

Does this sound like you? We can’t let fear make us put off the things that need to be done.

Here are some examples so you can recognize when fear is making you procrastinate.

Fear of Failure

This type of fear shows up the most in my life, and I’ll bet yours too. You might be fearful of a work project because you don’t want to screw it up and disappoint your manager, so you put off starting it. You might be afraid that you won’t keep your resolution to lose weight, so you skip your workout.

Fear of Success

Sometimes it’s scary to be successful—even if you’re aiming for something you’ve always wanted! You might be fearful of making more money than your spouse, so you don’t apply for that high-paying job you’d be perfect for. You might be afraid of alienating your overweight loved ones, so you avoid starting a diet and exercise plan.

Fear of the Unknown

This kind of fear is very personal for me. Chris and I procrastinated FOR YEARS about moving to San Francisco. We had a lot of good reasons to move from Chicago to San Francisco: we hated Midwestern winters, the best jobs in Chris’s field are on the West coast, we have no other family so there’s nothing tying us down, etc.

But we were fearful about the unknown: would we have enough money to move, would our house sell, would we be comfortable in a new state. The unknown aspects of moving were scary, and even though we weren’t happy in Chicago, we stayed because it was familiar. We procrastinated and did NOTHING because of fear.

Obviously, Chris and I got over our fear of the unknown because we now happily reside in San Francisco. It wasn’t easy, but these things helped us overcome our fear and stop procrastinating:

  • Just do it. Sometimes you have to put on your big girl panties and just go for it even if you’re scared. You’ll start making progress the moment you get over yourself and push through your fear.
  • Visualize the best-case scenario. When you focus on how good the end result could be (We’ll never shovel snow again!), it gives you the mental and emotional strength to conquer the fear and continue on your path.
  • Remember it’s about you, not them. If you want to lose weight or get healthy, remind yourself that you are worth it. It doesn’t matter if others won’t accept you at a healthy weight; your happiness is more important than living up to other people’s expectations. Don’t let fear keep you from your dreams—ever!

Does fear make you procrastinate? Are you afraid of failing, succeeding, or the unknown?

How do you get over your fear and take action?

3 Simple Steps to Become a Productivity Superstar

Dump your excuses, transform your habits, and become the most productive person you know.


  1. Tinfoil Tiaras on January 6, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Oh yes this definitely sounds like me- I have fear of the unknown! My man and I really want to move to California (hopefully close to you-yippee!) but fear of the unknown is keeping us stalling (well that plus I am now in a 1 yr min work contract…) Also I just wanted to say that I am LOVING your new blog style- the pics are adorable and your writing is so on point. I just read your post about sleep schedule and you’ve motivated me! I’m a snooze-button-aholic plus I never leave myself time to primp or eat breakfast so I will work on some morning changes!

    • Sage on January 7, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      You should move out here–it’s 65/70 degrees all year! Thanks for the nice comments about my posts. The snooze button was killing me, and I feel so much better having the extra time in the moring.

  2. xvavaveganx on January 5, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    I think I definitely have fear of success! I think I’m capable of so much more but for some reason I hold back. I don’t know if maybe I’m afraid of maxing out or what but I definitely find myself holding back and not going for things that I think that I’d succeed in. Very eye opening post, as always! 🙂

    And congrats again on the move and Skyla!! Love her face 🙂

  3. Cara on January 5, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Definitely the unknown! We’re moving this spring to a city I know almost no one, and we’re buying and I don’t have a job…I could keep going but I know it will be ok as long as I start job hunting this weekend and enjoy my last few months here.

    As always, great post and smile-inducing photos!

    • Sage on January 7, 2012 at 7:33 pm

      Haha, I am trying to have more fun with my photos. 🙂 Good luck on your job hunt!

  4. Megan Gann on January 5, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Congrats on making your move. Fear can keep you from doing a lot. I think for me, it tends to be fear of the “known”. I’m a “what-if”er and tend to psych myself out with what COULD happen. I usually get angry with myself and just do things. I’ll not do something for a long time and wake up one day and decide it’s time. I tend to “decide” on a whim. I’ve always been that way, but stuff does get done.

  5. Shybiker on January 5, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I don’t want to repeat my adulation but you keep hitting the bullseye with these posts. Yes, this is the perfect subject for all of us and your remedies are sound. I started life as an insecure person and, through the kinds of experience you describe (Just Do It!), Iearned to face down my fears and overcome them. They’re scarier in your head than reality.

    Keep this up and you’ll be Blogger Of The Year!

  6. Meg Vetsch on January 5, 2012 at 7:21 am

    Wow. I just had a big “come to Jesus” cry about this last night! I’ve got a game plan now to get my butt in gear and not let fear get in the way of getting at my goals. This was SO TIMELY and only helps to reaffirm that I can do this! Thanks! 🙂

    • Sage on January 5, 2012 at 7:28 am

      You’re welcome, Meg! I’m so glad you have a plan–that’s huge! You’re a strong person, and you can do it!

      I love the phrase “come to Jesus” to describe times when you need to get real with yourself. I’ve had many “come to Jesus” discussions with myself–and I don’t even have a religion!

  7. H&K Style Journey on January 5, 2012 at 4:42 am

    This is so true! When I fear something though, it’s more like a challenge. The unknown is always scary, but once you do it, you realize it wasn’t so scary. I like to kick fears butt! And your point about doing something for you, not everyone else is a very important thing to remember. Heather

    • Sage on January 5, 2012 at 7:14 am

      Thanks, Heather. Fear of the unknown is probably the hardest one to deal with. I think you’re pretty fearless since you started your own business. That’s a lot of unknowns.