As a HOBY alumnus, you may have heard about a little something called SMART Goals, with the prevailing mantra that SMART Goals lead to smart actions. SMART Goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based and they make us more effective and reliable leaders.

Have you reached your SMART goals in the last year?

Hopefully, your answer is an emphatic, “YES”!

But maybe, it isn’t.

Maybe you stalled a bit, experienced a setback or simply lost the courage to move forward. What if, even after turning an average goal into a SMART goal, we still fail? We freeze, unable to make the first step. 

Last September, all HOBY Headquarters staff came together for a 2-day retreat to plan for the year ahead. Our motto was “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough,” which got me thinking a lot about fear and the role it plays in our lives. Fear is why we procrastinate, and why we avoid committing to something, even if I really want it. What has fear stopped you from doing?

At HOBY we explore and clarify our personal values and the strengths that we bring to the table. But fear is why sometimes, we never come to the table.

When we examine what holds us back from reaching our full potential as leaders, we shine a light in an otherwise dark and scary room. To do this, we will break out what those fears are, what the consequences of failure would be, and what is at stake if we never try.

Presenting SMART Fears!






Using the SMART formula of, Specify, Measure, Attain, Relevant and Time-Based, we can identify possible pitfalls of failure, create safeguards, and test the assumptions that hold us back.

Grab a piece of paper and a pen, or open a new note on your phone and do the following:

Write the goal you’re too afraid to go after. 

Example: I want to host a monthly art gallery that features artists from developing nations to bring exposure to talent that wouldn’t otherwise be seen and to create an awareness of the struggle those countries face.


Step 1: Specify your fear.
“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.” Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

  • People won’t come to the shows.
  • I won’t find a gallery that will host us for cheap or free.
  • It will take too much of my time to organize, I’ll fail at school and my parents will be mad.


Step 2: Measure what is more likely to happen.
Rate the impact of each undesirable outcome, and write what is more likely to happen than absolute failure.

  • People won’t come to the shows. – 3

I will be sad if no one comes. But I have 5 people in my family what will definitely come. And I can provide pizza as an incentive for another 6 of my friends.

  • I won’t find a gallery that will host us for cheap or free. – 4

It won’t be a “real” art gallery showing if it’s not in an art gallery. While it won’t be as “official” to host it at my Aunt’s house, she has a large, clear garage space she would let me use 4 times a year.

  • It will take too much of my time to organize and I’ll fail at school and my parents will be mad. –  8

I’ll be grounded and have to do summer school. But I’ve been grounded before- it’s not that bad. Even better, I can ask my parents for help and get them involved from the beginning. I can prioritize school work to be done first before working on the Art Show. I can schedule the shows so they aren’t during testing or busy times of the year.


Step 3: Attainable
If your worst fears came true, what could you do to attain your previous status?  How could you back to where you started if you had to?

  • People won’t come to the monthly shows.

Start by hosting quarterly, or an annual show and work up to a monthly show.

  • I won’t find a gallery that will host us for cheap or free.

Find a local business with a common interest in the country you want to feature or a company that has a charitable mission. Host it in a church, a garage, a rec center.

  • It will take too much of my time to organize, I’ll fail at school and my parents will be mad.

I can go to summer school, and see about taking classes to get ahead at my local community college. Putting in the extra effort to get ahead will also help smooth things over with my parents. Next time, I will tell them about my big ideas beforehand so they can help if needed. I can also do extra chores around the house to show that I am committed to making things right.


Step 4: Relevant
How real are these fears? Are they even related to whether or not you can accomplish your goal? We can’t move past our fears if we don’t identify where they come from.

Journal for 10 minutes about any past experiences that are making you nervous about pursuing your goal. Did you once have a birthday party no one came to? Are you terribly shy and afraid to approach people you don’t know? Did a parent or teacher ever ridicule you for asking for help or not knowing something?

Remember that courage isn’t the absence of fear but the ability to act in spite of it. The best way to embody this is to practice small acts of courage every day. Say hi to someone you don’t know. Invite an acquaintance to have lunch with you and take yourself out to lunch even if they decline, ask the grocery store clerk for help if you can’t find something instead of wandering around looking for an extra 20 minutes.  Ask them for help anyway, even if you know where it is.


Step 5: Time-Based
What are you putting off because of fear? And what is it costing you emotionally, physically, and financially to put off achieving your goal?

We go to great lengths to justify settling for a more comfortable, predictable but ultimately less fulfilling life.

Get out that journal again. Imagine the cost of never completing your service project idea. Artists that you would have featured have one fewer platform to be seen, you lose the experience of managing and organizing something that brings joy to others, and you lose the opportunity to meet other artists, community members and partners with similar interests and life goals. Finally, no money is raised for a cause that you care deeply about.


That’s a pretty hefty cost.

You owe it to yourself to try and fail. There’s too much at stake if you don’t. Brene Brown put it best in her book Braving the Wilderness:

“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make. Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”


If you are interested in learning more about creativity, fears, courage and facing your demons- below are some of my favorite finds.