Fear and Baby Steps – Your Keys for Physical Transformation

September 2021

By Michael Shaw, Managing Director 1205 Fitness


When it comes to weight loss, muscle gain, or pretty much any endeavor that involves physical training and/or following a nutrition plan, our first step is usually setting a goal. This practice is all well and good except for one minor problem…it almost always concludes in the abandonment of the journey. The goal remains, but the commitment to the execution of the action plan falls by the wayside. There is one classification of client who, throughout my quarter century career, stands head and shoulders above all others when it comes to achieving their desired results. You are most certainly wondering who these over-achievers are and from which planet do they hail? Believe me when I tell you, they are regular people just like you. But the one distinction they all have in common is…they have been told by a physician that they are at a grave health risk if they don’t commit to a lifestyle change.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Negative persuasion is a very popular and effective form of marketing and advertising. Think of how many times you’ve seen ads that state, “The five biggest risks of…” We respond to fear because the possibility of that fear coming to fruition means the end of something vital in our lives that we don’t want to lose, such as our health. Conversely, when we set a goal and only focus on the positive outcome, we fail to internalize the probability of actually achieving said result if we stay the course. It’s like buying a lottery ticket; we imagine all the amazing ways our lives will positively change if we win, but the dream is easily abandoned when we don’t. And we reset the goal every time we buy another ticket.

So, how do you implement this “Fear Setting” technique when it comes to using exercise and nutrition to transform your body and improve your quality of life? Simply ask yourself two questions. In fact, write them down. Put them on your daily calendar and read them every morning.

  1. What are the five worst things that will happen if I don’t commit to this lifestyle change?
  2. What obstacles (real or imagined) am I allowing to keep me in my current state?

This mental exercise will empower you to confront your fears and achieve tangible results in a far more meaningful way than creating lofty goals ever will.

When reflecting upon any significant achievement, I can easily identify what my fears were, how they were overcome, and more importantly, how they were used as springboards instead of roadblocks.When I purchased my first training studio, I was full of ambition and enthusiasm, but not much else. I remember worrying that I didn’t know the first thing about running a business. I had no clue about merchant accounts, liability insurance, employee benefits, articles of incorporation, etc. But, instead of remaining in a paralyzed state, I reflected on the year prior in which I had transformed myself into a competitive bodybuilder. I remembered how much I wanted that glorious moment when a packed auditorium would cheer as I struck each pose. But more importantly, I remembered my fear and how I had to confront it. My fear of standing in front of that crowd in nothing but a banana hammock and being judged. What if I’m laughed off stage? What if I’m too small? What if I haven’t trained enough? What if I cramp up and trip when I’m on stage?

Ultimately, those fears fueled my training and empowered me to realize my goal.But all would have been lost if I had not taken that first baby step. Then another, and another, and another. The first thing I did was choose a contest that was one year out…plenty of time to put in the work necessary to transform my body. The next step was to seek out a mentor to help create my plan, and a support group (training partners) to help implement that plan. All the while reminding myself, “What’s the worst that can happen, I come in last place? I’ll still be in the best shape of my life.” Now, 23 years later, I can tell you with absolute certainty that my year of training for that competition (and another one) was one of the greatest of my life. Overcoming those fears gave me the blueprint for conquering every challenge I have faced since then. The lessons learned during that experience have made me a better father and husband, an infinitely better businessman, and most importantly I feel, a better version of myself.

I’ll steal a line from Tony Robbins…. “When would NOW be a good time…” for you to look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” Use your fears as a guiding principle to achieve positive outcomes and to motivate yourself to eventually conquer them. Take baby steps and plan for your journey to avoid abandoning your ultimate goal. Ask yourself, “How would my life be different today if I had confronted my fears and implemented my plan one year ago?”

Pretty powerful, right?



Michael Shaw is available for speaking engagements, life coaching, personal training, group exercise instruction, nutrition programming, and executive confidence training. For more information, please contact mikeshaw.1205fitness@gmail.com