This is the time of year where business leaders are optimistic as they dream and plan for all the possibilities the new year will bring.

Last week I was doing some strategic planning for my own business in preparation for 2019. The next day, as I thought about some of the plans I'd mapped out for myself, I started to feel anxious.

This is too much, I thought. You're going to get overwhelmed. It isn't sustainable if you actually want to enjoy your life and not work all the time.

So I started to think through how I could scale back on the activities I knew would be beneficial in helping me grow my business. No bueno. A few days later, I realized the root of the anxiety I felt: fear.

Fear was causing me to play small. Thankfully, I snapped out of it and went to my go-to method for helping me overcome fear to attack the big goals I have for my business. Here are four steps you can take to overcome any fears that may be standing in the way between you and a breakout 2019.

1. Declare your game-changing goals.

It's easy to go into a new year doing the same activities you did the previous year. But if you want to improve upon the results you earned in 2018, you'll have to shake things up a bit.

That means getting bold with the goals you set for yourself. Instead of writing down all the things you think you should be doing, spend some time dreaming about the activities that would help you make significant progress toward achieving your mission. Brainstorm the activities you would do if you could wave a magic wand and implement your ideas flawlessly.

Don't focus on how you'll do it or any existing constraints that exist during this step. Just imagine the possibilities and set goals for your business that will allow you to stand out and make a bigger impact for the customers you serve.

2. Identify who you need to become to accomplish your goals.

To achieve the bigger goals you set for yourself, you've got show up differently. You've got to establish and nurture the habits, processes, and company culture that will enable you to execute the tasks and activities necessary to reach your big goals.

For me, that meant I needed to hire a team of people to take on the work I couldn't do myself, or that I shouldn't be doing, so I could focus my time and energy on the right tasks.

3. Specify your non-negotiables along the way.

You don't want to build a business that gives you a life that you hate. But that can be totally possible if you don't set up some boundaries for yourself regarding the way you want to work and live.

For my business, my non-negotiables include making time to work out each day and to eat right. It also means taking proper vacations, not working through the weekends, and not working with clients I'm not excited about.

When you establish operating norms for both you and your team, it makes it easier for you to design the way you work in a manner that supports everyone living and performing at their best.

4. Engage in defensive pessimism.

Most of us experience fear, especially when we're faced with the prospect of doing something new. Fear can only defeat you if it paralyzes you or prevents you from stepping outside your comfort zone to do something that will help you grow.

You can use fear to your advantage, by employing the defensive pessimism technique. Researcher Julie Norem, the pioneer of this approach explains how it works:

When self-doubts creep in, defensive pessimists don't allow themselves to be crippled by fear. They deliberately imagine a disaster scenario to intensify their anxiety and convert it into motivation. Once they've considered the worst, they're driven to avoid it, considering every relevant detail to make sure they don't crash and burn.

Map out all the ways you think you could "fail" at achieving the big goals you've set. Then get to work building a plan to give you the best possible chance to succeed in each of those areas.

It will help prepare you to tackle any number of obstacles that stand between you and your goals.

The new year could stand to be a breakout year for you and your business. But it will only happen if you properly plan for it. 

Published on: Dec 17, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.