'I am about to start a course and I am very nervous. I attempted something similar a few years ago and became so obsessed with my performance that I ended up dropping out. This course means a lot to me and I want to succeed.' Jack

Step 1: When something is meaningful to us we often attach undue significance to every nuance associated with the outcome. Instead of allowing ourselves to become absorbed in the process, we become obsessed with the content. Paralysis by analysis – over analysing motivation, performance and ambition – binds us into interminable self-doubt. A more useful philosophy is to let go of your attachment to the outcome of your course and absorb yourself in the process of learning.

Step 2: One of the most intellectually luxurious positions is that of being a beginner. When we are new to something we are open and curious. We can ask questions an expert might be apprehensive of for fear of being caught "not knowing". To be a beginner is to celebrate not knowing and to be truly open to the experience of learning. Allow yourself to be a beginner, redefining your limits and letting yourself grow.

Step 3: We can all adopt what Zen Buddhists call "beginner's mind" regardless of how much of an expert we are supposed to be. Beginner's mind allows us to start again, as often as we need to, so that we can embrace the reality of our experience. Beginner's mind helps us to shift attention from the need to look good, to a place where we become absorbed in what we are doing, the very opposite of paralysis by analysis. The more in-flow we are the more open we are to the richness of our experience and the less preoccupied we become with how we are doing.

Step 4: Challenge your anxiety by realising that you are not the same now as you were then. Acknowledge how much the course means to you and then let go of your attachment to the outcome. Often, when we really want something we have to repeatedly engage with it at different stages of our lives. Eventually, there comes a time when we are truly ready to embrace what we desire. If you can be compassionate with yourself that time might well be now.

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