To do the things that matter most in life, first overcome the fear of failure and doing something new.

For people with triskaidekaphobia, 2016 is a good year.

There was only one Friday, the 13th this year, which was a lot better than 2015 when there were three Friday the 13ths.

Granted, for some triskies, including popular writer Stephen King, even one Friday the 13th is one too many, keeping them under the bed covers until the 24-hour cloud of doom has passed.

But maybe it's not Friday the 13th that makes your palms sweat.

An annual study of Americans' top fears indicates that more people are afraid of corruption in government, cyberterrorism and corporate tracking of personal data than they are of the number 13.

In reality, most of us become anxious or stressed over more common experiences – a job interview, a test, financial challenges or health concerns.

According to the Mayo Clinic, feeling occasional anxiety is part of life.  It's a normal reaction to stressful situations.

The trick is to not let it stop you from doing what matters.

Like finishing your college degree.

Fear of failure or trying something new

Maybe starting college will be a new experience for you, and the idea of trying something new makes you apprehensive.

Or, maybe you tried college before and stopped when life intervened; so you may be hesitant to start again.

If that's the case, you are not alone. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 31 million people have enrolled in college in the past 20 years and left before completing their degrees.

In either case, don't let fear stop you from starting an online degree program.

Google co-founder Larry Page had this to say about starting his company: "You have this fear of failing and of doing something new, which is very natural. In order to do stuff that matters, you need to overcome that."

How to do the "stuff that matters"

Managing normal fear or apprehension can be accomplished in small steps – building strength and confidence a little at a time.

The key is to get started.

When it comes to pushing through fear to achieve something that matters, blogger Leo Babauta puts it this way:

"Take just one step, any step, a tiny step. Movement begets movement. Once you start moving, even a little, you feel better, you see that you're capable, you want to move more.

"You embrace the uncertainty and discomfort. Lots of people avoid these two things, but without them, you never get good at anything. You never learn anything worthwhile…

"Let yourself be moved by curiosity: wanting to know what it's like to get past this, to push through discomfort. You want to find out how this chapter ends. You want to learn more about yourself.

"Pause and remind yourself of the reason you started in the first place: it's not for personal success but to help people, to strengthen yourself, to inspire others, to make someone's life a little better, to put a smile on your face. You push through because every time you face uncertainty and discomfort in the future, you want to know you're good enough to push through."

Contacting an enrollment counselor

So if starting – or restarting – your educational journey is your goal, where do you begin? What's a good first step to take?

Contact a college enrollment counselor.

An enrollment counselor who is concerned about you and your goals understands that starting college – or going back to school to finish your degree – is a significant life decision. And that counselor should make it as stress-free as possible for you.

At Saint Leo University, here's how that initial conversation goes.

Our counselors focus on you and your goals. They ask questions. Where you are in your career and where do you want to go? What is your passion? Why do you want to earn a degree? What college credit do you already have? Who in your life you can rely on for support and encouragement?

Then they answer any questions you may have. They can tell you what it's like to earn a degree online, what can you expect from your professors and your classmates, what kind of academic support Saint Leo offers, and more.

You can ask Saint Leo enrollment counselors about anything from tuition to courses, and they will do their best to give you complete and candid information. They can explain why regional accreditation is important and how you can accelerate your degree.

And then they leave the decision about starting a program up to you. At Saint Leo, counselors never pressure you into making a decision that you're not ready to make.

It's just not the way Saint Leo does business – it's not part of the university's core values.

Taking the first step

Granted, we are all human. That means that from time to time, fear of the unknown, of trying something new is going to creep in.

Maybe even fear of black cats or Friday, the 13th.

And that's okay. Because fear can keep us safe and anxiety can help us prepare for what lies ahead.

The key is keeping in mind what can be gained once we take that first step.

As the ancient Chinese proverb goes, "Don't be afraid of going slowly. Be afraid only of standing still."

To speak with a Saint Leo University enrollment counselor about one of our undergraduate online degree programs, call 888-875-8265; to speak with a graduate program enrollment counselor, call 800-707-8846.

Image credit:Thomas Hawk on Flickr/Creative Commons