I’ve heard it said that all of our negative behaviors can be traced back to one thing: FEAR.
I can relate.
After my boss announced her retirement, I started stressing out bigtime about my next career move. Her departure forced me to suddenly—and painfully—wake up and admit that the path I was on wasn’t where I wanted to go.
And while I couldn’t articulate it then, I now see that it was FEAR that kept me stuck, procrastinating, unhappy, and being less than who I was supposed to be.
Ick with a capital eh.
Of course, I couldn’t see those fears at the time. It took a good coach, some quiet reflection, and an armful of consistent action to bring those fears into view. Now I can clearly see what held me back even as I asked myself “what’s next for me?”
So here are the three big fears I had to fight. Maybe you’re fighting them too. Hopefully seeing them here can help you discover what’s next for you, sooner than later.
The Three Fears that Blocked My Career Decisions (but that I eventually kicked to the curb and you can, too)
1. Fear of what others would think.
“Why would you want to leave such a great job?” my mother would ask. I totally understood where she was coming from. I did have a great job—on paper. Great company, great money, great benefits, work and people I enjoyed for the most part, time off when I needed it for life’s various challenges.
But I wasn’t happy. Even bored though I was crazy busy. Just because I could do this kind of work didn’t mean I wanted to anymore. So after a lot of thought, research, conversations with my coach, and conversations with others, I decided to make a change.
But to change, I had to intentionally choose NOT to worry what anyone else thought, even the people that loved me most. I had to trust that I’d done my homework and wasn’t taking on something new lightly.
The funny thing is that when I actually made the decision to make a change, I did indeed get some people giving me quizzical looks (especially since at the time, the economy was starting to experience economic indigestion and throwing up people from jobs all over the world.)
But I also got a lot of “good for you” looks when I explained what I was moving toward—not focusing on what I was walking away from.
I learned pretty quickly that it didn’t really matter what other people thought. It only mattered what I thought. I could respect their point of view, thank them for their interest, and go about my merry business. And I did. (And my mom came around shortly, too.)
2. Fear of making less–and maybe no–money
And the fear of losing money—or more honestly, the fear of not having enough—is a realistic and important fear to tackle.
But what’s enough? Is there ever enough? In a society where money=security, if you decide to change your income pattern, are you screwing yourself in the future? That was a real fear for me, especially when I did eventually decide to launch my own business.
To tackle his fear, I used both facts and beliefs.
For the facts, I turned to my fee-only financial advisors, who I’d hired long ago to help me manage money and give me non-biased advice based on MY goals, not on commissions or on trendy investment ideas. One of the most powerful things they did for me is to play out the worst case scenarios so I was dealing with fact, not fear.
(Psst: you don’t need a lot of money to hire a financial advisor. You can often hire someone for a one-time review. Check out the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors for fee-only advisors near you.)
I also asked myself if I could live on less. When I looked hard at this, I found the answer was again yes. I cut out a lot of miscellaneous expenses (tip: if you don’t go to Target, you don’t spend $200 a pop at Target) (tip 2: cable is not a utility) and shopped for new insurance and other bills. So I also had different facts about what money I really needed to live.
For the beliefs, I asked myself “if this next step of mine fails, would anyone ever hire me again?” I took a hard look at my skills and assets (writing, consulting, talking to people, smiling, asking if you wanted fries with that) and decided that while the world can’t guarantee me the perfect big-money job for me in the future, the answer was yes, I fully believed I would be hire-able again in the future and could figure out how to earn money no matter what was happening in the world.
I keep hearing this fear get in the way of change. And in some cases, once my clients have done the homework, they can see that the fear is a real consideration—that they DO need to continue to sustain their current level of income, etc. But these facts can be addressed.
Money should never be the reason you’re avoiding considering change. It may be a reason not to choose change, but don’t let it stop you from exploring what’s next.
3. Fear that I’m kidding myself.
Maybe this is the most embarrassing fear of all. I was afraid that even with all my research and knowledge, that I could be delusional. That I was talking myself into thinking I was the kind of person who could be something different. That all this goody-goody inspirational reading maybe didn’t really apply to me, a practical, down-to-earth kind of gal.
Was I kidding myself to think I deserved to leave a good gig and draw a new path? That’s the little voice that popped up late at night. Actually, sometimes still.
There’s only one tool to use against this fear. ACTION. Forward, positive motion–even just a little, tiny step, every day.
I had to make the call. Write the article. Ask for help. Create from scratch. Learn from experts.
Action mattered, and it continues to help shoo away that fear when it still comes calling. And even the smallest step taught me I could, I should, and kept me moving forward.
YOUR TURN: How have you gotten past your fears when you’re making a big career decision? Tell us in the Comments below.