How to deal with fear when it’s holding you back

You’d love to do something else but when it comes down to it…

You’re too scared.

You bottle out.

You start thinking of all the reasons why it’s not a good idea.

If this sounds like you, settle in then while we discuss another way.

First things first – fear is normal here. If you pretend that you’re not scared at least a little, then you’re either lying, or not planning to do very much.

Fear is always present when we’re going to do something important. We can’t make it go away, but we can choose how we deal with it.

One way to deal with it is simply to reduce the stakes until they’re not so scary.

When it comes to leaving a job and starting out on our own, the success story we hear most often goes something like:

I quit my well paid job with no idea what I was going to do, and I started this huge successful business.

But, because we’re smart, we know that there are sure to be failure stories too. So our brain fills in what we think are the untold stories:

I quit my well paid job with no idea what I was going to do, and it all went wrong and now I’m broke.

That creates a huge amount of fear – more than we’re willing to handle. So we do nothing.

Which ironically means the opposite of those success stories is actually:

I didn’t quit my well paid job, because the only way I could see of doing it was too scary. So I settled for what I had.

If the only way we can think of making a change involves huge “bridge burning” steps, then only those of us with a major tolerance for risk could ever make a move. The reality is, not many of us are prepared to put that much on the line. And that’s a good thing. We wouldn’t stake everything on black at the roulette table, so why should we have to when changing career?

We can instead structure the situation to change how much risk is involved. As we do that, we can change how the fear impacts us.

To move out of corporate employment, you don’t have to jump without a net – you can make a slow, steady, carefully planned exit that leaves all your options open.

If you were looking for another job in the same field, you’d go to the interview and get accepted before you quit, right? Well you can do exactly the same with a complete change of direction.

Want to start that company? What’s stopping you from building it while you’re still employed?

Want to travel for a year? Reduce your outgoings now and save enough money to last for a year.

No idea what you want to do? Start a deliberate process of finding out while you still have the luxury of regular income to take the pressure off.

Some of us need the extra pressure that a big shot of fear gives us – maybe you do need to leap without a net. Comfort is the biggest killer of ambition after all. But if the thought of stepping into a very uncomfortable place all at once terrifies you, then  the best thing you can do is take a small step first. Make the step small enough that you can handle the fear it generates.

Take lots of small steps and watch your comfort zone expand until whatever you’re contemplating no longer terrifies you, just gives you the little buzz of adrenaline that you need.

You can take the change at your own pace, but please, don’t stay in your comfortable prison because you’re too scared to unlock the door.

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