As a coach who works with many clients who are reinventing themselves personally or professionally, I’ve become intimately familiar with fear. Everybody’s got it.
Fear in a time of change and transition—such as returning to school after a long absence or training for a new career—is normal. And yet, so much of what we hear about fear is that we need to get rid of it and be fearless. Don’t be afraid. Just do it.
Yet, over time what I’ve seen is this: those who resist this normal process get stuck and sometimes even bail out of taking the steps that will move them forward. Steps like going back to school or taking a new training that will could lead to a promotion. When I work with clients on the natural uncertainty that comes with doing something new, I ask them to practice a new way of dealing with it. Acknowledging what you’re afraid of and learning how to skillfully work with it can help you move into your professional development or education with confidence and authenticity. It’s true. Being afraid can set you up for success.
Before you let fear stop you from taking a class that could improve your job prospects, going back to school or training for a brand new career, try a couple of these strategies:
In quiet moments, you know what scares you. There is nothing wrong with admitting aloud that you have doubts or fears about your next step. Any time we are uncertain of the outcome, we feel vulnerable… because we are. And yet, inside that vulnerability is exactly where your power lies. Listening to that fear and what it’s telling you can help you identify what you need—support, information and encouragement. And when you know what you need, you can go get it.
If it’s knowledge you need to feel more confident and less uncertain in the situation, make a list of the questions that you need answered. Maybe you need to gather more information about the program or talk to current students, instructors or graduates. Take a look at what you’re afraid of and decide what experience or information you need to feel more confident or put your concerns to rest.
Courage is all about knowing your fear, putting it in an appropriate role and increasing your capability to act at the same time. Instead of putting fear in the driver’s seat, imagine that you’re going to drive and you’ll make space for fear in the back seat, along with curiosity, excitement and all the other things you’re feeling about your new opportunity. That’s far more nourishing than trying to crush it, and far more doable.
Exercise the muscle of courage by trying new things in areas that are less charged for you. Where could expand your comfort zone a little here and there? Where have you done that before and succeeded? Chances are pretty good that strategies you used to do something out of your comfort zone in the past, or in areas where you feel more comfortable, will help you to do it again now.
Maybe you have a fear of being able to balance work and studies or you’re wondering if you’re making the right decision about what to study. Maybe it’s the social aspect that feels concerning. Often, there’s a message there about an area where you are growing or an outcome that you really want. Talk openly with friends, family, your coach or trusted colleagues about what scares you and what that means for you.
You know that sick feeling in your stomach? Or the sweaty palms and tense shoulders? Take time to feel what fear feels like in your body. How are you breathing? Where do you notice tension? Tracking the physical feelings of fear in your body can help you identify what you’re feeling when it shows up, before it gets the better of you or starts to feel overwhelming.
The unknown unlocks the parts of our brains that are prone to negative bias. We see what might go wrong before we see what could go right. The inner dialogue winds up with the “what ifs”:
It’s easy to “what if” yourself to a place of complete standstill. In fact, most of us have had this experience at least once when facing a challenge or an unfamiliar environment—two situations that are often part of training for a new career. Another choice is to turn that same “what if” energy around and use it to move right on past the fear you are feeling. Imagine letting the “what ifs” wild to improve and empower your situation instead.
What if goes both ways and only one of them is empowering and inspiring.
At the end of the day, only you can stop yourself from doing what you really want to do. Feeling afraid can’t do that. The exciting part is that you get to choose.
Sally Anne Giedrys is a life / career coach for professionals and entrepreneurs who want to re-tool their work, define success on their own terms and design healthy, balanced lifestyles that match their strengths and priorities. She’s a freedom-focused advocate for helping clients reimagine, redefine and reinvent the status quo to achieve their personal vision of success and fulfillment. Sally splits her time between Portland, Oregon, and Christchurch, New Zealand.