FEAR: The F Word – and how to deal with it
When I was a kid I used to be afraid of the dark. Not just any afraid. Proper Sleepy Hollow afraid.
This meant that to fall asleep I had to be read to. Diverted by the story I would eventually nod off, all safe and well. Let’s call this Strategy A
Until, inevitably I woke in the middle of the night to a pitch-black room, heart thumping as I stared into the blackness. I knew logically that when daylight came all would be well – but fear pays no heed to logic. Any of you who have tried to reason your way out of fear will know that this is futile. Fear has a very high volume button and responds to feeling not sense.
My 5 year-old self came up with two strategies to deal with it:
Strategy One was to sum up the courage to stick my arm out from under the covers (in reality a panicked flailing about) till my hand found the switch and light flooded my room. Whew. Demons gone.
Strategy Two was to fix my eye on where the door was, then charge for it, down the corridor to my parents’ room and fling myself between them. Instant calm!
So, what has all this got to do with you and finding your way to work you love?
Because if you’re like most of us you’re probably wrestling with (or frozen into inertia by) FEAR
Here’s a few forms it can take:
What if it all goes wrong?
What if I can’t pay my mortgage?
What if I’m no good?
It’s too competitive
It’s too late
It’s out of reach
Sound familiar? Yes that’s FEAR talking. Notice how loud it is? How shrill?
That’s because most fear is ultimately about survival. It’s an instinct. It’s designed to keep us safe, to keep us surviving. Darwin mentioned a thing or two about this too
However just surviving is one of the main reasons most of us want to change career. We don’t want to just survive. We hate doing things just for the money. We want to love what we do, to feel alive, to use our potential, to be in flow, to feel connected and engaged, to feel great.
But here we are trapped by a survival instinct that wants to keep us safely in exactly the place we want to get out of. Don’t forget before we’re too harsh with it – fear is useful. It’s a brilliant internal warning system and serves us well keeping us out of danger. It’s biological. Biology is powerful. Another reason not to fight it.
We have to outfox it.
Enter our three strategies.
1. DIVERT YOUR FOCUS
Why: because whatever we focus on magnifies.So if for example we feel we don’t have any experience in a field we want to get into we focus on how far out of reach it is. We tell ourselves it’s impossible. A Pipe Dream. All we can see is how good / experienced /ahead of the game everyone else is. How can we ever compete with this? What chance do we stand? It’s cue for FEAR to take centre stage and it swoops in like a diva in full falsetto. It’s enough to cause even the most valiant of us to stay captive at the job we so badly want to leave.
You see, we can talk ourselves out of our desires so fast
But wait, what would happen if we divert our attention and focus on learning and doing instead (a course, volunteering, a test project, talking to people who do the things we’d love to be doing and learning from them, anything!) This is what happens… the fear quietens. Because we’re focusing on what we can do rather than what we can’t or on what we think everyone else is doing. Fear quietens when we DO and it gets louder when we THINK.
An important note here – diversion is not ESCAPE. It’s a productive channeling of your energies into something that helps you, instead of worrying which is non-productive, energy sapping, exhausting.
2. TURN A LIGHT ON IT
Why: what we can’t see is scarier.
Every Hollywood filmmaker knows this and has used it to compelling effect. The unseen villain left to the power of our imaginations becomes a monster in our minds, 10,000 times scarier and often a disappointing anticlimax when we finally see the real thing.It’s the same with us, so much of what scares us is imagined. So whatever’s scaring you –turn a light on it – lets have a look at this beast in the light of day. This works especially well for practical stuff. Worried something you’re thinking of won’t pay enough? Go and find out the reality. Worried you’ll make the wrong decision Go and find out more about the area you’re thinking about. Worried you won’t be any good at it? Try it out for sizeEven if it confirms your fears, guess what, you don’t have to worry about it anymore. Because this time you’re not wildly imagining; you If you can’t think of a way to get past it (there usually is) then you can stop wasting your time and energy on it and look at some of your other ideas instead.
3. GET SOME COMPANY
Why: our fears magnify when we’re alone.
Changing career presses just about every fear button we have, linked as it is so closely to survival. So why make it harder by doing it all by yourself. We really don’t need to be heroes about this. Surrounding yourself by people who support you helps immensely. Don’t make it your guilty secret. Asking for help softens our hearts. Soldiering solo hardens us. It’s a whole lot happier journey shared. Try it and see and tell me what happens.
Of course as I love to contradict myself, there’s always a flip side, another way – the way of the thrill of risk, adventure, truth, boldness, audacity and bravery. The side that makes our soul sing. What’s so beautiful about this, is when your soul takes the stage, fear DISAPPEARS. Poof, just like that! If you’ve ever been inspired, moved, captivated, enthralled, expressed yourself how you love to, or been lifted by something bigger than you are, you’ll know this. It’s like a direct line to our hearts.
The good thing is that you can access this at any time, just by doing more of what you love (even if it doesn’t immediately lead you to work you want) and surrounding yourself by the things that nourish and lift you. It’s a simple habit, a soul commitment – but a transformative one. It turns the volume down on the ‘but’s and the can’ts’ and amplifies our spirit and sense of possibility
But you know the thing is it doesn’t really matter which way we do it, just that we do it in any way that works for you. Why? Because there isn’t a more beautiful rush than allowing ourselves to be who we are. We know this inside, this is why we want it, why we want to do work we love and fully be who we are. And we can’t let fear stop us from experiencing that can we?