Of all of the monsters lurking in the dark and keeping us from moving forward or onward to new career adventures, fear is the most potent. It’s always present, lurking in the corner ready to pounce just when we sense there’s something new, different, or creative we might pursue.
Fear warns us not to take that new job or explore a new venture. “The devil you know is better than the one you don’t,” suggests fear via conventional wisdom.
“With two kids in college, I can’t possibly think of making a change,” says fear disguised as common sense.
“I can’t afford to fail at this stage of my life, or I might not recover financially,” suggests fear speaking in every investment advertisement ever created.
“Why would anyone care about anything I have to say?” suggests fear via self-doubt to the wannabe writer
The annoying thing about fear is that it leverages tiny kernels of truth, wraps them in doubt and then amplifies them in our minds until we succumb by doing nothing.
In reality, you should fear the non-act of doing nothing more than all of the risks you and fear can dream up to fill your mind and keep you from striving to bring your ideas to life.
Doing nothing offers the only guarantee—you will achieve nothing.
Fight Fear with Deliberate Action—Not Stupid Decisions
Remember, fear leverages small kernels of truth and amplifies them in our mind. The key is to turn down the amplifier and wrestle with truth and still define a way forward.
Redouble your efforts to learn about the culture and what it’s like to work at that new company. And then assess which choice is more frightening—staying in something you can’t stand or taking a qualified risk with the new job.
Begin the exploration and experimentation work for choosing your “next” so that by the time your kids are out of college, you have a direction and a game-plan. Or, as one of my clients did, let your kids know working while learning isn’t optional, it’s mandatory. She still helped them but freed up just enough capital to invest in herself and her new venture. The character building benefits for her children were frosting on the cake.
Put words to paper or on-screen and cultivate your voice while sharing your ideas. Someone will care what you have to say. And then redouble your efforts.
Career reinvention doesn’t require you to squander your retirement assets. Design a plan that mitigates this risk and keeps you working while learning and silence that image in your mind of you in your old age eating dog food to survive. (I had a client who visualized that as her outcome. We worked hard to change the view of her future.)
Your Next Career Move Doesn’t Have to Be Your Last
Another paralyzing fear that many encounter is the belief they need to choose a path that works for the rest of their career. This is a false fear, best mitigated by accepting that you are designing for “next” not “forever.” Simply adjusting your framing to “next” pushes fear into the cheap seats as you move forward on your journey.
Follow a Process But Be Open to the Unexpected
I guide clients through a six-step career reinvention process that takes some of the risk and a lot of the fear out of the work. In particular, the stages of exploration and experimentation are designed to look for possibilities and test for viability. Interestingly, most clients end up somewhere they didn’t foresee, armed with a plan and filled with energy and excitement.
Fear hates deliberate work and continuous action. Alternatively, it thrives when we allow our minds to preoccupy on all of the reasons why we shouldn’t start moving.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Start moving and kick fear in the teeth. Career reinvention is challenging, good work that is best accomplished by moving, exploring, and experimenting, not preoccupying on everything that might go wrong.