I’ve never been the type to shy away from things that scare me.
After college, I quit my job at a title company in Wisconsin to move solo to Costa Rica. Was it scary? Yes. But somehow I found myself embracing the thrill of it.
I ended up making some awesome friendships, learning to speak Spanish, and enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience living on a beach near the beautiful rainforest.
Ultimately, this act of bravery gave me a newfound sense of confidence once I returned home to the states.
I made a cross country move from Wisconsin to Florida. (If I can move solo to Costa Rica, I can handle Florida!)
Years later, I left Florida to move solo out to Los Angeles, not knowing a soul in the city.
I felt the fear and did it anyways when it came to bungee jumping, paragliding, and giving presentations in front of large groups of people.
What’s baffling is that it took me 10 years to work up the courage to transition out of an unfulfilling job and into my dream career!
The obvious reason was that first I had to discover WHAT my dream career was.
But on a deeper level, I was allowing fear to hold me back from even exploring what my passion career could be.
- I had forged my identity with my current career. “I’m a corporate communications professional. This is who I am. This is how I provide for my family. Who am I without this?”
- I clung to worst-case scenarios. “What if I lose all my money? What if I can’t afford to live? I better stick to what I know.”
- I excused myself from not moving forward because I didn’t immediately know the “how.” “Must… know…. all details to proceed.”
Can those of you feeling trapped in unfulfilling jobs relate?
Fast forward to today, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my dream role as a career coach. (Why oh why didn’t I take this leap sooner?)
Here’s what I learned throughout my journey on why embracing your fear of a career change is a good thing:
Top 5 Reasons to Embrace Your Fear in Going After Your Dream Career
1. Fear is your green light.
The career that absolutely terrifies you is not only the one you want to do, it is most likely the one you were meant to do… with the power to bring you more fulfillment than you could ever imagine.
Fear is not a red light or an indicator to stop.
Fear is a green light – your clue to move forward.
Most people that feel afraid tell themselves, “It must mean I want to AVOID going in that direction.” The truth is that indifference is actually the desire to avoid. (This is why I don’t work with clients that are ok with status-quo.)
Fear simply means discomfort with not knowing how to approach something of interest (and that’s ok! Feel the fear & do it anyways!)
2. Small doses of fear expands your sphere.
I’ve never met a person who hasn’t craved career growth (again, I may be biased with the types of clients I choose to coach).
That being said, The ONLY way to grow is to step out of your comfort zone.
Each time you move out of what feels comfortable,you become more powerful; your whole life expands.
So if you are feeling afraid of the next step, congratulations you are on the right track.
3. Learn from the regrets of the dying
Have you heard of Bronnie Ware? She is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She routinely asked her patients about “any regrets they had or anything they would do differently.” In her book, she talks about the phenomenal clarity of vision that people would gain at the end of their lives.
Here are two common themes that surfaced again and again during these conversations.
Regret #1: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
She shares, “This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”
Regret #2: I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Ware writes, “This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content…”
Can you see how these two themes run parallel to staying stuck in an unfulfilling career versus embracing the fear of a career change?
Lesson learned: Whenever you are presented with a choice (stay in current unfulfilling job or take steps towards your dream job), ask yourself which option you would prefer to have taken 10 years from now, 20 years from now, etc.
4. Out of fear, change is born.
If you’ve ever taken a group fitness class, you’ve likely heard the trainer belt out, “Embrace your discomfort!”
Why? Because being uncomfortable is where you begin to see changes. Physically, your body responds to harder work by adapting and becoming stronger.
The same goes for your mind. As you begin to withstand things that scare you, that you never thought you were capable of, you in turn become more resilient.
5. Facing your fear is empowering.
The more you listen to your fear, the more power you give it.
Luckily, the reverse is also true — the more you face your fears head on, the more control you have.
Once you grasp this, you can systematically expose yourself to that thing that scares you and one step at a time propel yourself forward.
Now Try This:
Have I lit a fire within you yet?
Here’s how to start putting this into action immediately.
1. Change your relationship with bravery.
Don’t change your relationship to fear as much as you change your relationship to bravery. Instead of focusing on the fear, focus on the act of being brave.
Caroline Paul, author of “The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure” talks about adopting a paradigm of bravery over fear.
“When I worked as a firefighter, I was often scared. Of course I was. So were the men. But fear wasn’t a reason to quit. I put my fear where it belonged, behind my feelings of focus, confidence and courage. Then I headed, with my crew, into the burning building.”
Fear is something that we all experience, but what is most important is how we respond to it.
2. Get to the bottom of why you are afraid.
In order to really understand how to withstand the scary things life throws at us, you have to get to the bottom of why you think it’s scary.
It’s from this place you can start to challenge limiting beliefs.
3. What’s the worst that can happen?
Confront it head on. What’s the worst that can happen if you go after your dream career?
And if that happened…. Then what?
Lay out your plan.
Allowing this “what if” to remain unspoken is what keeps you paralyzed.
Now flip it…. what’s the worst that can happen if you stay stuck in the unfulfilling job you are currently in? External consequences? Internal consequences?
Which is ultimately scarier?
4. Practice acts of micro-bravery.
Timothy Ferriss talks about the concept of micro-bravery as the idea of teaching yourself to be brave by taking small steps of action.
Bravery can be learned. So to get good at it, you need to practice.
By taking small risks on a daily basis, you will notice that every time you do something that scares you, you diminish your fear a little bit.
Ready for your first act of micro-bravery?
Start the discovery process on what your dream career truly is.
Let’s do this.
Betty Kempa, CPC, ELI-MP, is a certified career coach helping mid to senior-level corporate women transition out of unfulfilling jobs and into their dream careers.