Are you stuck in a job that doesn’t fulfill you and you can’t seem to find a way out? Chances are that your fear of failure is holding you back. You constantly dream of change, but the dream is quickly replaced by worse case scenarios or self-doubt: What if you don’t find a better job? What if you don’t stand out in a competitive market? What will others think if it doesn’t work out?
At the end of this line of reasoning is the conviction that you’re not the only one who’s not satisfied, and that’s just how life goes. After all, bills won’t pay themselves, right? So you keep toiling away, increasing your level of self-dissatisfaction while quietly hoping that things will somehow improve on their own.
Fear becomes the self-imposed obstacle that prevents you from taking the steps that are necessary for the change(s) you long for. I can recall numerous times in my life where I gave in to my fears and compromised with my goals and desires to play it safe. I was stuck and my dream life and career felt so out of reach. The voice of my inner critic showed up every time I attempted change, to convince me I wasn’t ready and I didn’t have enough to shift.
So how do we overcome the fear of failure, so we can propel change? By removing the notion that change is a threat. Our ego thrives on fear. Its sole purpose is to keep us safe and protect us from taking risks. When we perceive a threat we activate the part of our brain called “amygdala” and we go into fight, flight or freeze mode.
Our simple survival mechanism limits our potential by overemphasizing the fear of failure. Fight or Flight takes hold, but growth does not. We survive, but we don’t thrive, and therein lies the problem. We crave meaningful work that doesn’t drain us, but fulfills us and makes us happy. So how do we take the leap?
Here are 5 life hacks that helped me overcome fear and land a meaningful career:
1. Recognize the desire to change
It serves as a clear sign that you should do something about your situation. Don’t fear it, embrace it. It’s an indicator light in your personal console telling you that you urge for more because you can achieve more. Don’t ignore the blinking light, pay attention and start asking why it’s on in the first place. Trust the urge to start exploring what that might be with the initial intent of finding answers.
“You are never too old to reinvent yourself.” – Steve Harvey
2. Examine your fears, then challenge them
Write them down and face each one of them. This will help you really reveal where they come from. Recall that your ego and its survival mechanisms will over inflate these fears. Pop the balloon by grabbing a pen and asking yourself what is there really to be afraid of.
3. Put it in perspective
Seriously, what is the worst that could happen? If you’re not fulfilling your Plan A, then you’re already living out the downside scenario. Focus on what you’re grateful for, and count your blessings – they’ll still be here no matter if you fail or succeed, as well as the people who love you. The opinions of the rest don’t really matter. You’ll find that it is even easier to bounce back from failure than suffering from the inertia caused by fear. But, this takes courage.
“Failure isn’t the opposite of success, it is a part of it.” – Arianna Huffington
4. Be courageous
All you have to do is try. And the best way to try is through practice. Getting over your fears takes self-training, like a muscle that you need to exercise to build strength. Be intentional about putting yourself out of your comfort zone. Commit to challenging yourself and you’ll see that you’ll learn to bounce back quicker than expected. Your fear will lessen, and your confidence will build as will the resilience needed to enact change.
Arianna Huffington has a great quote to remind us that “Failure isn’t the opposite of success, it is a part of it.” Failing is an inevitable part of the process, so you may as well get it out of the way and face it with courage. But there’s failing, and then there’s taking the risk of failure in the pursuit of self-actualization. In other words, be smart about it by…
5. Creating a plan and executing in small steps
I know you might be thinking: “All of this is great, but I can’t just quit my job and design that meaningful new career.” And you probably shouldn’t. You have to strategize and prepare a plan. That way you can start moving forward with confidence (see #4 above). Shift the focus from the worst case scenario to a step-by-step plan. Then go ahead and explore, learn, ask for help, talk to people, save money, consider the bigger picture before you finally take a leap of faith.
Finally, think of what you’re not willing to give up for the change you want. Often these things keeps us stuck. We dread starting over, we’ve come a long way, so we resist breaking up with the person that don’t make us fully happy, with the lifeless job or a toxic friendship. We’ve invested in these things and they’re familiar and easy. Adjusting to the new and parting with the old is difficult.
Shift the perspective to a mindset of learning and growth. In reality no experience is lost or meaningless. You only add to it, and build more from it. That makes you more resilient and brings your personality and skill set to new heights.