Have you ever wanted to make a big change in your life — whether in your health, relationships or even a career change — but you didn’t go for it because you were afraid? Maybe you were afraid you’d fail. Or afraid that you’re too old or too young to go for your dream. Or maybe you were fearful of not being “perfect” right out of the gate — and looking absurd or incompetent to others.
We always learn through Society us a lot of things about what we should want in a career and what the possibilities are—which is stunning because I’m pretty sure society knows very little about any of this. When it comes to careers, society is like your great uncle who traps you at holidays and goes on a 10-minute mostly incoherent unsolicited advice monologue, and you tune out almost the whole time because it’s super clear he has very little idea what he’s talking about and that everything he says is like 50 years outdated. Society is like that great relation, and conventional intelligence is like his splurge. Except in this case, instead of tuning it out, we pay rapt attention to every word, and then we make major career decisions based on what he says. Kind of a weird thing for us to do.
So many of us have experienced those feelings — feelings of dread, hopelessness, fear. We go to work feeling anxious and overwhelmed only to leave 10 hours later angry and frustrated. For as much as we try to keep our professional issues separate from our personal lives, it’s inevitable that those feelings spill over, affecting the relationships that mean the most to us.
We all have a story that led us to the brink. Most of the reasons, including my own, involve harassment, inappropriate behaviour from a peer or supervisor and lack of career advancement and support. “You should be proud to even have a job” — a sentiment we’ve all heard before, I’m sure.
There’s the fear of going for it – of production a modification. Risk of failure, fear of looking like an idiot. Fear of the unknown, and of leaving behind a life you’ve invested so much in.
And then there’s also the fear of not making the move. The fear of looking back on your life with grief. The fear of pass away your life not just being in the wrong career, but having to live with the knowledge that you’re still there because you were too fearful to change it.
This stuck state – this favouritism in the face of two equally fearsome options – is exhausting. You’re using so much energy, but the result is zero.
Maybe you’ve been finding yourself lying awake at night, staring at the roof, running circles in your head. Or perhaps you’ve noticed that when your career change crosses your mind and your head gets so clamant it’s hard to think straight. You spend hours weighing up pros and cons and trying to be rational, but you can’t seem to be rational about this subject.
This in-between fear is hard to live with. It’s frustrating, and it’s confusing, and it feels like it’s never going to end.
And it’s also the sign that you’ve reached a beautiful tipping point in your career change.
In the course of our conversation, Carl and I discovered a different angle on fear – and a way to navigate this tipping point with a little more power and grace.
“Always remember the rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the surer we can be that we have to do it… Therefore, the surer we can be that we have to do it… Therefore, the more fear we feel about a specific effort, the more somewhat we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the enhancement of our soul.”
Fear arises when something important is at stake.
In its most basic form, it exists to protect your most precious possession: your life. So it makes sense that when you think about transfer a core element of your life, your livelihood, your income, and your recognition, fear will inevitably arise its head. It’ll become noisy and vindicatory and, yes, a little imposing.
Your fear is designed for the care of you. And it’s also a total goldmine when it comes to navigating your way through your career change.
Because if fear is a sign that you’ve got something valuable on the table, then you can start to use it as a scope.
If it’s not present, you’re not doing anything that really matters to you.
Carl didn’t like feeling comfortless when it came to this career judgment. But he also recognized that he could use that discomfort as an indication that he had something precious at stake in our conversation.
No matter how confused felt about what, especially, might want to end up doing in his career, everyone knew to have the right kind of report. The presence of his fear was his guiding light toward growth, and a signal he was moving toward something that mattered.