Many of us sit in our offices or cubicles and dreaming about a future we are too afraid to pursue. We choose to live with our dreams rather than chasing them. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
According to theologian George Addair, “Everything that you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” Imagine that. Addair’s quote reminds me of the time in Raleigh, North Carolina, when I stood on a platform about forty feet above the ground waiting on my turn to zip among the treetops during a team building exercise. My team-mates had gone ahead of me and I could hear their shrieks of glee or fright in the distance.
In that moment, fear paralyzed me as I tried to talk myself into taking a step off the platform and into thin air. I was familiar with that type fear. I had experienced it before. Several years ago, I chose to leave a ‘dream’ corporate job because it was no longer my dream. I packed my house and practically moved across the country to pursue new opportunities. Whether in your career or in relationships, jumping off that platform can be difficult.
Fears that Keep You on the Ground
Professionals at all stages of their careers may become stymied when facing decisions that shake their comfort levels. It is not uncommon to feel doubt and trepidation when deciding to make a major move. In fact, some would say it is reckless not to consider the consequences of changing careers, leaving secure jobs, starting a business, or embarking on other life-changing scenarios.
To move forward with confidence, we all must face these three influencing factors head-on:
Fear of failure. This one never completely goes away. However, you can turn that screaming chorus into a small whisper. How? Preparation, preparation, preparation!
Throughout my professional career, I’ve created options for myself. When free time permitted, I developed and secured stints as an instructor, seminar leader, speaker, and consultant. These endeavors satisfied my hunger to do more, bolstered my confidence, and broadened my skillset.
For journalist Rod Hicks, preparation meant going back to school to earn a master’s degree. Despite having his first admission application denied, he remained focused on his goal. He was confident that an advanced education degree would make him more competitive in the newspaper industry. “I quit my job as a night city editor without knowing what would come next. It was the one of the best decisions in my life,” he said.
After beginning graduate studies at Northwestern University, Hicks also gained invaluable experience working as a correspondent in the nation’s capital and for a brief period in London, England. He said graduate studies exposed him to evolving technologies and practices in the media industry.
Hicks earned his master of science degree in journalism and today works as east desk editor for the Associated Press in Philadelphia. “I know people who have great ideas and want to do things, but the smallest things make them afraid. Confidence is key. Whatever your fear, you must master it and be willing to put in the work to take you where you want to go,” he said.
FraserNet, Inc. founder and CEO George Fraser echoes that sentiment. In his capacity as a global networker and business advisor, he often speaks about how having viable options can help reduce the fear of failure, build confidence and grow income. Also, anticipating and preparing for change makes you better able to face it.
Fear of rejection. Stepping away from your traditional job may fracture relationships with family, friends, co-workers or business partners. These critical allies might question your sanity and your ability to be successful. Their opinions matter because for many of us, our success is a well-earned status that others are vested in and for which they also sacrificed.
Jumpers, however, know that in getting to the other side, they may sometimes jump alone.
Rejection, loss, disappointments and failure are par for the course. To mitigate concerns, it might be helpful to share your vision with people you trust well in advance of the leap. These mentors may help you negotiate road blocks, help you define your purpose, and cheer you on when you feel like quitting.
Former Essence magazine editor-in-chief Monique Greenwood publicly shared her vision to become an innkeeper. She’d fallen in love with a freestanding mansion in her neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, believing that it would be an ideal setting for a bed and breakfast. I recall listening closely as she discussed her intention years ago at a women’s conference. I was impressed by her courage, especially the decision to leave one of the most prestigious and glamourous jobs in publishing.
For a period though, Greenwood juggled her roles as editor and innkeeper before leaving the magazine in 2001 to work full-time with her husband, Glenn Pogue, to operate Awkaaba Mansion in Brooklyn. The venture had its challenges. After being open only a few months, an inspector said the property did not meet the prescribed city codes for hotels and shuttered operations for a brief period. The innkeepers prevailed due to their steadfast determination and support from the community.
The couple’s first foray into the inn business has spawned a mini bed and breakfast empire. They also own and operate properties in Washington, D.C., and Cape May, New Jersey. Their most recent inn, The Mansion at Noble Lane in Bethany, Pennsylvania, is a former estate of the founders of the F.W. Woolworth Corporation.
This fall, the couple’s quest to become innkeepers will be a docuseries on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. The show will highlight Greenwood’s lifelong dream to own and operate a bed and breakfast. Along the path to success, most entrepreneurs know that the journey is often preceded by setbacks; however, those setbacks become teachable moments, giving them reason to reset or adjust business plans. They also believe these distractions are not reasons to step away from your dreams.
Fear of the unknown. This may be the most crippling aspect of pursuing change. Staring into the abyss or stepping out in thin air is not a good feeling. In fact, it can be downright scary. However, if you’ve experienced any level of success in your current job or career, you already know the rigor of learning something new and are familiar with exploring uncharted territory.
Still, you should strive to create a vision for yourself along with related objectives. This written plan can help determine action steps and keep you on track when the going gets murky. Also, relying on your instincts, knowledge and experiences can guide you down dark paths. At the outset, you don’t have to know all the answers. After all, discovery is part of the adventure! Also, don’t forget to bring your support system along with you. Tap into wells of knowledge long before launching a new career by identifying and seeking input from those who have succeeded in similar efforts.
Additionally, career and life coaches can be great resources when contemplating, reacting to, or preparing for almost any kind of life change.
Debra Nelson is President of Elevate, a professional development and communication services firm. She is also a coach, speaker and consultant on topics related to diversity and inclusion, employee engagement and women’s empowerment.