Category Archives: Fear

Want to Make a Career Change You Won’t Regret? Try This.

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You want to make a change.  You really do.  It’s just that you don’t want to make a change that you’ll regret.

How do you know this is what you really want?  You thought the jobs you took up to now would make you happy, and they didn’t.  Who’s to say the next job you choose will be any different?

And change requires money, time, and energy.  What if you go back to school and then realize it’s not for you?  What if you give up everything you have, start all over, and then end up back where you started—miserable in your job after the newness wears off?  What if it’s all a waste?

This prospect is scary for anyone wanting to make a career change because the future is inherently uncertain.  And yet your fear underestimates you and what’s possible when you really, truly listen to yourself.

You have a powerful GPS system already operating within you.  When you tune into it and follow its guidance, any career change you make, no matter the outcome, will bring you closer to what you want.

Case in point: I’ve coached dozens of clients to answer their calling, and not a single one has regretted the change they made in their career.  While their processes were quite different, they all had a few, key things in common:

They drew from all 3 types of intelligence.

Most of the time we use our intellectual intelligence to make decisions.  We reason, analyze, list pros and cons, and try to find the option that makes the most sense.

Often this leads us to ping-pong back-and-forth between options without a real sense of which one is right for us, or which one we won’t regret.

That’s because while intellectual intelligence is great at solving certain types of problems, it has very little to tell us about passion, desire, and purpose, the very things we need to know about if we’re going to be fulfilled long-term.

So to identify work that they didn’t regret, my clients tapped into their emotional and somatic intelligence, both of which offered incredible information about what they loved and what was most important to them.

Emotional intelligence draws on the information contained in our feelings.  Somatic intelligence comes from our body; it’s sometimes called intuition or “gut feeling.”  When my clients learned to listen to these sources of wisdom, they discovered what they most deeply wanted, what was meaningful to them, and what would truly fulfill them long-term.

To apply this to your own life, you can start to notice how different options and possibilities make you feel.  What emotions do they bring up?  What body sensations?  Which options bring up the most positive sensations?

Doing so can help you make decisions aligned with who you really are, which is the best way to avoid regret down the line.

They explored.

We test drive cars before we buy them, but often not careers.  Why?  We spend far more time in our career than we do in our car (assuming you’re neither a truck nor taxi driver).

My clients all went through a thorough process of identifying what was most important to them in their work—from location, pay, and environment to job responsibilities, impact, and people.

They then brainstormed ideas for jobs that included these elements.  Armed with a list of exciting possibilities, they became explorers: They tried out different routes to see which ones worked best for them.

They researched.  They did informational interviews.  They shadowed people.  They volunteered.  They did everything they could to get a crystal-clear picture of what a particular job would look like, sound like, and feel like day-in and day-out.

Then they checked in with their various intelligence centers—head, heart, and body—and noticed their response.  In this way, they got a clear read from their highly accurate, state-of-the-art internal GPS system about which path was the best, not just in theory, but in reality as well.

They followed their fear.

Yes, that’s right.  I know that our programmed response to fear is to freeze or run in the opposite direction.  And that’s okay.  If a giant, man-eating bird is trying to hunt us, that’s probably a pretty good response.

But if we really want to find our calling, we need to learn to follow fear.

We only fear a path when it contains something important to us, when we care, when we really, really want it to work.  Those are all great signs that a route is a good one for us.

So, the next time you feel afraid, stroll right up to your fear, introduce yourself, and shake its hand.  Let it know you’re pleased to see it—it means you’re on the right path.  Then march right along past it and continue in the same direction.

As Stephen Pressfield says, “Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

All of my clients took paths that led them, in one way or another, directly into the heart of their fear.

The path to work you love may not be a direct one.  Sometimes you have to try things out, learn, or even fail; sometimes you have to start one thing to open the door to something else.  But if you use your internal GPS when making decisions, each step you take will bring you closer to what you ultimately want, and each step will bring you lots of joy along the way.

Over to You

What do you make of this?  What’s helped you make changes you’ve been happy with in the past?  Do these point to any action steps you’d like to take?

Your ideas may help others.  Please leave a reply in the comments below.

Make Your Career Change a Happy One

If you’re not sure how to tap into your full intelligence, or if you’ve had trouble exploring or following your fears on your own, click here to request a free clarity session.  Sometimes all we need is a little guidance, support, and structure to be able to do things we couldn’t before.

Photo credit: ** RCB ** / Foter / CC BY

Everything You Need to Know About Monsters (and Fear)

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When I was in high school, I wrote a story about monsters that shared the simple secret to dealing with fear. It’s called Little Mae Clark Is Afraid of the Dark.

In the story, Little Mae Clark is watching the shadows, waiting for them to turn into monsters. Monsters, you see, hide in the shadows during the day and wait until nightfall to assume their true forms, sneaking up on their unsuspecting victims. Little Mae Clark is far too knowledgeable to be caught unaware, so she examines shadows scrupulously while imagining in gory detail exactly how the monsters will rip her apart.

How many of us, when faced with the dark shadows of the unknown, also look for monsters by predicting exactly what might go wrong? Like Little Mae Clark, we prefer to be suspecting victims, so we anticipate scary outcomes and envision them in gory detail.

Many of my clients come to me with well-developed scenarios in their heads about what might happen if they try to answer their calling: They might never find it. They might not be good at it. They might be laughed at and ridiculed. They might make no money at it. They might make the wrong decision and find yet another career they hate. They might waste time or money. They might fail. They might disappoint their loved ones. They might find out they have nothing worthwhile to contribute to this world.

And many of them have already imagined in vivid detail just how devastated, desperate, unworthy, disappointed, or regretful they’re going to feel.

No wonder they’re terrified to take the next step.

The thing is, these clients, like Little Mae Clark, are fundamentally misunderstanding the nature of monsters.

Here’s what you really need to know about those terrible creatures lurking in the dark:

1. Human beings are terrible at accurately identifying monsters.

We think we know what threats await us, but we’re very often quite wrong–probably because the dark, by nature, is unknowable.

No matter how real a monster feels, and no matter how vividly we can envision it attacking us, we are still unable to actually predict the future.

When I started business school, I had no background in business and was sure that I would be confused, overwhelmed, and possibly humiliated by my inability to keep up with everyone else. When I actually got to classes, however, I soon realized that business is basically common sense and I have plenty of that; I was quite able to keep up with my classes and graduated among the top of my class.

We also tend to forget that the unknown can bring good things as well as bad. We forget that there are literally an infinite number of ways something could work out well, and we convince ourselves that the few scenarios we’ve imagined in our heads are the only ones that could come to pass.

The thing is, I’ve had clients find happiness is places they never even thought to look before they started coaching. And I’ve seen over and over again how often things turn out far better than what we initially imagine.

We’re terrible predictors of which shadows will turn into monsters. We can’t really know what’s possible or what will happen unless we get out in the world and try it—actually reaching out to that person, going out and sharing our work with the world, or taking action to ask for what we want.

Every terror we predict before we try is just an imaginary monster. And imaginary monsters, though frightening, have no ability to harm us.

2. Real monsters are far rarer than we think.

I would almost call real monsters an endangered species. Yes, bad things happen.  All the time.  And no, nothing ever goes exactly as we’d like. That’s been true our whole lives. And yet, we’re all still here. We’ve survived. Somehow we’ve made it through.

I was recently working with a client who enjoys photography and had taken pictures of a friend of a friend’s wedding. She wanted to share the photos with her network on Facebook but was nervous to do so. She could imagine people ignoring or—worse—criticizing her work. In her head, Facebook was crawling with monsters. So she kept putting it off even though she knew it was something she wanted to do.

We talked about what was actually likely to happen if she put herself and her work out in the world: a lot of people would likely enjoy and appreciate her photos, and a small number probably would not. Realizing those few detractors would not define her or her talents, she found the courage to share her work.

Lo and behold, it was very well received. Lots of people liked and commented on her page and her photographs. Most everyone she invited to like her page did. Many people she didn’t know had good things to say. And the family of the bride and groom were very excited to see additional photos and interacted with them quite a bit. My client got valuable feedback that her photographs were not only good and well-liked, but also much appreciated.

Monsters are like sharks—they certainly exist, but you’re more likely to be killed by a vending machine than by a real-life monster.

3. Monsters are vegetarian.

Little Mae Clark knows a lot about monsters, but she forgets the most important fact of all about them: they’re all unquestionably vegetarian.

That’s not to say that there aren’t things out there that can hurt us; there most certainly are. But the truth of the matter is, they’re hardly ever as painful as we think they’re going to be. Normally our anticipation is far worse than our actual experience.  And even when the experience is bad, we will always have the choice of how we respond to it.

When I decided to move back to Atlanta after living in San Francisco for 15 years, I had a lot of concerns: What if it was too hot, there were too many mosquitos, or there was too much traffic? What if I didn’t make any new friends? What if my family was more annoying than I remembered?

Fortunately I knew enough to not let my fear of monsters stop me from moving in the direction of my calling.

After settling into my new city, here’s what I learned about the monsters I imagined:

  • Atlanta is too hot, there are too many mosquitos, and there is too much traffic. Atlanta also has warm nights, beautiful sunsets, lots of trees and birds and squirrels, bike paths, front porches, and many other things I love. In the face of all that, the heat, mosquitos, and traffic are annoying, but not disastrous.
  • It is hard to start over in a new city without friends. There are times when I feel lonely. Yet I have made friends, I found lots of sources of support, and I make it through the lonely times just fine.
  • My family can and does annoy me at times. And I annoy them. Sometimes we even fight. But we work through it, and we still manage to love, support, and show up for each other over and over again.
  • There are ways to approach and deal with the negative elements that make them manageable.

Like a storm cloud that looks terribly dark on the horizon but inevitably lightens as it comes closer, most of the monsters we imagine are not so bad once we actually meet them.

Many of them even have a thing or two to teach us to help us take the next step on our path. Some of my best teachers, the ones who did the most to help me get to where I wanted to go, have been the monsters that appeared in front of me.

Perhaps instead of fearing monsters, we can be curious about them. We can acknowledge that we don’t know what will come, and we can investigate rather than anticipate. We can recognize that whatever comes will be neither all good or all bad, but rather a mixture of both. And we can trust our ability to handle whatever arises, good or bad, and look for ways to learn from it.

Like Little Mae Clark, we may find that when we recognize their true nature, monsters can actually become good friends.


And what about you?  When have you worried about something that turned out to be less scary than you imagined?  What helps you feel the fear and move forward anyway?

Please leave a comment and let me know.

***Photo credit: Frank Zander

Little Mae Clark Is Afraid of the Dark

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Little Mae Clark is afraid of the dark.

She sits with her back as straight as a cliff, her open mouth a moist cave at its apex.  Her eyes are open; she would not dare close them, for fear of something sneaking up on her in the cover of darkness.  Her hands alternately clench and unclench her blanket, and she has developed a nervous tic in her foot.

She is staring intently about her, on the lookout for formless shapes and shadows to turn into monsters.  Everyone knows that monsters live in shadows during the day and only at night assume their true form to sneak up on young victims.  If the monsters are coming, Mae Clark is going to spot them first.

Endless reels of empty time pass like scene after scene of a bad movie.  The shadows stretch and shrink every once in a while but do not yet betray their true identity.  Mae Clark knows, however, that monsters are patient creatures, and so she keeps her vigil diligently.

Finally the shadows grow more confident.  Out of the corners of her eyes, Mae Clark can see them shift positions when she is looking elsewhere.  Monsters tend to get uncomfortable after long periods of time.  She knows a lot about monsters, such as how they eat, when they sleep, and how many usually occupy a single room.  Mae Clark has read a lot about bedtime monsters.  She considers herself an expert.  her mother has tried to tell her that monsters do not exist, but Mae Clark is far too knowledgeable for that.  She knows they exist, and she knows of the dangers they pose.  Now the vigilante sits silently, tingles of tension running down her spine, fingers of fear driving hammers into her brain.

One of the shadows now suddenly breaks free.  As it begins to lumber slowly towards her, other shadows follow its lead and begin their journey towards the bed.  Mae Clark’s fingers move restlessly about the fringe of her comforter, and her eyes swing wildly from monster to monster.  She sees the shadows coming for her, knows their purpose and ultimate destination.

Her mind jumps around to find an escape path, but the one she has designated for use in an emergency, a straight line to her window, is quickly blocked by an oncoming shadow.  Mae Clark can no longer tell which corners are occupied by dressers and such and which hide the form of a carnivorous creature.

The shadows are drawing nearer.  Mae Clark envisions herself being devoured by unsightly beasts, imagines the great sorrow which her parents will feel upon learning of her departure.  She has yet to do so many things in life, and now the monsters are going to cut short all of her opportunities to accomplish them.  She can picture how cold her face will look in death, but cannot picture what will lie beyond.

Meanwhile, a monster has almost reached her.  It is stretching out its dark claw towards her, a horrible, volatile thing against which it would be useless to put up a fight.  The hand, and with it a certain coldness within her, reaches closer and closer and closer to Mae Clark.  She braces herself for a searing pain when…

Suddenly a bright light flashes on.  A thunderous roar echoes between the four walls of the room.  Mae Clark is familiar with the routine: her mother has come to check on her, thereby sending all of the monsters to their respective hiding places until tomorrow night.  It happens now almost every night, so Mae Clark looks with relief towards her doorway, thankful that her mother has saved her once again in the nick of time.

When she looks at the door, it is closed, and her mother is nowhere in sight.

With eyes frozen with terror, she brings her gaze slowly, painfully around to look at the heart of her room.  Like glaciers trying to defy the tyranny of time, her eyes move towards the new source of bright light.  She can almost hear Death’s heartbeat pounding in her ears.

When she looks at her room, she sees monsters, many of them, all staring hungrily at her.  But in the middle of their circle, she quickly notices, lies a party platter of food, and each monster is wearing a party hat.

“Hello, Mae Clark,” says one, grinning broadly at her.  “Welcome to our party.”

The ghastly beasts all begin to smile now, showing horrid teeth covered in slimy saliva.  A soft uproar engulfs the room as conversation begins.

Mae Clark is taken aback, but soon she, too, begins to smile.  She has overlooked the most important trait of monsters: they are all, unquestionably, vegetarians.

 

***Photo credit: Steven Shwartz

The 5 Keys to Finding Your Calling (Even If You Have No Idea What It Might Be)

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It is possible to find work you love, no matter how uncertain, stuck, or unhappy you currently feel, and no matter how long you’ve felt that way.

We all have unique passions, intentions, and abilities that allow us to impact the world in a way that nobody else can.  If we find the sweet spot where all these come together, work becomes joyful, we experience greater ease, and we get to revel in the satisfaction that comes from knowing we’re having the impact we want to have in the world.

Following are the key principles for uncovering your sweet spot that I’ve discovered through finding my calling and helping dozens of clients do the same:

Get out of your head

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We tend to try to solve all our problems in our heads, through reason and analysis and lists of pros and cons.  The problem is, our minds can’t tell us everything we know about what we’re called to do.

Leading neuroscientist Antonio Demasio describes a famous case in which a man can no longer make decisions because a brain injury has rendered him unable to feel his emotions.  Like those of us who try to figure everything out in our heads, after his injury he ping-ponged back and forth between possibilities, rationalizing first one option and then the next.

To get clear about what we really want, we need to start receiving the wisdom offered by our hearts and bodies.  Our feelings and our guts have a lot to tell us about what we want, what is meaningful, and what will make us happy.  (It’s not for nothing that we have neural net processors similar to those in our brains around our hearts and intestines as well.)  Most of us don’t know how to decode this information, but we can learn.

Pull, don’t push

brucelee_quoteFrequently we’re taught to reach our goals by making a plan and then pushing ourselves hard to follow it.  When faced with a desire for more meaningful work, however, this approach is like trying to repair a broken plate with a giant hammer.  Forcing yourself to do what you think you should rather than what you feel you want is what likely got you into an unfulfilling line of work in the first place.

To find more energy, joy, and fulfillment in your work, you need to stop forcing effort and start letting yourself be pulled towards what calls you.  You need to listen to what you want and need, give yourself permission to follow what feels good, and let yourself do more of what you love.  You need to explore what energizes you, investigate what brings you joy, and experiment to find fulfillment.  And as in any experiment, you need to risk being wrong and learn through trial and error.

If you can do this, your path suddenly becomes filled with energy, joy, and satisfaction.  Even before you land your next gig.

 Turn Fear From Enemy to Ally

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Fear is nothing more than a sign that you’re bumping up against the edges of your comfort zone—a good sign, if you think about it, because it means you’re doing things differently, which is what’s required if you’re going to get different results.  So instead of avoiding fear, you can learn to move towards it and investigate it, letting it show you what’s important to you and what you need to pay attention to.  Then you can conduct mini-experiments to see how accurate its predictions are, and how you can move forward while taking care of what you care about.

 Embrace Your PSP

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Yea, I’m not referring to your ability to sense the paranormal, or your portable Playstation device.  It’s your Passion, Strengths, and Purpose.  Your calling is the center of a venn diagram of the things you love to do, the things you’re naturally good at, and the impact you want to have on the world.  Getting clear on each of those, and embracing them, helps your calling crystallize.

Enjoy Support 

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We have this myth in our culture that we should do everything ourselves—as if that were even possible.  The truth is, we all need support in lots of different ways, whether it’s the farmers who grow our food, the teachers who invest in our education, or the people who love us who give us energy and inspiration.  I can’t think of one significant human accomplishment that occurred without the help of a motley crew.

When we’re having trouble reaching our goals, instead of getting mad at ourselves or lamenting our results, it’s more productive (not to mention kind) to ask what kind of support will help us get to where we’re wanting to go.  Support can turn the overwhelming into the doable, the paralyzing into the invigorating, and the confusing into the clear.  We all have weaknesses, and it can be quite liberating to embrace this fact and call in for reinforcements.

These principles are simple, but they’re by no means easy.

They require us to see into our blind spots, move out of our comfort zone, and adopt a new approach.  They ask us to develop new habits and new skills.  In short, they depend upon a new way of being.

I became a coach because it’s the best vehicle I’ve found for helping people develop new ways of being.  I’ve seen dozens of people do things they never thought possible when they tap into the support, structure, accountability, and new awareness that coaching offers.

If you’d like to find out more about how coaching could help you overcome the challenges standing in your way, check out the 1:1 Coaching page  or sign up for a free, exploratory session by clicking the button that says “free 60 minute session” at the top of this page.


Photo credit: Mike Nielsen//CC