I once watched a pro golf match on TV. A young player was taking chances and making bold shots. The commentator described the man's style of play by saying, "He gives himself many chances." For a moment, I wasn't quite sure what I had heard. It is such a different way of saying, "He's taking chances."
Being successful means giving yourself many chances. That is the positive way to phrase it. "Taking chances" has a negative sound to it. It smacks of risk, fear, foolishness or looming failure (even before you start). Paradoxically, giving yourself many chances to fail is the only way to achieve many successes. If there were no failures possible, you would not be allowing yourself opportunities to succeed. Instead, you would be going for a sure thing. Of course, there are few sure things in life.
Fear is a lack of confidence. Think of something that you do with confidence (sports, cooking, driving a car, changing a diaper?). How many times did you try it before you became confident? Confidence is a result. Absolute confidence in your abilities comes from experience.
Fear and loss come with any change. We have to give up the familiar to try something new. Only by placing ourselves in learning situations, can we stretch and grow.
If there is a change that you want to make, but have put off because of fear, make a list of what you would be giving up and what you would gain from this change. Where's the balance? Do the positives outweigh the negatives? What is the cost of staying where you are? Do you want to be there for another year or five years? If you don't make the break now, how much longer will it take before you do it? Or will you ever do it?
What will be on the other side when you overcome the fear? Concentrate on the goal. To conquer fear, try focusing on what's more important to you (rather than just on the fear). For example, a man who can't swim jumps into the water and rescues a drowning child. The newspapers might call this a "miracle." Perhaps it is. Or maybe the hero was just totally focused on something more important than his fear.
Are your fears real or imagined?
Are they in proportion to reality or is your imagination creating a "global disaster" situation? If your imagination is that creative, then let it run wild with a positive scenario. Imagine yourself in a new job. Picture the setting and the people. See yourself being happy and successful. Imagine some obstacles that you might encounter. See yourself overcoming them with ease as you do a great job and receive compliments, salary increases, and promotions. If that sounds silly to you, is it more or less silly than the global disaster image? Which one is a more productive focus for you? Which one are you committed to?
Are you asking for other opinions about this change? When you tell others what you are considering, do they share your fears, or are the fears yours alone? Who is encouraging you to make this move? Do you trust his/her judgment? Is anyone discouraging the idea? How much weight do you give to that person's opinion?
Focus on your past successes. When you started your present job, what were your fears? Make a list of them and how you overcame them. Recall other career situations where you began something new (with hesitation), but resolved your fears and went on to be successful. How did you manage that? Can you apply those lessons to this decision?
Finally, consider whether you want to spend your life in hesitation, thinking of what might have been. Don't wait for absolute confidence before trying something new. Instead, give yourself many chances to succeed.
A Vault member e-mailed this question to me: "How can I overcome my fears?" Fear is a common emotion that often blocks our paths to success. Although we may long to make a change, uncertainty about what will happen and fear that we won't achieve our goals keep us stuck where we don't want to be. Afraid to move on, we hesitate or abandon our career change dreams. Here are some thoughts about overcoming fear: