Fear of the Unknown Holding You Back from Realizing Your Dreams?
Is there some aspiration or important life goal you want to pursue but can't seem to get it off the ground? Do you wonder what might be holding you back? More often than not, it’s not a lack of time or energy. It’s our fear of the unknown. Here are 5 ways to move beyond your
fears and jump in so you can achieve your full potential.
“The scariest part is the moment right before you jump,” my skydiving instructor reassured me as I slowly inched my way to the plane’s exit. The time had come for me to make my first tandem skydive from almost 12,000 feet. As the aircraft door flung open and the rush and roar of the wind overtook the cabin, I gazed out at the great expanse of sky and clouds beneath me. I hesitated, thinking to myself, "what if my parachute fails?"
After several deep breaths and a hefty dose of courage, I took a giant leap of faith and jumped (or maybe I was pushed) into the wild blue yonder. Within moments and a sharp tug on the harness, my turbulent plummet suddenly became a gentle glide. My fear quickly gave way to unbridled joy as I soared 10,000 feet above the earth.
Where in your life are you playing it safe because you’re afraid to jump in? What is that thing you've been thinking and talking about pursuing but haven’t? Perhaps you want to be a leader in your organization, follow your true passion, or be your own boss? Chances are, there is an unrealized dream that beckons you. So why don’t you just jump in and do it?
What Holds Us Back from Jumping In
Ever notice how often we tell ourselves it’s “not the right time”? We often put our dreams on the back burner, not because we lack the time or energy, but because we fear the unknown.
Our discomfort with uncertainty paralyzes us from moving forward because we aren’t guaranteed success. Like the novice skydiver, we're afraid taking the leap because we don't know if we'll land on our feet.
The cost of letting fear control us is living on the sidelines of life. Rather than stretching ourselves outside of our comfort zone, we downsize our dreams. This keeps us small and gets in the way of us becoming the powerful leaders we are meant to be.
5 Ways to Jump In and Pursue Your Dreams
1. Jump In – Even Before You Feel Ready
I have a confession to make. When I first considered launching my coaching practice, I was reluctant to put myself out there. Even though I had plenty of experience and credentials under my belt, I had convinced myself I needed more preparation before jumping in.
How to Jump in: Few of us feel fully prepared when taking on a new venture or traversing unchartered waters. There will always be unknowns. You will never be totally sure. If you are hesitant to take action until you are fully ready, it's likely just procrastination. Trust yourself and jump in. You’ve got this. Know that you already have what you need to get started and will figure out the rest as you go.
2. Acknowledge Your Fear – But Jump In Anyway
Courage isn't the absence of fear. It's feeling fear and doing it anyway. Make no mistake; your mind will tell you 20 reasons why you should avoid taking action! It will create countless scenarios of what could go wrong. Your brain is just wired that way. Its job is to keep you alive by identifying all possible threats to your survival. But it’s also the career-enhancing opportunities that accompany risks that help you grow and thrive.
How to Jump In: When embarking on a new challenge, expect you’ll experience fear and self-doubt. Accept this as being your “new normal,” and don’t let it get in your way or hold you back! Instead of allowing your gremlins to get the best of you, continue to assess the situation, make necessary adjustments, and keep moving forward. Ask yourself, “Is the threat real, or just my brain trying to keep me safe (and small)?”
3. Break It Down Into Smaller, More Manageable Steps
Sometimes we fail to move forward because we’re overwhelmed by the mountain in front of us. This was the challenge for one of my former clients. For years, she talked about leaving her employer, which she found less than satisfying. She dreamed of starting her own law practice but felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of the undertaking.
How to Jump In: Whether your unrealized dream is writing a book, learning a new language, or initiating some significant change in your career, it’s easier to take action by breaking the goal down into smaller, more manageable steps. My client was able to finally go out on her own by taking one small step at a time toward this goal. She worked backward from a self-imposed deadline to create an achievable timetable and manageable path forward.
4. Choose A Path, Any Path
It’s hard to confidently jump in when you don’t know what direction to take. This is a common issue for clients during the career transition process. Many believe they need to identify the perfect career path before moving forward in a particular direction. This uncertainty can keep them from initiating any action at all because they are constantly second-guessing their choices.
How to Jump In: Just like your car’s navigation system, there are many paths to a selected destination. You’re never quite sure which route might be best because each course has its twists and turns, as well as a share of unknowns. What's most important is choosing a path and pursuing it. Life doesn’t come with a complete roadmap. Neither do your dreams. So, to “jump in,” pick a path, trust yourself, and let it take you to where you ultimately want to be.
5. Embrace Failure
When my daughter was learning how to ice skate, I first taught her how to fall. Once she realized she’d be fine, she was more open to taking risks. Following your dreams also requires risk-taking, stumbling, and getting back up. That's how we learn and grow. Making mistakes and failing is just part of the process.
How to Jump In: Instead of trying to avoid failure by playing it safe, why not embrace it? Think about a time you failed at something. Was it that awful? Did anything positive come from it? What lessons did you learn by falling short? Any successful business owner knows that embracing failure is part of the journey. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs (think Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, and Thomas Edison) failed several times before getting it right. Each failure enhanced their growth and led to their eventual success.
Want to Get Moving Toward Your Goals?
Isn’t it time to stop talking about your goals and finally take action? Well then, what are you waiting for? If you’re reading this, maybe it's a sign that the time for you to jump in is NOW!
I realized that a big part of what makes skydiving so exhilarating is the very act of pushing through and beyond the fear. If I had let my fear of the unknown keep me in the aircraft (yes, I considered it), I would have never known what it felt like to fly. Don't you want your dreams to take flight too?
Do you want help achieving more of your goals? Reach out to me and learn how I can help. You are welcome to schedule a 30-min consultation call with me. Learn how coaching can help you "get out of your own way" to achieve your goals and realize your full potential.
Jill Lynch Cruz, PhD, PCC, GCDF, SPHR
Executive Coach & Career Development Facilitator