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Face Down Your Fear of Change

August 2nd, 2010

The Face of Change

This is a topic many of us are dealing with today. Whether your organization is going through change or you have to change jobs, scary feelings of uncertainty are often triggered. People in the midst of change frequently take a wait-and-see approach that stops progress. There’s no doubt fear and uncertainty are linked with change but you CAN control how you “react” to change. View this time as an opportunity, an opening into a future you can help design. This period is a chance to redefine what you want to be. Focus on the outcome you would like.

If changing your career has become a necessity it’s time for soul searching. This may be the push you need to pursue your passion. Think bigger than your immediate box to stretch yourself beyond your current circumstances. When you do that, you’re 99 percent guaranteed to run up against fear at some point. It just comes with the territory.

Most people will do about anything possible to keep from feeling that fear. It’s one of the biggest obstacles keeping people from taking serious steps towards their dreams. And that’s unfortunate because, that fear can actually be an enormously valuable asset. Fear can be seen as a catalyst to help venture out from a cozy comfort zone.

Fear comes in two varieties: limiting fear and productive fear. Limiting fear stops you dead in your tracks. Productive fear shines a light on potential dangers so you can assess how to minimize or eliminate them. And sometimes the only difference between the two has to do with what you do when you feel that fear.

The fear might be there for a very good reason. For example, let’s say you want to make a career change, but you’re afraid you will not succeed and run out of money. That fear could either be a limiting fear, keeping you from taking any action, or a productive fear, helping you understand more about how to move toward your goal.

Ask yourself two questions to help harness the positive potential of your fear:

What warning does this fear have for me and are they valid? “If I do this, then X could happen.” Be aware whether or not the warnings are valid. For example, the warnings might be, “If you pursue this path and you fail, you’ll suffer a massive setback to your career.” The warning about the massive career setback might actually be greatly exaggerated. I always think like this: If someone took a couple years off to travel around the world, how adversely would that affect their career? Typically not much, especially in the big picture.

What could I do to eliminate or minimize each of the risk factors? For example, rather than flipping the switch and making a change immediately, you might delay for a year and focus on building your network and skills. Take whatever small steps you can towards the new direction while you are still earning money. Also, set aside more money than you might need to start and be realistic about how much time it will actually take.

The more you can examine the fears and put valid fears to use, the more they can be used as a force to move you towards your vision. Don’t let fear and uncertainty break your spirit. You have more power than you know – use it.

- Curt Rosengren
- Sunny Lurie, PhD, article contributor,
Fast Focus Careers

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Dr. Sunny Lurie photos by Perkoski