What’s holding you back in your career? Is there something you really want to do that will stretch you but you keep walking away from it? Or do you want to make a change, apply for a new job or go for a promotion but you keep talking yourself out of it? Well, you’re not alone, many people stay in jobs they hate or stay stuck and unfulfilled because they feel scared and imagine all the things that could possibly go wrong if they step out of their comfort zone. Fear is paralysing and exhausting, and talking yourself out of doing things you know you really want to do perpetuates a negative mind set and can damage your self-image. You can begin to see yourself as smaller somehow, or as someone who doesn’t take risks or challenges.
What are we scared of?
Research I conducted in 2014 with potential career changers showed that fear of change, of failure, of making the wrong decision and of what others thought were major obstacles in moving forward. Fear and the resulting procrastination is the enemy of opportunity and can lead to you self- sabotaging your career.
Why are we scared?
There are a few contributory factors. Firstly, our beliefs about ourselves, based on messages we have heard in our lives that we have taken to heart and then nourished and fed. When you were younger what messages did you receive from your parents, from school and from society about what was possible? Did they expand or contract your dreams? Did they leave you thinking ‘Am I good enough?’ ‘Am I worth it?’
If you doubt yourself then making a change of any kind in your career can be very challenging.
Then, there are your circumstances – if you are the main bread winner, live alone or have a family that will be impacted by any changes you make, then fear of getting it wrong and affecting your financial security or your family’s situation can hold you back.
And thirdly, other people can have a huge impact. Friends, family, colleagues and peers’ views or perceived views can get in the way of you moving forward. Imagining what they may say or how they might judge you is really unhelpful, particularly if you’re also still trying to ‘please’ them or live up to their perceived expectations of you.
So what can you do to reduce and manage the fears and the blocks?
- Visualise the future
When we are fearful of something it can be like a bad movie playing constantly in our heads where we imagine all the things that could go wrong with our career if we make a change or step out of our comfort zone. However, you are the Director of the movie and you can rewrite the script at any time. Imagine a positive future where your change or promotion goes well, where it leads to exciting opportunities, meeting new people, feeling fulfilled. Play this new movie in your head daily, tweaking and refining it. If you’re tempted to play the ‘bad’ movie don’t give in, focus on the positive one with the happy ending!
- Break it down
Now you know the story and how it ends you can work out the steps along the way. You can then translate this into a plan with goals and this is very helpful to avoid procrastination. For example, if your goal is to get promotion, then your actions may include talking to your boss about what you need to focus on to be seen as ready for the next level, getting experience in some key areas through volunteering for projects, attending a training course in a specific area or doing some self-study, making connections through networking internally or externally, working on self-promotion and talking about yourself positively. While some of these may still feel scary by breaking them down you can focus on one area at a time so it is less overwhelming, and you can ask for support and help when you need
- Look for positive people
It’s official positivity is contagious! If you hang out with positive people you are more likely to, not only feel positive but, also emulate their actions and behaviours. If you are surrounded by people who have a growth mind set, who believe you are capable of anything you choose to do it is liberating and energising. Of course, the converse is also true and if you find yourself associating with the crowd who moan and criticise then this can be contagious too so choose carefully which friends and colleagues you spend time with.
Remember, life is short so don’t let fear win. As Eleanor Roosevelt said “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
If you want to check if you’re letting fear hold you back in your career then check out your level of career confidence and download my free Career Confidence Quiz.
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