Many of us have thought about quitting our jobs to go after a dream we have, whether it’s starting a business or pursuing a passion. But few of us have actually done it.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face,” Eleanor Roosevelt once said. “You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Indeed, doing the thing you think you can’t takes more than just a little courage. There are always practical considerations that sometimes seem insurmountable. Faced with them, the fear of failure keeps many of us trapped in a rut. Here are a few ways to break down that fear and overcome it.
You don’t have to look far to find people who’ve overcome their fear of making major changes. It could be someone in your family, a friend, or a neighbor who quit their job and is now pursuing their interests or passion. It might have been hard, and they may still not be seeing runaway success, but they’re doing what they love and making it work.
All of those people have had to grapple with the risk of failure before striking out on their own. Most will be glad to share what they went through and will be candid about what they’re still going through. All you need to do is ask. If you’re short on personal acquaintances that fit that mold, check out a few biographies of successful people who’ve faced similar fears before achieving what they did.
The most common deathbed regrets involve things people didn’t do in their lives, not the things they did. Think of all the scenarios that could possibly play. Imagine you stayed where you are. Imagine you took the plunge and it didn’t work. Then imagine it did work out. How would you feel–taking the long view–if each of these scenarios came to pass?
Every time you confronted obstacles that ended up in your path before, you’ve had to muster the skills and self-confidence to move past them. Perhaps you were laid off from a job, experienced car problems, or were dumped by an ex without warning. Remember these instances and draw upon some of the energy and resilience it took to overcome them. If it helps, write them down and put them up in a prominent place to remind yourself of your ability to change and adapt no matter what life throws at you.
The idea of taking on a major challenge all at once can be paralyzing. So try to break it down into parts. What smaller risk you can take that would help move you in the direction of your goal? Can you start working toward it before you give up the security of a full-time job? Maybe you can start helping someone who is doing what you want to do on a part-time basis. Or pursuing your goals on weekends and evenings to get a better feel for what it might take and to lay a foundation. Start testing things out wherever you can, and develop the skills you’ll need when you do strike out on your own. Preparation can help ease the fear of diving in.
Whatever the outcome, this undertaking will be a learning process. Actually getting started might feel like ripping off a Band-Aid, but the overall experience will be much more long-running and complex. You can change your mind or your direction at any point in the journey. The place you end up may not be the place where you started–and that’s okay. The most important thing is the chance you’re giving yourself to grow and learn throughout that the process. You can’t do that if you don’t push yourself.
Whenever we expand our horizons, we increase our potential for taking advantage of other opportunities. Sometimes they’re things we hadn’t even considered or weren’t available to us before we broke free of our regular routine. Imagine what additional paths might open up to you by setting out on your new one. And keep in mind there are others still that you can’t imagine simply because you have’t embarked yet.
Make no mistake: There will be setbacks. Most successful people have experienced failure–many of them more than once before they reached their goal. But each of those stumbles brings with it a lesson that can help you make critical adjustments in order to push forward. After all, we learn more from our failures than from our successes. Prepare not just to experience setbacks but to approach them as learning opportunities that you really can’t do without in order to achieve what you set out to. And then set out!