It took me more than two years to decide to go all in and follow my passion to help others achieve their goals through coaching. I agonized about leaving my corporate role. Do I stay or do I leave? It was a difficult time. Reflecting on that time, I remember the moment when I decided to do it. I was losing the favorite part of my corporate role (people development) and what was left didn’t align well with what I really cared about. Shortly thereafter, I was also offered a very generous early retirement package and that finally tipped the scales. I figured if I didn’t accept the package and quit, I wasn’t really serious about pursuing a career in coaching and consulting.
Making the decision
In some respects, these external events made the decision for me, making it harder to stay than to leave. There was also something more important going on. I was becoming increasingly clear about what is truly important to me and this influenced my decision making.
A sense of purpose
Seth Godin writes about this in his book “Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us”. He describes the how a strong sense of purpose helps us overcome the fear that holds us back.
“It’s the story of success, of drive, of doing something that matters. It’s an intellectual story about what the world (or your industry or your project) needs and how your insight can help make a difference. I believe you can talk over the fear, laying out a game plan that makes the fear obsolete. It’s not about some clever tactic or a better way to write a memo to your boss. It’s about making it clear to yourself (and to others) that the world is now demanding that we change. And fast.”
“The only thing holding you back is your own fear. Not easy to admit, but essential to understand.”
My relationship with fear
I was held back from making my decision earlier by my fear of screwing up. Of letting down those people who were relying on me. The fear is still with me today but it has been drowned out by a stronger sense of ambition and possibility. My fear served me well by preventing me from making a rash decision, and jumping to the next thing too quickly. Instead, by living with it, I learned what was important and let it lead me in the right decision.
Fear can also hold us back when the right action is to quit and move on. It keeps us trapped in a dead end situation. It feels better to maintain the status quo because it is safe, when in reality, the world is changing around us and we need to change with it. Maintaining the status quo as a path to safety is an illusion.
Learning to lean in
I am learning to lean in to my fear, treat it as my friend and teacher. There will always be things I am reluctant to let go of. The future is also uncertain and always will be. At some point we have to be willing to take a chance and step forward into the unknown. The tension between purpose and fear is helping me figure out the right steps to take.
What is your relationship with fear?