Overcoming My Fear of Quitting


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?

Comments (4)

Many years ago I heard the phrase “Feel the fear”. It doesn’t mean be scared or hesitant, but to feel challenged, on point, and alive. I took the ERP too, it was a great opportunity and the sense of energy I felt after making my decision was palpable. I thoroughly enjoyed the 7 months I had in what I now call “Retirement 1.0” and am now working for Intel-comparable pay down the road in Rancho Cordova with Health Net. No regrets!

Best of luck in your new venture Andy!

Hi Tim, I like your description Feel the Fear. We interpret fear as bad and it doesn’t have to be. It is great to hear you are doing well.


Very timely article Andy. So much change going on. Any tips to getting clarity on purpose? It’ s pretty easy to tell when you’re not fulfilling your purpose ( not fulfilled, not energized, not fully focused) but I’m finding it challenging to hone in on the “right” purpose to lean into. I find it much easier to help others do this, than myself. Hoping to not have to reach retirement age to figure this out!

Hi Renee, that is a great question, and one I get a lot. I have learned our sense of purpose is ever changing influenced by our underlying cares. As an example, my wife mentioned last night her purpose shifted considerably after our first son was born. My advice is to pay attention to what things bring you joy and a deep sense of satisfaction. For me it was noticing those coaching moments where I was able to help someone create a breakthrough. That was and still is extremely meaningful to me.

Once you start noticing these things, how can you shape what you do to more often create them? It led me to starting my own coaching business, but there are many other things I could have done.

I also encourage you to try new things on a regular basis and listen to your reaction. Don’t be afraid to quit them quickly if they aren’t working. This is an expedition on which we never reach the destination but instead have to learn to appreciate and enjoy the journey as the scenery changes.

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