Overcoming the fear of change

From my nacent book on career change 'the art of the possible' out in 2015

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Fear has of course played an important part in the evolution of our species in the sense that it has protected us from harm and allowed us to make wise decisions which have ensured longevity and the opportunity to pass on our genes. In this sense it became a necessary part of our evolutionary make up and a hard wired behavioural trait in the face of perceived danger. This was all very well when life was to quote Thomas Hobbes 'nasty, mean, brutish and short'. However in a modern context, when an important decision does not (necessarily!) mean life or death, fear is often an inhibiting and by implication negative emotion which can prevent humans from taking positive action. I have seen this many times in a career context and in the words of Franklyn Roosevelt:

'The only thing to fear is fear itself'

Many people are inhibited by the voice of fear and inertia and the circular thinking which prevents constructive change. I find this particularly sad given that we spend so much of our time at work and people who tough out roles they have outgrown or were never suited too in the first place are likely to suffer as a consequence. If this is happening to you, ask yourself, what is stopping you? are these barriers absolute or relative, insurmountable or based on fear of the unknown? Give yourself permission to experience fear (we are all human) but at the same time use it to galvanise positive action.

if you are struggling for inspiration, ask yourself 'what would I do if I absolutely knew that I could not fail?' You may be surprised and inspired by the answers and I would encourage you to write them down and to form a list of alternatives. Writing such lists can be a spur to innovation and will encourage you to consider the alternatives more seriously. Try to avoid throwing out the 'left field' or radical alternatives because these may be the most interesting and rewarding. If you support this with creative visualisation and try to envisage how a new career would look and feel and the positive impact such change would make to your life then you are more likely to commit to action.

An apparently realistic view that it can be difficult to change career can and often is self fulfilling. However when you tackle the fear and let go of the psychological constraints which have held you back in the past you have every opportunity to find the strength and commitment to change. As Sarah Lane identifies in her book 'Choices' this can lead to remarkable outcomes.

'Commitment is more than a desire. it is more than a goal and more than a responsibility. It has the heart of a lion and the head of a genius'

And if you are struggling to find the courage to make the necessary changes or the inspiration to know what these should be, speak to others who know you well or work with a professional coach. Personally, to finish on another quote, I have found the words of Reinhold Niebuhr to be particularly helpful:

'Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference'

David Head

Coach and Mentor, Accelerating Experience

With twenty years experience in the search industry before becoming a coach, I combine highly personalised coaching and mentoring with broader commercial insight and perspective. I will help you to find your purpose, to thrive in your career and to change direction when this is what is needed. I will commit to helping you to achieve a state of flow by aligning values and purpose with what you do and how you do it. contact me via david.head@acceleratingexperience.com 07920 064056


Go to the profile of Suzy Walker
over 7 years ago
When I first started at Psychologies and presented my vision to the team 'grant me the serenity...' was the quotation I featured.
Focusing on what you can change and allowing the rest to just be - is some of the best advice I've ever used in my own life.
Go to the profile of David Head
over 7 years ago
Yes, I agree Suzy and I particularly like the word serenity in this context. It takes me to a place of calmness and acceptance.