As the creator and host of an online talk show who interviews incredible working women balancing busy lives, I have been privy to a lot of amazing career and life advice during the last few years. One of the most aspirational and inspiring things I have heard over and over is, "Be fearless."
I love that advice... in theory. And I can completely relate to why it's great to be that way. Because one enormous thing that can and will stand in anyone's way and potentially keep you from creating a rewarding life and career is fear.
This can manifest itself in so many ways both big and small from being afraid to go for that promotion to letting fear keep you from doing the things you want or need to do. For me, probably my biggest fear is encountering turbulence when I fly, which I often do. I absolutely hate turbulence. That feeling of being completely out of control of your own situation, not knowing what will happen in the next few minutes is incredibly frightening to me. I know many people who hate flying -- they fear the takeoff and the landing and the feeling of being cooped up. I am fine with all of that. I enjoy the chance to read my Elle and Elle Décor or log onto my computer and shop OneKingsLane guilt free with a vodka club in my hand and no one to bother me. But often it is soon after the captain has turned off the fasten seatbelt sign and assured us of a relatively smooth ride and I've settled back and am in my zone that the bumps start. Once they do, I can feel that fear -- that clutch feeling in my stomach. How long will it last? What does it mean? Will it get worse? When will it be over? Why today -- it's not even cloudy!
It recently dawned on me that my fear of flying is a pretty good metaphor for fear in life. (Hey, I'm not the granddaughter of a psychiatrist for nothing!) It actually is about fear of the unknown. Many of us cruise along and then brace ourselves for the bumps. Feeling like there is nothing we can do and we just must wait for it to be over.
That is, after all, usually the easiest thing to do. Although, if you have a fear of turbulence, you also know it is actually a very scary way to live -- waiting for something bad to happen.
There is no question that life is scary. Terrible things can happen and they sometimes do. That part is true. But wonderful things can happen, too. In order to get to those wonderful things -- many times you have to take risks and be open to change. And with change, although there are many factors that remain out of our control, there are many factors that are actually within our control that we often don't take ownership of.
When you are creating the life you want to live and the career you want to have, or when you look around and notice that the life you have is much more complicated than you originally expected and may need some tweaks, you can feel incredibly overwhelmed and fearful to make any changes. That makes sense. But it shouldn't immobilize you. Or stop you from what you want to do. Here is where you need to be fearless!
Not too long ago I interviewed Suki Thompson, The CEO of Oystercatchers, a very well respected and high-powered consultancy in London. Her advice was be fearless and she talked about how being diagnosed with cancer five years ago helped her realize that everything else was doable and not to be afraid of the little things. Happily, today, she is cancer free and more successful than ever.
Perhaps the message is that if you can't quite be fearless -- act as though you are. Don't be afraid to go for that new job, take a chance, cut your hair, ask a guy out, whatever it is for you -- acknowledge that fear but don't be a slave to it. Don't let being afraid stand in the way of living the fullest possible life imaginable for you.
I'd like to end this by saying that I no longer fear turbulence and have gone out and conquered all the things in my life I want to do. While that's not exactly the case, I will say that when I do encounter turbulence, I sit back and try to remember there is nothing to fear but fear itself.