When it comes to your work are you more driven by what inspires you, or by what scares you? "For the sake of what?" are you willing to speak up, transition your career, start a new business or take on a great big job when there's more chance of you failing than the one you're in right now.
Fear is the number one emotion that stops us from living the lives we most want. Fear that we're not good enough. Fear that we're not worthy. Fear of what might happen if we succeed. Fear that it might all fall apart. Fear keeps us small and stuck in jobs that don't fulfill us but feel safe.
But is there really anything safe about living a life where you feel disengaged, disillusioned or desperate to be doing something other than how you're currently spending your days?
"In order for you to get outside your comfort zone and stop playing it safe, you need to have a clear purpose," recommended Margie Warrell, best selling author and courage coach, when I interviewed her recently.
"Courage isn't the absence of fear. It's not actually fearlessness," she explained. "Rather, courage is action in the presence of our fears and self-doubts."
When we take action by starting with small steps, over time, we become more and more fearless. Instead of our fears running our lives, we're more driven by what inspires us, than by what scares us.
The challenge is that we're neurologically wired, to overestimate the probability that something will go wrong, to underestimate our ability to handle the consequences of risk and the long-term costs of comfortable inaction. These factors cause many of us to be risk-averse and consequently we don't take the actions we really need to take, we don't put ourselves out there, and we resist new challenges.
Margie notes however, that there is a big difference between being well off and having wellbeing. It's easy to mislead ourselves into thinking that if we just had the success we wanted, then it would be simple to show up and shine in ways that truly mattered.
But it actually works in reverse.
Only when you can answer clearly 'for the sake of what' you're willing to put yourself at risk, can you be as courageous as you can be, as purposeful as you can be and as successful as you can be. Margie suggests taking the following steps to stop playing safe and find the courage to do what really matters to you at work:
- Be aware of your impact - Become aware of the impact you can have on others simply by the spirit you bring to what you do at work. More than what we do each day, it's how we do it that adds value. Even if you're not living out your greatest passion in the world each day, bring to it a spirit of passion and engagement to positively impact others.
- Understand your why - Why would you bother to speak up at work, to go and start a new career, or to take on a great big job where there's more chance of you failing than the one you're in right now? Why would you risk the humiliation and the possibility of rejection and failure? For the sake of what are you willing to get out of your comfort zone, to take that risk, and to pursue the ambitions that excite you?
- Find your purpose - Discover the intersection of your talents, your passions, your values, and your skills and expertise so that what you do every day is meaningful. Think of it like this: there are things that you can be passionate about, but you might not have a lot of skills in this area at the moment, there might not be a lot of opportunity for this kind of work, or pursing it might compromise your values for family stability. Purpose is rarely about all or nothing. Rather, it's about looking at where there is overlap between what you're good at, what you care about, where there's value and a need in the marketplace that creates opportunities, and where you have some experience and skills.
- Cultivate a courage mindset - Embrace the discomfort that comes with feeling vulnerable, with doing things that expose you to failure. As you become clearer on what you want to do with your life don't start by taking on Mount Everest. Courage builds courage so start where you are and do something today that stretches you. When you encounter setbacks along the way pick yourself up knowing failure is a natural part of growth and figure out what the next step should be. And try to surround yourself with other people who are courageous, who are conscious, who are committed, who lift you up versus pull you down so you have the support you need to continue acting courageously.
- Tame your inner critic - We all hear those voices inside our head that say: "Who are you to do that? You're not good enough. What will people say if you fail?" Try giving a name to these voices - for example you might call them "your gremlins". This way it help you remember that these voices are just your fears trying to protect you from pain, not a true reflection of who you are. When you can recognize them and distance yourself from their negativity, it creates the space and courage for you to say: "Thank you very much. I know you're trying to protect me. Now shut up, I'm going to take this risk anyway."
For the sake of what do you get out of bed each day? If you'd like more tested, practical ways to show up, shine and succeed at work grab the free podcast series for some of the world's leading thinkers in human flourishing here.
This article first appeared on Live Happy Magazine.