Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Many women over fifty are looking for the opportunity to create professional options which are more fulfilling and fun than their current gig. I know this because I talk to so many women in my work.  It is so fascinating that no matter how successful or accomplished these women are, our conversations start with their fears, instead of their dreams, desires and aspirations.

Why We Instinctively Default to Fear

It isn’t really so surprising that we first start talking about our “fears” before sharing our hopes and dreams.   Our natural instinct to default to fear comes from our anthropological connection to our ancestors. Fear played a huge part in keeping our ancient ancestors alive which made our existence possible!

The purpose of fear is to alert us when our security is threatened so that we can take action to protect ourselves.  Fear is deeply hardwired in our brains, even though today we are less likely to be eaten by a saber tooth tiger or trampled by a mastodon.  

The Cost of Suppressing Our Fear

Sometimes, we try to ignore our fears or suppress them to get through everyday challenges and changes.  In fact, these are not great strategies!  By not tuning into our fear, we miss out on the information and intelligence that our fears can provide. Unfortunately, our suppressed feelings always come back to bite us in some way.

We have an opportunity to feel our fear and learn from it and then choose whether to respond to it.  Recent research in the psychology of fear suggests that simply acknowledging out loud that you are feeling fear gives your brain time to process the situation.  With the needed processing time, the brain can assess and identify a range of potential responses instead of immediately reacting with fight or flight.

Your Fears Can Keep You From Living Life Fully

Are your fears keeping you from creating the work and career that generates passion and purpose?  Do you stop yourself from building new possibilities because your mind gives you all the reasons why it won’t work?  Are you crafting your fears into other reasons to justify not making a change to something that makes you happier?

Common Fears

Here are the most common fears that hold us back from our dreams, passions and desires.  Do any of these resonate with you?

  1. You fear that if you make a job change, you will not be successful.
  2. You fear that you are too old to have enough time to become successful.
  3. You fear losing your hard-won professional identity if you change jobs.
  4. You fear that you won’t earn enough, or any, money and that you will become a bag lady.
  5. You fear living through the impact that change will have on all the parts of your life.
  6. You fear what other people will think and say about you if you change jobs.

You Can Overcome Fear

Now you know that you are not alone in feeling fear about moving from doing what you know to doing what you love.  Feeling fear is normal and human.  You have an opportunity to make a different choice about the rest of your life despite the fears you are feeling.

Here are a couple of tips that can help:

First – Name Your Fears

Make a list of all the fears you feel when you think about changing what you do or exploring new work and career possibilities.  Be specific about each of them.  Say them out loud. Pay attention to what happens when you name them.  Suddenly, they are outside your head, no longer racing around raising your adrenaline, and the rational part of your brain will begin developing some possible alternative ways to alleviate your fear and still move in the direction of change.

 Second – Use Your Fears to Design a Different Path Forward

For each fear you have listed, begin to develop ways to move forward that acknowledge the fear and help you make progress.  For example, if you are afraid you won’t make enough money doing what you love, figure out the base amount you need to feel safe.  Even working through the analysis will help you feel more confident about your abilities to take care of yourself.

Make Fear Your Ally

Fear can be your partner instead of your jailer.  Use it to find your path forward to designing your most amazing big gig – doing what you love, the way you love to do it, working with great people for the rewards that you desire.

5 Fears That Keep You From Getting What You Want

Which common fears do you resonate with? How have you overcome your fears to make a change in your work life? Do tell in the comments below!

RESOURCES:  Mary Wallace Jaensch helps women tackle their fears so they can create beautiful professional finales at Last Big Gig.

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