Tag Archives: fear

“O” is for Options (part 2)

th-3It can be unsettling to believe you have no options…that where you currently are in your career is all there is. In my last post, I told the story of a former client who took steps to check out her “no options” belief. Once she realized she had some, she discovered renewed energy and a surprising desire to stay exactly where she was. Knowing you have options can be freeing. It can also be exciting (and mostly risk free) to explore your options once you discover them.th-5

Here are some thoughts to help you discover and expand your options:

Check out your fears. Think of my client. Her fear was that should something happen to her current position, she would not be able to get another similar or better position.  She put her money where her fear was. She hired a coach (me), got her resume in order and sent it out to a number of open positions that interested her. She had bites immediately and a couple of interviews. She learned a number of things about herself in this jth-8ourney and what skills and experience the current job market was looking for. She ended her investigation with an updated resume and a new sense of confidence in her skills. Her decision to stay in her current position actually came as a surprise to her. However, should something happen with her job, she now knows she’ll be OK. There was no downside to what she did but the loss of a few vacation days she used for interviews.

What are your fears? If you’re concerned you are not competitive in today’s job market, act as if you’re looking for a new position and compare your resume/accomplishments to job postings in your field on LinkedIn, Career Builder, and on the websites of companies where you’d like to work. If you see there are common skills listed you do not have, determine how to acquire those skills through workshops, community college, volunteering, etc.  You may discover an opening or two you’d like to go for. Send out your resume. It’s low risk. See how you fare.

What would you do if you could do anything? Many people feel a career is a path with no th-2offshoots. Not so. Having a steady income is the perfect time to begin exploring (remember that word from my last post?) what’s next or what’s in-addition-to. As with everything, having awareness is the first step. What is, as my students often say, your “dream job”? What does that job require? Is it possible to achieve those requirements? Reality is important here; becoming an NBA player is out of bounds for most of us. But…you may have more options than you think.

Changing your “yes, but” to “yes and.” Often when we look to expand outside our known experience/habits, we stop ourselves with the phrase “yes, but.” For example, you might say, “Yes, I’d love to go to grad school, but I work long hours/travel frequently/don’t have the th-11money/etc.” You block that option and all it could lead to. Instead, try saying “Yes, I’d love to go to grad school and I work long hours/travel frequently/don’t have the money/etc.” By replacing “but” with “and” your sentence begs for a solution rather than stopping at an excuse.

Prep for your options where you currently are. Let’s say an option you’d like to check out is starting your own business. What can you learn about this while keeping your current position? How might your current position allow you to learn more about budgeting, marketing, sales, business planning? This is where open ears and eyes come in. There may be projects you can volunteer for that will help you make contacts or learn skills you need to support one of your options. Your current job can be a great source of experience and learning once you begin to look at it with “new” eyes.

Options can exist places other than your workplace. Your workplace is not the only venue thwhere you have options. Fulfilling, exciting experiences can be had elsewhere which can help you bring new vigor and skills to your career. Involvements outside of work can help open up options for all sorts of experiences and learning.

A single thread runs through all these suggestions… you need to be engaged in order to see your options. Too many people use the excuse of being “crazy busy” to come to a career standstill and schlepp to work each day. According to an April 2015 Gallup Daily Tracking poll, 31.7% of American workers are engaged in their jobs. This is a sad commentary on how many (68.3%) are not looking for their options.


My former client had the courage to explore what her options were. One learning she took away was having options doesn’t mean you have to act on them. When she saw she had them, she felt better about her current position.th-1

Open eyes, open ears, and, perhaps most importantly, an open mind will help you begin to find the courage to explore the options available in your career.




“F” is for Fear

cheese “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”

Spencer Johnson, “Who Moved My Cheese?”

 There is a lot of fear in the world today. Whether you are six or 60, fear is a factor in many of the important choices you make. A Chicago police detective once told me that fear of looking foolish, fear of being embarrassed, and fear of looking fearful led to dozens of deaths every year. Trust your gut, he told me. If you have chest pain, tell someone, don’t go into the bathroom and die. If you think someone is walking too close behind you, turn around and look at them, don’t wait until they grab you and NEVER go with them, even if they have a gun. Run. It’s hard to hit a moving target. Fear of looking foolish or making a fuss can kill you.

How does this relate to career strategies? We all know there is fear in the workplace: fear of change, fear of not being a team player, fear of sticking your neck out, and possibly the most debilitating… fear of failure. What would we do if we weren’t afraid?

two campsWhen it comes to fear of failure, the workplace seems split. On the one side there is the camp of “failure is a learning experience to be valued”. Here one hears complaints about young employees who have not learned to spring back from failure because of a coddled, everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality in their childhood. The Harvard Business Review gave an entire issue to failure, citing it as a driver of creativity and lauding managers who create cultures in which failure is not only an option, it is inevitable. In the other camp is the culture where failure is not tolerated. It is seen as weakness and winning by any means necessary is the name of the game.

Robert T. Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad says, “Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” If we are afraid of failure, we don’t take risks–even calculated ones—and we don’t grow because we pass on taking assignments or projects that stretch our skills and raise our visibility.thief

Fear is a thief robbing us of our potential and opportunities to use that potential. It makes our world smaller and more anxious and it does the same to us. Fear is the #1 killer of creativity and innovation. It freezes flexibility and rapid response. And what is needed for success in today’s marketplace? Creativity, flexibility, innovation, and rapid response.

Where is our attention when we are anxious or drenched in dread? Most likely we are ruminating about the past or trying to figure out what is going to happen in the future. We are not fully “in the moment” deciding what is needed, evaluating what is truly happening, and responding in a way that is on target.

Is your workplace swathed in fear? In a March 2013 HR Magazine UK article, Chris Wellford scared manshares five telltale signs of a fearful workplace:

  • A preoccupation with status and conformity and where rules have precedence over common sense
  • Distinct in-groups and out-groups exist with little opportunity to cross the boundaries between them
  • Everything is measured but nothing is questioned
  • Appraisals are one-way
  • The focus is on pace but short term gain is known to be at long term cost

http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/hro/features/1076556/fear. Sound familiar?

Feelings of security and confidence are born when we know we can handle what may be coming. This knowledge comes from:

  • Previous experience of having risked and prevailed
  • Determining “the worst that can happen” and making a plan
  • Having a support network to help us “soothe the horror” when things go awrypositive failure

As a coach, I encourage my clients to write their fears and the “worst that can happen” on a piece of paper. Actually seeing their fear put into words on paper often strips the words of the power they command while in our head.

An environment that helps people cope with fear must include leadership, trust and vision. It must be a place where people can share information without concern for repercussions and retaliation.

Sally Stanleigh, in her article “Diminishing Fear in the Workplace”, http://www.bia.ca/articles/DiminishingFearintheWorkplace.htm says that while leaders can influence the amount of fear employees feel through some rather commonplace management techniques (i.e. communication), it is important that individuals realize they can manage their fear as well. How?

  • Acknowledge fear exists and determine its origins.
  • Be clear on what the boss, co-workers and staff expect from you.
  • Define the level of trust you have for those around you and they for you.

While transferring departments or changing companies can divest us of unfortunate bosses, negative co-workers, or work we were not cut out to do, fear is something that lives inside us. We take it with us when we go. The work we must do to get the most from our life and career begins with us. As is stated above, acknowledge your fear and determine its origins…then get to work on showing your fear who is boss. Only then can you answer the question: What would  I do if I wasn’t afraid?cat