Overcoming fear: Five ways to take back control of your career

When it comes to your work, are you more driven by what inspires you, or by what scares you? Are you willing to speak up at work, transition your career, start a new business or take on a great big job, when there's the possibility that you'll fail?

Fear is the number one emotion that stops us from living the lives we most want. It's the 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.

And when it comes to our careers, 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," recommends Margie Warrell, best selling author and courage coach.  "Courage isn't the absence of fear, it's action in the presence of our uncertainty and self-doubt."

With 50% of female managers admitting they are plagued by self-doubt, what can you do to have the confidence to show up, shine and succeed at work?

Here are five practical strategies leading researchers, coaches and best-selling authors recommend:

  1. 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 when there's more chance of you failing than by sticking with the one you're in right now? Why would you risk the humiliation and the possibility of rejection and failure? Margie recommends understanding "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.
  2. Challenge Self-Doubt. Self-confidence expert Louisa Jewell recommends challenging the mental chatter in your head so you can do what matters the most to you at work. If you find your thoughts are full of negativity and abuse, challenge what you're saying by asking: "Is that true?" Rather than having your thoughts irrationally hijacked by self-doubt, rationally look for evidence to take a more balanced point of view to what's really unfolding.
  3. Build Your Grit. Associate Professor Angela Duckworth explains that "grit" is the passion and perseverance to stick with your long-term goals. One way you can cultivate grit is to ask other people around you to hold you accountable to your goals and ensure you don't quit in the face of boredom, frustration or discouragement. A common feature in the stories of top performers is that there were times when they stumbled and there were times when they doubted themselves. It wasn't all easy for them, and in many cases, they relied on someone else, not themselves.
  4. Create Tiny Habits. BJ Fogg at Stanford University has found that by scaling back bigger behaviours into really small actions you can create dramatic shifts that last. His tiny habits formula recommends: scaling back the meaningful changes you want to make in your work to one very small step; sequencing this step by adding to the end of a habit you already have - "After I (insert existing routine), I will (insert new routine)"; and then celebrate your completion of the step with a heartfelt "Awesome!" to create a jolt of positive emotion that helps the habit stick.
  5. Set clear boundaries. Best-selling author and resilience, wellbeing and productivity coach Valorie Burton recommends setting and keeping clear boundaries with your boss and colleagues if you want the energy to do what matters to you most. Ask yourself: "What are the boundaries you need to protect your own peace, joy and serenity at work?" Then notice the areas where you feel the most frustrated, stressed or overwhelmed currently and be honest with yourself about the conversations it's time to have.

If you're longing for more meaning in your work join Margie, Louisa, Angela, BJ, Valorie and myself for a special free podcast series starting September 29th on the practical strategies you can implement to help you show up, shine and succeed at the office – no matter what your job descriptions says or who you're working for.  Reserve your free ticket here.

Michelle McQuaid

Michelle McQuaid is a best-selling author, workplace wellbeing teacher and playful change activator. With more than a decade of senior leadership experience in large organizations around the world,  she’s passionate about translating cutting-edge research from positive psychology and neuroscience, into practical strategies for health, happiness, and business success. 


Twitter: @chellemcquaid

Website: www.michellemcquaid.com/
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