Have you ever been about to act, but were completely paralyzed by the fear of what comes next?

Maybe you’re contemplating moving cities and you’re nervous it could be the wrong place. Or maybe you’re not quite sure you’re ready to take that next step in a romantic relationship. Or maybe it’s being scared to take your next career step.

You are not alone. Fear leads us to question ourselves. We ask ourselves, “What if I fail and everything just stays the same?” or, “What if other people don’t like what I’m doing?”

Let’s face your fear and look at each one of these questions.

What if you do fail and everything does remain the same? What scares you about this? Write it down. Reflect on it. Now, here’s the truth. When you take that first step to do something differently, you have already made a change.

You and I both know that life rarely goes precisely according to plan. Think about it, five years ago when everybody was telling interviewers where they hoped to be in five years, not a single person was quite right. Even if you have exactly the life you described, you probably didn’t expect to be living so much of it within the confines of your home, excited about the arrival of the mail because it gave you a reason to go outside.

So, what if we define failure as things not going according to plan? Because they almost certainly won’t. If you’ve already taken the first step to make a change, things will not stay the same. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Instead, embrace that plans are made to change. Then take a step forward. Any change will have positive repercussions even if and when life is different than what you planned.

Now, what about the fear of others judging you or being disappointed by your actions. My favorite way to think about this comes from Rachel Hollis, the author of Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing. She writes, “Somebody else’s opinion of you is none of your business.” What everybody else thinks of what you’re doing doesn’t need to cross your mind.

I get it. This is easier said than done. However, the best way to move forward is to recognize that the only person you can control is yourself. Your choices need to be made for you, not for your fifteen closest friends, your boss, your favorite coworker, your parents, or even your significant other.

You’ve faced your fears. Now you’re ready to use your fear as a catalyst for action.

The first step is to name and claim your fears. Write down everything about making a change that scares you. Then, look at it, let it soak in, and claim it. Fear grows in the dark.

Next, assess where you are today. If you don’t make a change, what is at stake? More of…? You can use your fear when you can see the reality of your current situation and can see the value of your actions.

Fear is primal, ancient, inescapable. It drives us to make choices. Fear compels us to get clear on what matters. Use it. 


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Carson serves as a consultant to executives at Fortune 500 companies. The author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style, her views have been included in Bloomberg Businessweek, Fast Company, Forbes, Harvard Business Review blog, and The New York Times.


  • Carson Tate

    Productivity Consultant •Speaker • Author • Leadership Coach