This month Thrive Global asked it’s contributors to write about a time we faced one of our major fears and what we learned from it.

At the start of every year (hard to believe it’s March already!), I take the time to reflect on what has been accomplished in the previous year and where I’m projecting to go in the upcoming 12 months. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day to day, and forget to give appreciation and gratitude to the progress that has been made.

In 2018, we worked with more health clients than any year before, we pushed in our research consulting work harder than ever and managed to deliver on the tightest timeframes, and I spoke and presented at new corporate conferences which was a huge ambition for 2018 and is a large part of our direction for 2019. All of this is hard to imagine when just a few years ago EBM was nothing but an idea.

My biggest fear was taking the leap from my secure corporate job to the tumultuous world of freelancing and the rollercoaster of small business. People often ask what ‘inspired’ me to do it, but if I’m honest, the decision to make the change came more strongly from a fear of being trapped in a life where stress and burnout were the norm and knowing that there had to be a better option.

I faced critics from all angles; ‘how could you leave such a great job?’, ‘what are you doing with your life?’, ‘how can you just up and leave with no security?’. The questions came pouring in thick and fast when I started talking about the move. This made it even harder and made justifying a seemingly losing battle seem impossible. It did impact some relationships and made the whole experience feel secretive and scary, rather than the exciting and opportunistic event that it turned out to be. A learning from this for my ‘future self’ would be to only discuss the change with one or two people who you know will support you in any decision you make. They definitely need to still ask the tough questions, but ultimately will support you win, lose or draw.

Taking a leap of faith, no matter what it is, requires an ability to be ok stepping out of your comfort zone; taking a new role, starting a new career, ending a familiar relationship, or moving to a new city. Unfortunately, that is all it can be when trying something new – a leap of faith. There is no certainty, no security net, no going back to exactly the way things were. It is about accepting that you cannot know the outcome and being ok with it despite the ambiguity.

So many people are happy to purely exist in the comfortable, and as a result, often wonder why they are not happy. You manifest the feelings of the environment that you are in, and a job is one of the biggest parts of your day. Since the change, I now decide my day; the hours worked, the clients we take on, the environment that I want to create. And that is more powerful and worthwhile than any corporate job I could’ve been offered. But that is what’s right for me – not for everyone. Just because you are unhappy in a role doesn’t mean that quitting and starting up a hobby is going to be the solution.

However, the learning for is to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and be willing to take risks that may or may not pay off. Decisions I make now are replicated on this 5 step method of thinking:

  1. Am I happy with the way things are?
  2. Can I change anything about it the situation?
  3. What can I do to change it?
  4. Does the risk of change outweigh the potential downsides?
  5. Why not?

Where do you think you can apply this method of thinking?