Major life transitions can be scary…
This includes things like big moves, relationship changes and career transitions. Where we live, who we commit to, and what we do for work are three of the biggest decisions we’ll make in our lives.
Interestingly enough, all three of these are scary for the same reasons. They all map back to three essential fears.
1. Fear of Uncertainty / Control
The first fear is that of uncertainty. When we transition we are unsure of the future. This connects to a sense of comfort, safety and control. We don’t like not knowing the future because we can’t control it, and not being in control feels dangerous to most humans.
When we’re uncertain we can feel uncomfortable and out of control, which scares us.
2. Fear of Rejection / Acceptance
The next fear is that of rejection. When we transition we are looking for acceptance and validation into this new territory. This connects to a sense of love, empathy and belonging. Humans are social creatures who desire to feel welcome, seen and understood.
Not finding this acceptance can be painful, which scares us.
3. Fear of Failure / Success
The last fear is that of failure. When we transition we can be scared of things not working out as we plan. We typically have an idea of how things will unfold, which is our idea of success. Then there’s that little voice in our head that reminds us of things not going as planned. That voice is fear.
The funny thing is that failure [and success] are often an internal story we tell ourselves, not something that can be proven. In that light, failure is usually the result of not realizing an ideal scenario.
When things don’t go as planned we can feel like a failure, which scares us.
All three of these fear types evoke a potential [and speculative] feeling. In other words, they trick our mind into thinking about how we might feel in the future. The fear helps us avoid those potential feelings.
Here are a few examples:
- We fear moving to a new location because we don’t feel in control of our quality of life (Uncertainty).
- We fear committing to a new relationship because we may not feel loved or understood (Acceptance).
- We fear taking on a new career or project because we may not feel confident in realizing our successful vision (Failure).
So how do we face these fears?
If I had to answer that in as few words as possible I would use these four –
Lean In and Learn
There are two parts to this simple phrase.
The first being to “Lean In”
This means to surrender and trust in things that give you energy. Things that light you up inside. Let your internal guidance system take you somewhere new and exciting.
Life is too short to always stay safe and comfortable. Take some risks and experience the growth of getting out of our comfort zone. Make the move, have the conversation, quit the job. Pursue things like your brave child self that once took such risks without hesitation.
Furthermore, leaning in doesn’t mean going all in right away. There are ways to experiment and test transitions without fully committing to them. This is a great path for huge decisions that feel too overwhelming. Reduce the risk and fear with a more gradual transition.
What’s the worst that could happen? You fail and learn something new about yourself?
Which leads to the second part – “Learn”
This means to embrace your fear with a growth mindset. Stay open and curious. Instead of playing the blame game when things don’t go as planned, ask better questions.
- What can I learn from this?
- How have I grown as a result?
- What could I do differently next time?
Also give some thought to failure, especially if what you experience feels like failure. A beautiful quote comes to mind –
Some of our greatest accomplishments lie right next to our greatest failures.
I believe that quote and I’ve lived it. I also believe you have to experiment and fail to realize true growth and wisdom. You can read books and listen to podcasts all day long… but you won’t really learn anything until you get out there and fail.
I treat failure and my relationship with fear as a friend. It’s a voice on my shoulder that offers insight, humility and awareness. I look for opportunities where fear and failure can teach me. I also respect situations where fear is identifying true danger.
Major life transitions don’t usually present true danger, but they are indeed scary. There’s no denying that. They key is how we approach them, which can make all the difference.
I will leave you with a question –
Where do you need to lean in and learn?
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Ali is a creator who's passionate about guiding people to their truth. That's a fancy way of saying he wants to help people realize their most authentic life. He's a father, husband, podcaster, blogger, technologist and many other things that inspire him to stay curious and learn. He's also a huge advocate for nature, hiking, adventure, testing physical limits and experiencing the natural world.