Move Up In Your Career: Part 3


The fear of not taking risks that could lead to more happiness.

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the fear of saying no because we are afraid of disappointing others. So, we say yes out of obligation and may feel resentment. We think we have no choice and feel powerless. This next topic is a close cousin to the fear of saying no because here we are not saying YES to our true self.

We talked about the fear of not speaking up and asking for what you want in Part 2. This is a close cousin to the fear of saying ‘no’ because here we are not saying ‘YES!’ to our true self.

Today, we will explore the fear of taking risks that could lead to more happiness. This might be speaking up to ask for a promotion, volunteering to take on a leadership role on your team, or you might be procrastinating on starting a job search. As a business owner it might be asking for referrals, raising your prices or launching a new product. Perhaps it’s something bigger like writing a book, starting a business. 

The issue. Fear of taking risks can show up as fear of rejection. It might be the two-sided issue of fear of failing or fear of success! You may wonder if you are worthy or capable of reaching and sustaining your goal. People most often tell me they are afraid of what others will think of them or they are not good enough.

The cost.  As a result of avoiding fear and risk, we hold back on things that could enhance our career satisfaction and joy.

  • We don’t go after what we want, ask for more responsibility or try something new.
  • We don’t speak up in situations where we could make a difference or get noticed and appreciated.
  • We think we are playing it safe which has us playing small.
  • We procrastinate on steps we know we need to take to advance our career or business like submitting a proposal, doing public speaking, networking or asking for help, or writing an article for TCW!
  • Ultimately, we don’t do what it takes to be a leader in our life or our career.

Tips and tools. Think of something you want to take action on but hold back from doing. Here are some recommendations on ways to take that first step…

  • Listen to your inner voice and learn. We often think fear is a bad thing. It can be a powerful teacher. Fear and excitement are two sides of the same coin. Some of the more frightened voices on the Board of Directors in your head (see Part 2) are younger parts of you trying to protect you based on their past experiences.  You also have courageous, knowledgeable, skilled grown up parts that are up for the challenge.
  • F.E.A.R. I love looking at the word fear as an acronym standing for False Expectations Appearing Real. It’s a great reminder that the subconscious can’t tell the difference between what is real or imagined, or what happened in the past or what is worried about in the future.
  • Welcome fear. Rather than ignore, stuff or avoid fearful feelings, embrace them. Explore what you are afraid will happen. Play out the scenario to its worst conclusion in your head.  This might bring comic relief and realization of how unlikely your imagined outcome is. You will realize you can handle some of the perceived obstacles and know or can find someone who can help.
  • Fear/Action Exercise. Draw a two-column table on a piece of paper. At the very top write down the thing you are afraid to do. Let’s say it is to go look for a job for the first time ever or after a very long time. Label the left column ‘FEAR’ and start listing all the reasons you fear taking a risk and why you are stuck. Label the right column ‘ACTION.’ Fear is often founded in a nugget of truth that may be blown out of proportion.  What step can you take to check out if your fear is real or imagined and if there is a solution? Find the smallest first step you can take.

Start Job Search

Gail Chart

You are a powerful being. Marianne Williamson’s inspiring quote comes to mind: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”

Just by reading this article and beginning to identify, face and even embrace your fear, you immediately dissipate its power over you.  You are on your way!


About Gail Sussman Miller

Gail Sussman Miller, chief obstacle buster at Inspired Choice, is an expert at inspiring executives to take courageous action and be more effective in job search and career advancement by using a mission-driven emotionally intelligent approach. She also facilitates monthly networking meetings for Chicago executives in career transition for ExecuNet. Ms. Sussman Miller especially loves coaching women to more powerfully lead their careers and the world. She offers TCW readers her free eBook, 10 Secrets of Emotional Intelligence, to help you move through fear and boost career success at