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What if I fail?

What will people think?

How will I make money?

Rei gave up her teaching job to follow her passion – serving at a not for profit. Despite her multitude of skills, she felt stuck and unable to even apply for a job -even though she knew what she wanted to do. She languished. Afraid to apply for jobs, afraid to tell her family that she was afraid – she was really and truly stuck. Rei's doubts were holding her back.

Most of us have doubts. The doubts are there to keep us safe. They developed to keep us from the edge of the cliff or to keep us from getting to far from the tribe where our safety would be threatened. Generally, our doubts have developed with the purpose of protecting us so if we can uncover the reason they are there and what they are trying to protect us, we can often move forward despite our doubts.

When Rei and I met, we dug deeper into her fears and it turned out her fear of moving forward was dues to her fear of failing. Her doubt was trying to keep her safe. Once she identified what that fear was, she determined what the worst-case scenario of failing was. We talked about what she could do if that happened, and once she had an idea of what the worse case was and what she could do it about it if happened – she was no longer afraid of moving forward. She then went on to get the job of her dreams in only a few short weeks.

woman holding her head in her hands - afraid of failing

I too have been afraid of failing. I was stuck unable to move forward and unable to make a change. At the time, I didn’t realize that when we are in a state of fear, the amygdala is engaged. This is the ancient part of the brain that kept us safe from predators – it manages the fight or flight response. The problem is that the amygdala actually inhibits the neocortex from being engaged. That night not sound so bad until you realize that the neocortex is the newer area of the brain – where complex thinking, problem solving and creativity reside. That means that when you worried or are stressed or overwhelmed – the very times that you need to be creative and problem solve in a new way your brain is inhibiting what you need the most.

Our fears often hold us back from what we want. Acknowledging that they are trying to keep us safe is the first step in moving past them. Don't let fear of failure hold you back from living that life you dream of. When you are ready to trade the stress, overwhelm and uncertainty for clarity and connection and purpose, reach out and learn what proven tool will blast the barriers out of your way.

Laura Macdougall is a leading authority for senior women leaders in the non-profit and healthcare sectors who are designing their next chapters in life, work and legacy. Direct message her for more information on speaking opportunities or her revolutionary ON FIRE coaching system.

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