How Being Scared Can Be Beneficial For Your Career

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Scared woman at work

Adobe Stock / anyaberkut

Karen Schneider
Karen Schneider27
Experienced Project/Program Manager
April 23, 2024 at 12:59AM UTC
Fear: It's one of the most powerful emotional responses there are, and it has the ability to affect your decisions and ultimately your life — if you so allow it.
Fear of mistakes, fear of humiliation, fear of failing. All of us have been afraid at one point or another, and when it comes to your career, these sentiments likely pull to the surface a few memories we would rather dismiss indefinitely. Yes, fear inspires many negative thoughts and emotions, but you might be surprised to learn that it can inspire greatness, as well.
You read that correctly.
That's right — fear has the ability to push us to strive for more and achieve great success. Again, it's all in how we respond to the feeling. If you harness the energy and utilize it for good, you can meet and surpass those career goals you have meticulously detailed in your vision journal.
First, identify what you're really scared of. Fear is a response that is trying to lead us to the right decision. Sometimes the fear is in response to something that may be potentially harmful or unsafe, but sometimes it's just because you're terrified of messing up something that means a lot to you, i.e. your career or professional reputation.
Take a moment to soak that in and acknowledge that having something — anything — that means that much to you is something special. Next, utilize your goal-planning skills and figure out how you can realistically make your dream a reality. If you're struggling to connect the dots and your idea seems a bit far-fetched at the moment (i.e. you have no experience in your desired field and/or lack the degree necessary to land a job at your dream company), perhaps you have some more work to do.
Ask yourself what your biggest dream is — NO boundaries.
Have you ever dreamed about winning the lottery, and exactly what you'd do with the 20 — no, 50 — million dollar prize? Use the same approach with your personal and professional goals. The catch? With effort and motivation, this one can actually come true. The key is to pick your biggest goal and put an action plan into place to make it happen.
Next, ask what's stopping you from achieving it.
This step requires a lot of ownership. You will have to face any fears you might have about failing, and recognize that it takes a lot of accountability. Any goal, no matter how large and looming, can be divided into smaller, doable tasks that set you on the path to achieving success.
Allowing fear to negatively dictate your next move (a.k.a. remaining in your comfort zone) could cause you to lose the opportunities before you and limit your potential. Five years from now, imagine the regret you may feel if you never fully considered your options and allowed yourself the chance to grow professionally. Understand that every attempt you make might not end in wild success. You might fail, and that's okay, too. Success is not found overnight, and we all are a work in progress. Utilize the fear and embrace your potential!
Karen Schneider works for bareMinerals in Global Packaging + Creative Services and has worked in a variety of industries over the span of her career, including digital media, fashion & apparel, and wine & spirits. She is currently a contributor to The Muse and Career Contessa and has been featured on Business Insider and Harvard Business Review for her career advice. She's obsessed with learning, life, and career/self-improvement.

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