I have a friend whose approach to life is: “Find the densest part, and run straight into it.”
That’s admirable, but it’s definitely not me.
I’m more of the “avoid this difficult issue for months, pretend it’s not happening, suffer at length, sweat it out, and then maybe possibly sort of do it” type.
But you probably know as well as I do what happens when you play the procrastination game with fear:
Every day that you don’t face it, it gets harder to do it the next day.
Which means that with each passing day, the gap — the one between where you are now and the scary thing you need to do — keeps growing, and your anxiety grows right along with it.
Before long, that gap (which may have started out as a fissure, but now is more like a canyon) seems nearly impossible to traverse.
I’ve learned the hard way to jump that gap before it becomes dangerously wide. And always, without fail, here’s what happens on the other side:
Doing the scary thing is NEVER as scary as you’ve made it out to be while you were procrastinating.
To prove my point, and to inspire you to jump whatever gap that has you paralyzed with fear, I’m sharing 3 of the scariest things I’ve ever done … all of which I thought I could never do.
ONLINE DATING, THE STUFF OF MY NIGHTMARES
Honestly, I still cringe when I have to write the phrase “online dating.”
I’m an introvert. And I like it that way. When my mom taught me about “stranger danger” in kindergarten, you better believe I listened (and probably took notes).
I’m also terrible at chitchat, small talk, and mingling. I’m way better at jumping straight into the deep end. I’d rather have an intimate gathering where everyone has to sit in a circle and share their deepest shame than be forced to have surface level conversations with a bunch of strangers (this is why I love coaching, obviously).
Also, I used to believe that online dating was exclusively for weirdos and people old enough to be my parents.
Friends would suggest it to me, and I’d instantly shoot them down: “That’s not me. No one I would like is online. It’s too awkward.”
Those excuses were semi-true, but they masked what was actually going on — I was terrified of being approached by a bunch of strangers.
And of course, like clockwork whenever I’ve resisted something hardcore, the Universe decided to give me an opportunity to change my mind.
One day, I was minding my own business while walking my dog, and I was hit forcefully by the thought, “You need to do online dating.”
Obviously I dismissed it as nonsense. But then it kept harassing me. Within the span of a few days … I randomly watched an episode of The Dog Whisperer, and a couple mentioned they’d met online; a girl I discovered on Facebook mentioned she’d met her spouse online; and a podcast that had nothing to do with online dating brought it up.
So I did the only thing I could do. I told Kristen what was happening, and she laughed really hard at me and insisted that I do it.
And you know what happened? Not much.
I don’t have a happily-ever-after ending for you (yet). But that’s not the point!
The point is this: I tried it. And yeah, it was sort of awkward. And for sure, it’s not my favorite way to meet or communicate with people. But neither was it this terror-inducing thing that I’d made it out to be.
Instead, it’s sort of become a point of pride. I did something I swore to anyone who would listen that I would never do. And I’m fine.
THAT TIME I FIRED A CLIENT
Most of my clients would be surprised to hear this, but I am always afraid at the beginning of any new coaching relationship.
I’ve coached hundreds of people over thousands of hours … but the fear never totally goes away.
It’s a vulnerable job. You’ve agreed to help someone figure out their life purpose. They deeply care about what happens during our sessions, and so do I.
But … not everyone is suited for coaching, and I haven’t always known that going into it.
I once had a client who said all the right things: She wanted to figure out her passion, she was excited about the prospect of leaving her job, and she wanted to address some of her self-sabotaging habits.
But she never followed through. She would agree to work on something before our next session, and she wouldn’t. She was late or completely MIA for every call we had. She agreed to pay her invoice by a certain date, and never paid.
She clearly wasn’t ready for coaching, but I’d never “fired” someone before.
What if she blamed me for not trying hard enough to help her? What if I crushed her spirit and made life even more difficult for her? What if she bad-mouthed me to everyone she knew?
I took a deep breath and wrote her the most compassionate-yet-firm email I could muster. I told her this wasn’t going to work anymore, and wished her well.
And I never heard from her again.
Scary, vulnerable, anxiety-inducing? Yes.
But was there terrible fall-out? Did my reputation suffer? Did she send me a scathing response? No. I was fine. (And I learned a thing or two about avoiding those types of clients, to boot.)
DISAPPOINTING MY PARENTS
By the end of 2012, I was in way over my head.
Earlier that year, in a fit of misery, I’d quit my steady corporate job and started nannying part-time.
Kristen and I had just decided to become coaches and start a business, but it would be another 2 years before I was doing it full-time.
Hoping I’d somehow be profitable sooner rather than later, I was supplementing my meager nannying income with money from savings instead of getting another part-time job.
Over the span of 8 months, my savings had all but disappeared, I was very far from having any sort of coaching income, and I’d started to rack up thousands in credit card debt. Unsurprisingly, I was having panic attacks on a pretty regular basis.
I knew that I couldn’t maintain this pace for long, but I was terrified of admitting how far I’d fallen, so I put it off as long as I could … but I gave in and came clean to my parents on Thanksgiving Day, 2012.
I told them about blowing through my savings and racking up debt, and I confessed that I clearly needed an actual job, not a part-time job.
Disappointing people you love is probably the scariest thing you can do.
My parents didn’t recognize the person I’d become that year. They were shocked that I would be that irresponsible, and I don’t blame them.
I very clearly remember them saying: “This isn’t the person we raised.” And they were right.
But … they didn’t disown me. Actually, they helped me figure out my next steps.
Did I hit rock bottom? Embarrass myself? Disappoint the people who love me most? Yes.
Was it the end of the world? Did the shame last forever? No.
In fact, confessing to my parents was a huge relief. The fear I had about telling them the truth paled in comparison to how good it felt to not carry the burden alone anymore.
IT’S YOUR TURN
I’m going to challenge you to do something scary that you’ve been avoiding.
Maybe it’s a difficult conversation with your boss. Maybe it’s telling a friend how you really feel. Maybe it’s setting a boundary with someone. Maybe it’s taking an honest look at your financial situation. Whatever feels scariest right now — you know what your thing is.
And if you want some accountability and solidarity, share the scary thing you need to do in the comments. Kristen and I will encourage you, and be with you in spirit!
TOO LONG, DIDN’T READ? LISTEN INSTEAD!
If reading long blogs just isn’t your deal, you’re in luck:
We’re now recording our blogs for you!
Here’s Rachel reading this week’s blog:
Rachel (+ Kristen)
So interesting that this should appear in my inbox, or perhaps not interesting at all, I should have expected it. Thanks Universe.
I am also at the beginning of my coaching journey and quit my corporate job last year to put myself back on track and start a business.
I am fast running out of money and it’s time for me to ask my parents for a loan to help me until I start to bring some money in. Asking for help is something I find so hard to do so I know that this is a lesson for me as I need to be able to ask for things if I’m going to become successful in my business. There’s also an element of wounded pride as the fact that it took me about 12 months to feel OK again after leaving my job is hard to accept. How could I be so weak? Why couldn’t I cope in that corporate environment when everybody else could (of course they couldn’t, deep down I know that!). And the person I really am is so not the person that I have presented to the world for most of my life. I guess keeping up that facade really took a massive toll on me.
Thanks so much for sharing. I hope that the posts I will write will prove to be as helpful for my clients and also for people who aren’t my clients.
Hey Corinne — I’m sure you were NOT weak when you quit your job. It sucks so much to do something day in and day out that feels like it’s draining the life out of you. Anyone who feels that way would be tempted to see if they could quit and make something else work! That said, it takes a lot of courage to ask for help. And it’s certainly not weak to do so! Nor does it mean you’ve failed, or that you’re never going to make things work. Sometimes we go through difficult times like this to build our mental/emotional muscles. I’m sure this experience is going to serve you a whole lot, in the long run. Keep on keeping on! You’re doing FINE!
You say “the fact that it took me about 12 months to feel OK again after leaving my job is hard to accept.”
Being out ‘loose’ and you know you’re not legitimately ‘on vacation’ is definitely a weird place to be.
Until you’ve created your own routines and work rhythms, that guilty feeling pops up from nowhere. It gets in the way of your passage through the transition from employee to autonomous, for sure.
Moving from employee-mindset to working out what’s right for you, and when in the day you do it. Consciously.
Asking for help: match the ask to the person. Match your thanks to what they love to receive – words, reciprocal service, little gifts, precious time. It’ll be a pleasure to help you.
First of all, I love this article. 🙂 That being said, I guess I am confused about your parents’ response. You mentioned that you quit your corporate job in a fit of misery. Yet when you took action and tried to go out on your own and weren’t profitable right away, they said “This isn’t the person we raised.” My question for you is this….knowing that you were miserable in your job, what would they have had you do instead?
I don’t ask from a place of judgement, but from a place of curiosity. I recently quit my corporate job in a fit of misery as well and I will likely be in exactly the same place as you were, but it isn’t sustainable for me to keep my corporate job that absolutely drains the life out of me AND start my business.
Hey Erin — When they said “this isn’t the person we raised,” I think they meant that the lack of planning, foresight, and decision to bury my head in the sand wasn’t the person they had raised. They supported my decision to quit my corporate job, even though I think it gave them both plenty of fear on my behalf. I quit without having looked at my finances or creating a budget, and without being willing to get another part-time job. I think that — the lack of responsibility and forethought — was likely what baffled them the most. And I have to agree! You should never quit without a solid plan in place. Otherwise, you end up harming yourself so much in the long-term.
So, if you’ve quit your job, you may have a very different experience than I did! Hopefully you’ve planned much better (or AT ALL, since I didn’t), and have thought through the various outcomes that might come up. 🙂
“I’m more of the “avoid this difficult issue for months, pretend it’s not happening, suffer at length, sweat it out, and then maybe possibly sort of do it” type.”
^ This hit home for me. My big decision I’ve been avoiding instead of just deciding, declaring, and doing is deciding where I want to move. I moved away 3 years ago for a job, but my current job is now letting me move back or to another office city. The freedom to make my own choice is what I think the scariest. Because if I make a decision and regret it, that’s on me and no one else. Last time I could blame it on the company for making me move. Now it’s my choice, and so many people giving input about what they think, it’s hard to think about and easier to just live in my day-to-day life. But I know that isn’t getting me to where I want to be.
Thanks for this inspiring, yet scary thinking, post! 🙂
Hey Kacey — It makes sense that you’re stressed about your decision! I want to offer a couple things to think about:
1) You can’t get this “wrong.” — I know it feels like this decision is SO huge and life-changing, and if you mess up you irrevocably screw up your life. But … nothing is permanent. You could move and be happy for a couple years, and then move again. You have free will, and no one can take that from you. There probably is no such thing as the perfect city forever and ever. There’s likely only what you want RIGHT NOW, and that’s more than enough to make a decision.
2) I think you probably already know what you want to do. — Maybe I’m wrong, but I bet you have an intuitive hit on where you’d like to go. But I also bet that everyone else’s thoughts about where you should be are getting in the way of you listening to your own inner guidance. So maybe do an advice detox! Stop listening to any other input for a while, and allow your own intuition to be your primary source of wisdom. A good question to ask yourself is: “What would I do if know one had to know what I chose?”
Hi Kacey—I am a good friend of paralyzing life choices. This is how I think of it: it’s not the choices that are the source of stress, it’s the constant “what-if” outcomes.
Instead of thinking what could be the worst outcome of each situation, think about what could be the BEST outcome of each situation. This puts you in the mindset of going forward when you have made your decision instead of waffling back and forth on what could have been.
You all are amazing, thank you!!
Be easier on yourself about your past where you were trying to make it. I wouldn’t at all call you irresponsible. I would actually consider you courageous in that situation, and determined to follow your own passion. You wouldn’t be able to coach people about following their passions if you hadn’t had the courage to demand a life centered around passion for yourself.
For sure, I’m a way better coach for having had that experience! I don’t necessarily think it was irresponsible to quit my job. I think plenty of people do that all the time, and there’s nothing inherently irresponsible about it. The part that I think was irresponsible was not planning any of it ahead of time! I literally quit without a budget, or even taking a deeper look at my financial situation. It felt easier to bury my head in the sand in the short-term, which obviously did not pay off in the long-term. If I’d exercised a little more foresight, I could have handled the whole situation much better! All that said, though … I don’t regret how it all happened, because I learned a lot! 🙂
I really love the timing of your posts! I’ve been caught in analysis paralysis for a year or so now about whether it’s the ‘right time’ to start looking for love. I’m 23 and still studying at the moment and am worried about whether I’ll have the time to invest in a relationship while still trying to figure myself out and decide how I want to give back to the world. I’m no sure whether to just throw myself into it or wait a little longer…and the analysis begins again.
Hey Mya — This makes sense! My suggestion is that you pick something and commit to it, even if it’s just for a month. The waffling is what’s draining all of your energy! Maybe you decide: “OK, I’m going to choose NOT to be open to a relationship right now. So in that case, I’m going to focus on myself and getting to know myself on a deeper level.” And for a month, or two, or however long you want … that’s your decision, and you don’t question it.
Or, the reverse: You say, “OK, I’m going to be open to love. In that case, here are some things I’m going to do to demonstrate my openness …” and then, likewise, commit to it for however long you want. At any time you can change your mind or re-evaluate!
Hint: You can’t choose wrong. Just go with something, even for 1 month, and see how you like it. During that month, put a self-imposed ban on second-guessing. I bet after a month, you’ll be a lot clearer on how you feel, one way or the other.
My scary thing is that I quif my job two months ago and I’m 64 and am 2.5 years from sicial security with no job supporting my husband who is smart, depressed, diabetic, and unemployed now for 20 years. I was a software developer who did not really fit in the job I did for the past 10 years. But the money was too good to leave. My boss didn’t like me though and forced me out because there was about to be a decrease in my kind of work and he was under enough stress to treat many people like a jerk. Several others were forced out as well.
I don’t want to leave my city but I have to learn new programming skills to stay here. I am going to have to go to a ciding bootcamp to accomplish this for 3 months because their business model is tied to their ability produce peopke with badly needed skills. I have to complete a couple more months of prestudy vefore i can do the class. Yes I’m scared but it is necessary.
Hi Susan — I’m sorry that you’re in this situation! It’s understandable that it’s scary. It sounds like doing this bootcamp is something that’s ultimately going to be helpful to both you and your husband. And I bet, once you’re through with it, you’ll likely be glad that you decided to take the leap and do it. Who knows, you might make some connections through the course that lead you to another job or employer that’s a lot more enjoyable than your last one!
Honestly, I wondered if you and Kristen played client volleyball before one of you took on a new client. That’s what MY little introverted brain came up with! Ha! (That could be because Kristin and I talk about being introverts every. single. time.)
I’m glad to read that you fired that client. It’s hard, so hard. But even that is an act of compassion. Hopefully she’s gotten her stuff together and started to figure herself out. Sometimes we need to be pushed out of our cozy little nests before we start to fly.
I’m laughing at your visual of “client volleyball.” Thankfully, we don’t tend to do that much anymore. We’ve gotten a lot better at knowing when someone isn’t going to be a good fit, and vetting them before they ever officially move forward. In fact, neither of us has had to “fire” a client since then! That was one of those things that was mostly a product of me not being experienced enough. I hope she’s better off now, too!
Hi. My scary thing is telling my parents that I have switched my major in college. I was a chemical engineer but I switched to industrial engineering this past April. Once I got in my major classes, I really hated it, so I made the switch. I relate to you in the sense that I do not want to disappoint my parents, but I feel like I will be doing that once I tell them. My college career has not been extremely successful being that it’s my junior year and I have yet to get an internship and I found out that I will possibly be here for another year. I really need to get all of that off of my chest to tell them, but I just don’t know how. My finances aren’t the best either and I’m trying to figure out a new living situation, but it seems like I take 2 steps forward and get knocked 10 steps back. I’m scared, but I know I need to do it and soon.
Hi Alandria — It’s totally understandable that this conversation scares you! I’m sure you’re anticipating all sorts of different reactions from your parents. Based on what you said about your college career not being “extremely successful yet,” I want to remind you that there is no one “right” definition of success. Your parents likely have a different definition than you, and you’re likely coming up against that, as well as a lot of other people’s definitions of success.
Success doesn’t have to mean getting an internship. Internships aren’t really that helpful if you get one just to have one, anyway. It’d be a much wiser use of your time to do what you’re doing — switching majors to something you’re more interested in, and then try getting an internship in that field.
I promise, you’re going to be FINE — both during and after the conversation with your parents — as well as after you graduate. No one has it all figured out, and not everyone gets internships, and not everyone needs to check all of the boxes that you’re “supposed” to check. There’s no one right path!