Fear Fighters

Often when I describe the Heroine’s Journey, the process of creating your own dream business, people will say, ‘ Well I could not do that because I am not the right kind of person” as if there were a certain personality type that is capable of making the switch. I know what they mean. They have the idea that the type of person who can successfully pursue a dream job is someone who is exceptionally gutsy (or perhaps foolhardy) is very decisive and assertive; has a high tolerance for risk and ambiguity and has a history of creating opportunities and trying new things.

I suppose if I had not seen so many different types of people successfully create their dream jobs I would assume the same thing.  It is not so.  Successful heroines seem to come in all personality configurations. Some are so assertive they resemble bulldogs, while others seem so timid you wonder how they are able to ask water in a a restaurant. Some have a history of starting new ventures and others have worked entire careers in the same job. Some rattle off decisions with force, others deliberate until the last possible moment – and then change their minds!. Whatever you imagine the right personality type to be, I am sure I can find you a rolemodel who turns your stereotype on its head.

But that is not to say that successful creative heroes don’t have anything in common. They do. The more people who make their money doing what they love I talk to, the more I see certain stories they tell themselves that most of them share. Regardless of their proclivity toward risk or their level of assertiveness, they have similar ways of telling themself stories about life and themselves that make it easier for them to proceed.

  1.  A clear story. Successful creative heroes tend to have a clear image of what they want to to. It may be a particular job, it may be a type of work, it may be a lifestyle and a location. Though the level of specificity and detail varies with the hero what they share is a clear mental picture of themselves doing that kind of work. The clarity of the image acts like a magnet pulling them forwar. When they meet obstacles along the way, that magnetic image rallies them and keeps them moving toward it.
  2.  Optimism. In addition to having a clear vision, successful creative heroes believe that their vision will pan out. Otherwise, they would not do it!. Some have a general confidence in their own abilities based on a history of success; others believe that this particular venture is primed to succeed. They know that failure is possible (and occasionally can’t stop that fear from creeping in) but most of the time they anticipate success as if that were the far more likely option.
  3. Comfort with failure. When they do consider failure they don’t become terrified. Their attitude is ‘what is the worst that can happen?, whatever it is we will deal with it” They imagine a period of difficulty and adjustment after the failure, and then life moving forward positively once again.
  4. A high self – standard. Over and over, in different words, I hear creative heroes express the same sentiment: I would rather try and fail than know I did not try.  I don’ t want to grow old and wonder ‘what if I had tried’? It is a recurring story: what pushes them past the fear is the knowledge that by not trying they will be letting themselves down.

Not everyone who makes the switch has everyone of these factor, but the people who successfully undertake dream careers seem to have most of them. Together, these attitudes make a package that seems to make it easier for people to move out of their comfort zone and try something new.

But even these attributes don’t fully explain why some people switch and others don’t. Something is still missing from the equation. And that missing something, I believe is urgency . People who make the switch have reached a point in their lives at which they simply have no choice. It is no longer a matter of wanting to make a change. They have to.

There is a moment when the pain of staying put outweighs the pain of making a change.

And that is a magic moment – because the moment we cross that line, things that previously felt like insurmountable fears begin to look more like manageable hurdles. Now on your way to work you find yourself dreaming up ways to overcome them.

Instead of wishing they were a way that you could move forward with the dream, you find yourself thinking about how you are going to do it. Instead of imagining some vague, open-ended timeline, you start fixing your actions to concrete dates when you know you will be able to act.

An enormous internal shift has taken place, and now even such major fears as money, family, identity and exposing the “real you” begin to lose their insurmountable quality. As if a locomotive has begun rolling inside you, from that moment on, you steadily gather momentum.