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A Sample Chapter of Stop Playing Safe by Margie Warrell

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Fear of the unknown

‘Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.’ It’s a common adage I’ve heard people say when considering changing something about their lives they’re unhappy with, the logic being that it is better to stick with the status quo — however miserable it happens to be—than to risk it for something that may be worse. The unknown makes us feel vulnerable because, quite simply, we don’t know what it holds.We’re not sure what threats it may have in store nor how it will shake up our safe, secure and familiar world. It’s why people hold firm to beliefs long after they’ve been proven wrong. It’s why people stay in marriages long after they’ve grown devoid of any joy or intimacy. It’s why people stay in jobs they hate:

  • What if my job is outsourced?
  • What if I’m not employable elsewhere?
  • What if my company restructures and there isn’t a role for me in the new organisation?
  • What if the market keeps shrinking and we lose market share? What then?‘What if?’ indeed! This question quickly follows any time we contemplate making a change — from our hairstyle to our address. But when it comes to changing careers, our fear of the ‘What if?’ increases exponentially. It’s what stops so many people from moving from a job they find miserable and starting over in a new field, no matter how right it may be. Fear can be paralysing. Learning how to sit with ambiguity and accept the discomfort of uncertainty takes practice.What’s important when you’re looking at making a job or career change is to acknowledge your fears as valid and normal, but not to let them run the show.In reality, when it comes to making a big change you should expect a file drawer bulging with fears listed under most categories. Sometimes we’re afraid of making career changes even when we know it’s time for a change. It should be exciting to do something you’ve always wanted to do or you’re passionate about but even if the changes we seek are ones we want, we still feel anxious because, in the end, change holds uncertainty and involves loss in some way.
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