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A Sample Chapter of Stop Playing Safe by Margie Warrell

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a fraud.We fear that we’ll feel stressed all the time with the extra demands and responsibilities we’ll have to manage, and that we may crumble under their weight. So, in a sense, fear of success is really fear of failure in disguise. Just as it’s much more painful to fall from the roof off your house than to trip from your front doorstep, so too we fear that a fall from the lofty heights of success will be socially humiliating and professionally embarrassing.

Fear of loss

As noted in chapter 2, research has proven that human beings are biologically wired to overestimate potential loss and potential gain, and underestimate their ability to handle the consequences if things don’t work out.That is, for most people the fear of losing $100 is more intense than the hope of gaining $150.The observation that losses loom larger than gains tends to run true: we’re naturally averse to loss, and all change involves loss in some way.

In reality, we can’t adapt to new situations without being willing to give up something of our current way of doing and being. Sometimes change means we lose colleagues, our salary or even our parking space. Sometimes change means losing our sense of place in a team, group or organisation. Less evident but equally devastating can be the loss of known routines or the things that define who we are (such as a job title or a position). But instead of asking yourself, ‘What will I lose?’, ask ‘What can I gain?’ Where we put our focus is the major difference between those who change well and those who don’t. Those who embrace change discover opportunities within it that those who are busy resisting it and whining about it miss out on.

Most people who have made a significant change in their career say their only regret is that they didn’t make it sooner. Many have shared with me that they held off making a change until they were either so miserable, or their job had become so untenable, that they could no longer bear it. Or they felt they had to have all their ducks in a row before taking the plunge. Or both.

What fears fuel your resistance to change?

Write down any fears you think of as you answer the questions below. Consider how they may have limited your success and fulfilment up to now and how, by overcoming them, you can make changes to enjoy greater success and fulfilment in the future.

  • Fear of the unknown. What is it I’m afraid might happen in the future?
  • Fear of failure. What is it I’m afraid I won’t be able to do or learn or become successfully? What mistakes am I scared I’ll make? What am I afraid others might think if I do make those mistakes?
  • Fear of success. If I change, what other demands will be made of me? What is it that I’m afraid will change if I achieve what I want? What extra pressures or stressors do I fear will accompany success?
  • Fear of loss. What am I afraid of losing? Am I assessing the potential losses disproportionately from the potential gains?

Ask yourself, if I didn’t have any of the fears that I just listed, what would I do differently? What actions would I stop taking? What actions would I start? Who would I speak to? What new skills would I endeavour to learn?

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