Bold Moves: Deciding Whether to Take the Leap

Apr 16, 2024 | First Person

By Andrea Lindemann Gilliam, professional coach and consultant and member of NAWBO Cleveland

How do you know if you should go for that market expansion, launch a new product, move across the country or end a significant relationship?

Bold moves can create big fear. In reaction, we might act impulsively; other times, we might freeze. What if we were willing to let fear become our teacher? To learn from fear, the key is to listen and make moves motivated by your voice of wisdom, not out of fear or self-doubt.

Many of us, myself included, have made a big decision based on fear. In fact, it is how I decided to go to law school. I felt driven, restless and scared that I wouldn’t make enough money in another profession. I did what felt safe. Later, when I became a leadership coach, I was able to choose what felt scary—pivoting into a new career path, but I was motivated by my desire to contribute in a meaningful way, not by my fear. It gave me the ability to recognize the fear and make a powerful choice about what was important to me.

Here are four steps to move past fear.

  1. How do you know if you are operating from a place of fear? First, you have to be able to observe and recognize it. It is often loudest as an indicator that we are indeed about to make a bold move. Fear may manifest physically by a racing heart, sweaty palms, headaches or shortness of breath. Your mind may race and you might start engaging in repetitive behavior, excessive perfectionism or other strategies to avoid it. Maybe you are checking email over and over instead of doing the project you know you want to work on because you’re secretly scared you aren’t up for the challenge. Or continuing the market research even though you know you’ve already gotten a handle on it.
  2. Second, when you notice you are having a fear response, offer yourself compassion. You are having a normal reaction. Our brains have not evolved significantly in hundreds of thousands of years and the fear response comes from the most primal part of our brain that is intended to keep us safe from danger. Yet in our modern society, the danger is usually perceived, not an actual threat. Thank your brain for trying to protect you and get curious about the possibility this bold moment presents for you. You can calm yourself through deep breathing, meditation, yoga or other techniques to get your prefrontal cortex back online.
  3. Third, differentiate fear from reason. Does the voice inside your head sound insistent, adamant or harsh? Is it focused on what could go wrong? Does it think in terms of black-and-white, that it’s all or nothing? That may be your fear talking. Turn your attention to what might be possible to hear another perspective. Your voice of reason might ask, what is the opportunity here? When you hear your voice of reason, or wisdom, it will be rooted in curiosity and may be quieter, gentler and calmer than the voice of fear. It may see a small, simple next step to take.
  4. Fourth, take action! Decide which voice you are going to listen to and move forward. Even if it is a decision not to make a change, that is a decision. Sitting in indecision is just a different form of letting fear keep you immobilized. Make a decision and move forward.

Here’s a bonus. You can be doing the exact same thing yet have a vastly different level of satisfaction. That’s why when we reach the pinnacle of our business success, if we’ve been motivated only by fear of failure, or an external marker of success (title, money) that has no deeper meaning to us, or because we are avoiding something else (working to avoid our feelings, pains or doubts), we are left unfulfilled.

When you make informed, bold moves rather than reactionary, fear-based decisions, you’ll have greater satisfaction, regardless of the outcome. That’s a bold move worth making.

About the Author…
Andrea Lindemann Gilliam is a leadership coach, speaker, and trainer with a passion for helping individuals find purpose and peace at work. Andrea’s work draws on over 15 years of career experience as an attorney, mediator, and CEO. After witnessing the stress caused by conflict while working as an employment attorney, Andrea became a coach. She was determined to find a better way to support people to speak confidently and have constructive dialogue with less stress. She is driven by her passion to holistically develop female leaders to use their natural strengths to redefine leadership. She envisions a world where women use their authentic voices to create more compassionate, grounded, and inspiring environments where employees can thrive. You can learn more about Andrea here.

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