The Fear in Making Decisions: Why It Paralyzes Us


Sit down with a pen and paper, now think about the last year of your life and think about all of the decisions you considered making but were fearful of making for one reason or another. Did you consider starting a gym membership? Did you consider going back to school to finish that degree but were fearful of not being successful as an adult student or maybe the fear of not having enough money to get by while you went to school? Did you want to leave a bad relationship but were fearful of the people around you that you might disappoint.  How about the cool business idea that you always talk about with friends, but you sought comfort in the 9-5 paycheck you had been receiving for the last ten years. 

All of these decisions you considered making but didn't were missed opportunities, and you chose not to make them out of fear. Fear of not being good enough, not having enough, disappointing others around you, or the fear of failure. You are not alone, every single person around you has failed at deciding because they had some form of fear preventing them from making a decision.  Over the last three years, I have made quite a few decisions that were uncomfortable making, but everything always worked out, and it resulted in a happier version of me. 

Making a giant leap with tons of fear:

In 2015 I was working a full-time salaried position with an international software company, traveling to Sweden, Germany, England on a regular basis. This job took me away from my family on a regular basis, and when I was home, I worked long hours in my home office and never really had the opportunity step outside and smell the fresh air and enjoy life. One afternoon I was having lunch with a friend, and he asked me if I was ok, I asked why he was asking me if I was ok and he said: "your legs are bouncing and it appears like you are not able to focus on anything."  I realized later that I was having an anxiety attack and there were other symptoms throughout that week.  The next morning, I woke up and called my manager at the time and told him I would no longer be working for the company effective immediately. He tried to reason with me and keep me from leaving, but I needed to make this change, and I had to do this now. 

I told my wife at the time that I quit my job and asked her if she would look for a job and I was going to start my own business. I was fearful of her response and how it would look, but she was supportive of me, and although she loved being a stay at home mom, she immediately started looking for a job as a school teacher.  Within a couple of weeks, I had five paying clients that covered what my full-time salary paid more and more. 

Working through fear and doubt

When we work through fear and doubt, it usually results in two possible outcomes. The first is we break through to the other side and see that making the decision wasn't nearly as bad as it was before we made it. The second is we get halfway through our choice and pull back from completing the action and then we are lost. If I would have taken action to quit my job and then after leaving my job, decided I had made a mistake out of fear and begged for my job back my employer may have told me where to go, or I would have been stuck unemployed and looking for a new job. The difference was I was fearful I wouldn't have enough money to pay my bills, I was afraid that my wife would be pissed off at me. The shear determination to be successful and to provide for my family was enough motivation to get me past the fear of not having enough money. 

After the dust settled

Within a couple of months, I was working fewer hours, making more money and being a part-time stay at home dad. I dropped my children off at school every morning and picked them up at 3 pm every day. Making a move to start my own business was the best decision I made. Now some people might say, "you are lucky it turned out that way." Wrong, I was not lucky, the difference was I put in the work, I asked for referrals from one client, I went to networking events, I marketed myself. Within six months I had a client in Australia and two additional clients in Germany, one large client in Chicago. At some point in the future, I will tell you a different side of the story, which is how I allowed other situations in my life get in the way of my success. 

Fear can paralyze us or drive us.

The definition of fear is "an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat." As humans when we believe that something is dangerous or will threaten our way of life, we respond to fear by sticking to the safe path.  Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to defeat. Exposing ourselves to our demons is the best way to move past them. When it comes to making difficult decisions in our lives, we resort to our belief of what negative outcome "might" happen, rather than focusing on what positive outcome there might be. 

Recently I took my two children (ages 10 and 9) and a friend of my oldest to see Imagine Dragons in Charlotte. My son was afraid to attend the concert because of what he had seen lately surround concerns. A bombing in the UK at a concert and of course the mass shooting in Las Vegas. He asked me a thousand questions about what happens if someone tries to kill us at the Imagine Dragons concert, or what if someone plants a bomb. I asked him how many concerns has Imagines Dragon's played in the last few years, and he didn't know. I said hundreds and not once has anything like that ever happened. It doesn't mean it wouldn't happen, but I told him his fear of worrying about something that is so rare would prevent him from enjoying the concert. He eventually calmed down and enjoyed the show, but this is a prime example as to how fear can paralyze us. When making decisions about life or career, we immediately think "what if I change career fields and I don't get a job" or what if I quit my 9-5 job and start my own business and it isn't successful". These types of thought patterns prevent us from taking action as we are more focused on the negative outcome versus focusing on how to take action and make it successful. 

How coaching can help you overcome fear

Overcoming fear is not always easy, and for people that have lived their entire life living off fear, it is even harder to overcome. Coaches will work with you to find the source of your fear or uncertainty and help you develop strategies to overcome that fear. It will not happen overnight, but with time you will make one accomplishment and then another, and then once you start to realize that you can overcome fear, you will have the tools to take on fear moving forward.