Razwana Wahid is the awesome founder of Your Work is Your Life where she writes extra helpful articles about work and life and also offers copywriting services to make your writing pop. Based in Paris, France, Razwana hopped on Skype to talk to me about an experience she had in her own work history. She was just full of helpful thoughts and tips to help move through fear to reach your goal and I’ve highlighted some in bold text below. Enjoy!
V: How would you describe the goal or dream that you were afraid to go for?
R: This was a few years ago and I was in a job that I thought I loved at the very beginning and then I absolutely hated. I hated it so much it used to make me feel ill. And my goal at the time was to leave my job, but without a job to go to. I was so defeated that I didn’t even have the heart to job hunt. It was just a case of “Let me break out of this and see how long I will last.” But I have no money saved, not enough to keep me going. So the fear was that I’m gonna stay in this job forever, but I actually want to leave.
V: So how were you feeling? You said you were getting physically sick? What thoughts were going through your head when you were thinking of wanting to leave?
R: I got caught up in that TGIF stuff that happens in an office where every Friday I felt great because the weekend was coming up and I didn’t have work and every Monday I felt suicidal because I had to go to work again. The discussions in the office were echoing the same feelings and I felt defeated because I looked around and everybody said the same thing as me but nobody admitted to wanting to leave and I wondered whether they were just saying it because that’s what people do or whether they all felt the same as me but were scared to make any moves. So I felt very paralyzed by the job and I felt like my life was being dictated by this income that I was getting, but I hated what I did during the day and I was spending ten hours a day in this office, five days a week. I just felt completely trapped.
V: So what was your breaking point?
R: Well I actually ended up having a very physical reaction to the job. This one day, it was about a week before I left, I handed in my notice, and I drove up to the car park, it was a Tuesday and it was August time so it was really dark outside and I actually parked up and opened the door of my car and threw up in the car park and I thought to myself “I’m not sick. I didn’t eat anything dodgy. This is my body saying ‘what you are you doing?’” So I had a very, very physical reaction to it.
V: So how did you turn it around? What did it take? What kind of things did you do?
R: Well I talked to a few friends about how I was feeling and they all gave me very different opinions and one of them said, and she was very risk averse, she said “Make sure you save up some money and then leave your job because you’ll never know when you’ll find a job, you may not and you don’t want to starve.” And I had a house at the time so I had a lot of bills and I wasn’t married or anything so I didn’t have somebody else’s income to rely on. One of my friends who’s a complete dreamer said to me “Hey, you know, you want to go for something, just have faith it will work out” and I kind of thought “Yeah, I’m not really sure I buy that argument because when my mortgage isn’t paid I can’t call the bank and say ‘Hey guys! I have faith! I’ll pay, but not this month.’” You know, it’s not going to happen. So after I spoke to a few friends I decided that I would bite the bullet and I calculated how long I would stay floating financially for and it was three months. And I thought if in three months I don’t find a job, then I’ll worry about it then. I decided to defer the worry because I thought three months would be fine. So I just discussed it with people who mean me well.
V: That’s good, the talking. I find that a lot of people are saying that just having a network of people you can talk to about it is really, really helpful.
R: Yeah, and I think having somebody who’s been through it before helps. At the time I didn’t have anybody that had been through it, I mean, you know, my friends and even I at the time, have known [the experience of] “the job I hated, I‘d find another one and then I’d leave because then you’d know that you have something else to go to.” But I was sort of saying, look, I don’t have another job; I don’t even know where I see my career going. So I’d rather just leave this one that I hate, get some mental space and see what happens. And to a lot of people that was a scary notion because it’s almost like the complete unknown. But after I sort of thought about it, it didn’t really feel that scary because I knew I had a plan.
V: So what was the plan?
R: My plan was very simple. I decided that I’d hand in my notice. I had four weeks of my notice period to work and then I would take a week off and sort of do nothing for that week and then I would start looking for jobs. I actually moved into a new industry when I had this job so I used to be a project manager and then I moved into recruitment and I realized that I loved project management and I missed it. It’s what I wanted to go back to at the time. And I just figured ok, I need to find a way of convincing people that this gap in my experience of a project manager is ok and I’ve learned new skills so I kind of figured that I’d contact my ex-colleagues, contact recruiters, contact local companies, that sort of thing. So I had a job hunting plan in place.
V: How did you deal with those feelings of not really knowing what was gonna be the end result?
R: So for me, I think, fear of the unknown is quite big for me because I’m a planner by nature so I like to know what’s coming up and not knowing what’s coming up can make me feel quite uncomfortable. Not now, but it used to at the time. And I sort of decided that I would write down everything that I was afraid of happening and write down what the consequences of that was and whether I would feel too uncomfortable with the consequences, and writing it down helps a lot because it was almost like I was clearing my brain out of all the words in my brain. I was scared of not being able to buy food. I was scared of not being able to pay my bills and I would lose my house and what would that mean? That would mean that I would then have to move back in with my mom, “Oh, my God.” I would do anything than have to do that. I was afraid of losing face in front of my friends because I was trying to put on a really strong you know “I’ll get through this, I’m strong enough to do this” face. And I was afraid that I was unemployable. I was afraid that if I started a new business venture then that would fail. I just wrote everything down and wrote the consequences and decided whether I could live with them or not. And at the end of it I realized that actually the worst thing that could happen is if I couldn’t fend for myself financially. But then I kind of thought, well how many people do I know that are like that? I couldn’t think of one person. And then I thought, ok now I understand what I’m scared of and I know what the consequences are I can deal with it now and it cleared my head and the unknown kind of became this thing that existed but it wasn’t ruling my thoughts.
V: So what was the outcome?
R: I ended up finding a job in two months rather than three and when I first started I got laughed at by so many recruiters it was unbelievable and it made me realize how toxic that industry is and I was in it for two years. Every recruiter I phoned and I said “Hey, you know, I was in recruitment” they automatically hated me. “I was in recruitment, I’m not anymore. I used to be a project manager, I worked blah blah blah and I want to do this again. What are your thoughts?” And they all just said “Absolutely impossible, not going to happen. No recruiter, no company would hire you because you have such a gap in your experience, not for the kind of salary you’re looking for, etc. etc. etc.” So then I decided, I’m gonna ditch the recruiters and I’m going to contact companies myself. I ended up finding a company that was a thirty minute drive away from me and they happened to have offered a project manager position to a person who then turned it down so they were desperately looking for someone who could start tomorrow rather than somebody who had a month’s notice to work and I happened to be that person. And they didn’t even talk about the gap in my experience they just said “When can you start?” And I was like “Ah! Ok! This worked out rather well!” I felt like I, I wouldn’t say I’m lucky because I don’t believe in 100% luck, but I really really worked hard because I knew that if I didn’t have an income it would impact me and I wouldn’t be able to stay in my house and that sort of thing and it would bring additional worry into my life. So for me it really worked out quite well.
V: And how did you feel after you achieved what you were afraid to do for so long before?
R: I felt like such a rock star! I felt great! I was like “Well, why was I waiting? What took me so long?” It also made me realize that actually sometimes when something is really scaring you, you have to do it. Because my body and my mind weren’t saying I hated the job just because it was something temporary. That carried on for six months. It wasn’t just a colleague I didn’t like or some aspect of the job that I didn’t like it was this thought never went away. So I learned that when your mind keeps repeating something it’s repeating it for a reason then you have to address it. I felt a lot stronger for it, for sure.
V: So has what you feared changed since then and how you handle the fear now however many years since this happened?
R: Well, I’ve been through a few more things since then, I guess, where the fears that I had at the time did come true. So I had the fear of not having enough money to run my life and live and that has happened. I have had a horrible experience with money a few years ago; it’s not the case now. And I’ve had experiences of being all alone in a new city and not having any friends. Not like losing face with friends, but not having anybody around that I could actually speak to. And all those things that have happened since have made me realize that the stuff that you’re scared of it’s just a part of life. You must have heard it before; it’s your body telling you fight or flight. It’s the natural reaction, it’s your chemicals. And it’s what you do with those fears that’s important. You can either listen to them and believe them and be succumbed by them or you can just accept that they exist but try and do something to convince your brain that what it’s telling you isn’t true. And I’ve learned that if I get my body into action and do something then my brain kind of goes “Oh, ok. So I told you you were scared, but you’re actually not. I get it now. I’m not gonna be that scared now.” That’s a lot of what I learned.
V: That’s awesome. Were there any resources that you turned to whether it was books or quotes or songs or anything that you found helpful?
R: Gosh, I read so many books. I can’t think of one book that I turned to but my friend once said to me, and this is kind of the cheesiest line ever, “After the darkness there’s always light.” And I think when you say that to somebody when they’re in the dark, when they’re in that period where they just feel so scared that it’s never going to work out it’s possibly the wrong thing to say, but it helps me a lot because I thought what she’s saying is that this time isn’t constant. The whole nature of life is that things change with every day, with every step, you know. Every little action that you take, things always change. And now I realize how much it helped because it gave me some hope that there is this other side where I won’t be feeling like this and it was surprising how easy it was to change my life from being this “I’m really scared to leave my job” to actually leaving my job and then finding something that led me to where I am today which is just fantastic.
V: That’s awesome. So what advice would you give to someone who is in a situation where they want to do something that they’ve always wanted to do but they’re just not taking any steps because they’re afraid.
R: I think it’s really important to acknowledge what you’re afraid of because in my experience so far, the bare basics of what you’re scared of doesn’t really change. You know, I’m still afraid that I won’t have enough money to survive. I’m still afraid that I’ll be all alone forever. I’m still afraid that I’m not good enough for certain things and those things have always remained the same. So I think it’s important to first acknowledge what your fear or fears are and then decide how is this fear impacting this decision I have to make and just list out all the things that you’re scared of and all consequences because the first thing I find is they’re not as bad as they look and the second thing is how likely are they to actually happen? Well if I do everything I can to make sure they don’t then they won’t they probably won’t. And then I think the third thing is to really think about who in life you can speak to whether it’s a friend or a family member or a colleague or somebody who’s a professional like a therapist or something to kind of make sure that what’s on your mind is something that you should really be worried about or whether it’s something that’s just a consequence of the fact that you need to go for something but your brain is paralyzing you. Damn those brains. I think sometimes it’s good to have an experience that scares you because you can always draw on it. When you’re doing something else that’s scary you can say “I survived this other thing so then this thing isn’t so bad.” I think it’s just part of life.
So, that’s Razwana’s story. I wasn’t lying about all those helpful tips, right? Did anything catch your eye? Have you ever made a list of your fears and their consequences? Did that help? If you want to learn more about Razwana or read some of her writing (she’s really good, open and honest), visit her at Your Work is Your Life. And if you haven’t already, please sign up for email updates under the pretty blue box on the right.
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