One of the things that keeps us stuck in fear is the belief that if we want to pursue a dream, the first step we take has to be the “right” step.
We can’t make any mistakes.
The stakes are too high.
If we get it “wrong” it will be horrible.
If we fail, we’ll fall to pieces.
But more than likely not.
Instead of this life or death approach, I’d like you to consider another way of looking at things.
An approach that has helped me take scary steps time and again is embracing the idea that you can learn and grow from anything.
There are no such things as mistakes or failure if you can find a way to learn and grow from whatever circumstance you might find yourself in.
When you look at a potential action step as a source of knowledge about yourself and the world around you, fear becomes less of a stopping point and just something to watch as you move forward, like scenery passing by your window on a cross country car trip.
At first, finding lessons in what seem like mistakes can seem a bit challenging.
You might find yourself thinking something like, “There is no way that I can learn from this situation. I just want to run and hide and forget I even considered this stupid dream!”
But with practice it gets easier.
I’ll give you an example so you can see this in action.
As part of my dream of quitting my job, I decided that it might be less scary if I worked somewhere part time to help me with cash flow.
Through a connection, I found a potential opportunity working from home as a bookkeeper. While I have a degree in Accounting and had worked managing the day to day expenses for departments within larger companies, I had never done bookkeeping for small businesses before so this excited and terrified me at the same time.
I wasn’t 100% sure I could do it, but I took the leap and applied and got the position and was scheduled to start a couple weeks after I quit my full time job.
About a few weeks into it though, I realized I’d made a mistake.
This kind of work just wasn’t for me. It was stressful and not in a good rewarding way and was taking up so much of my time that it didn’t seem worth it, given the fact that I had quit my job in part to give myself a break to clear my head and explore new options.
I spent many days and nights upset, and being unkind to myself about my decision to take this job. “What were you thinking? This is horrible. You’re so stupid. If you quit this though, you’ll be a failure.” (This wasn’t one of my finer self-talk moments, but I share to let you know that we all have moments where we forget to be kind to ourselves.)
Eventually I got to a tipping point where the desire to quit this part time job became stronger than my fear of not having any income and my regret over making this decision that turned out so poorly.
So I quit the job with my tail between my legs, feeling embarrassed and disappointed.
After the dust settled and I spent some time journaling, I found a shift in perspective happening. The more I wrote about the situation, the more I was able to find some gifts and helpful lessons that I had learned from the experience.
I’ll share a few:
- I had always wondered if I could do bookkeeping as a side job at some point. This experience showed me that this type of work doesn’t work for me. Valuable lesson and I don’t have to ever wonder anymore.
- I learned again that quitting your job is not as scary as I always thought it would be after quitting two jobs in the span of a month and not having the world implode on me.
- I learned that just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should do it. I got great feedback while working there, but I didn’t enjoy it. Other people liking your work doesn’t mean much if you’re miserable.
- While it was only a month, I made some money that helped me during the rest of the 5 months that I wasn’t working.
I hope you get the point I’m trying to make.
You need not fear taking a step when you actively look for the lessons and gifts that come with whatever outcome happens.
If you’ve been thinking of doing something, but the idea of making a mistake or failing has kept you from it, I encourage you to do that thing.
Do that thing and if it doesn’t work out, take a step back, let the dust settle and see what lessons you were able to learn about yourself, what you want and how the world around you operates.
If you use what happens as a means to the end goal of building up your resilience and inner strength, you will be unstoppable.
Here are some questions that you can ask yourself the next time you’ve taken a step that didn’t work out the way you had imagined it would:
What good things came out of this situation?
What didn’t I know about myself that I know now?
What didn’t I know about life that I know now?
What worked well?
What didn’t work well?
What do I want to do differently next time?
I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment. Have you ever learned a valuable lesson from taking a step that at first glance appeared to be a mistake?