John looked at me with a half serious, half dismissive expression and said to me, “That sounds fine in theory.  And if I was younger perhaps you might be right, but I have to worry about paying for my kids’ college, my family’s health insurance, my retirement, etc…  As much as I hate my current job and see it as a dead-end, I really can’t make those changes right now.”  John’s argument sounds so logical.  In fact many of you right now are nodding your head in agreement with John.  After all, John sounds like the voice of reason.  But, would your perspective change if I told you John was 29 years old?  Or what if I told you that John has over $2 Million in savings?  That is the sneaky nature of fear.  We come up with logical arguments to defend our fears.  But if we were gut-level honest with ourselves, those logical arguments are designed to keep us from facing our fears – and to keep others from pushing us to address our fears.  After all, who wants to argue with John after he throws his family’s well-being on the table?  That’s a conversation stopper.

These are the most common arguments I hear from clients on why they shouldn’t make the changes in their lives they so desperately want to make:

  • “I have too much responsibility in my life today to take on any significant risk or change right now”
  • “I have too many people counting on me (I don’t want to let them down)”
  • “Others would be very upset with me if I did / said that.  I’m better off not rocking the boat”
  • “I’m not ready.  I’ve got more things I need to get in order before I can make the change I want”
  • “Who am I kidding?  I couldn’t pull that off even if I wanted to”
  • “I’m too old” (my favorite)

Any of those sound familiar to you?  Oh, come on.  You know you’ve used at least one of those lines to argue why you shouldn’t make the changes you really want to make.   So what are you afraid of?  And should you be afraid?  I don’t know what keeps you up at night, but I can tell you that it’s probably not as big of a monster as you think it is.  Here’s my version of a splash of cold water to help put your fears in perspective.

“I promise you won’t die” – a mentor of mine spent his entire career helping people from all walks of life to overcome their demons and make changes in their lives.  When a client he was working with was particularly resistant, Len would lean over, look him or her in the eyes and in a matter-of-fact way, he would calmly say “I promise you won’t die.”  We think our fears are these enormous scary monsters that live under our beds.  If we peak under the bed and dare to confront them, we’ll never be seen again.  The reality is that if we turn on the lights and face our fears, we realize they won’t kill us.  So, face your fears and make that change you’ve been putting off.  I can’t promise it will be easy, but I can promise that you won’t die.

“You are going to die” – Bet you didn’t see that coming.  We all know the old saying, “the only things in life that are guaranteed are death and taxes.”  Yes, you are going to die.  When, where, how, that’s up for grabs.  But with all certainty, you are going to die at some point.  We know that.  The question before you today is simple: “is this how you want to live your life?”  What if you had only a year left to live?  Would you still choose to stay where you are?  Are your fears that strong?  I’m convinced that death in itself is not that scary – it’s a one-time event.  Don’t be afraid of death.  What is to be feared is regret.  That lingers with us like a bad roommate for years and sometimes decades.  Don’t let regret in.  Live your life like your days are numbered… because they are.

So, should you be afraid?  Not when we put our fears in this bigger context.  When we look at the reality that facing our fears won’t kill us, and the irony that our lives are short and growing shorter by the day, it can give us the dose of reality we need.   Whether it is the conversations you’ve been putting off or lingering in that awful job (or relationship) for years, make a move.  Turn on the lights, face your fears and kick them out before they start to stink up the place.