We all have our own unique set of fears – everything from snakes to public speaking.  And all of those fears cost us something.  Whether it’s a refusal to visit the reptile house at zoo or an avoidance of anything resembling a microphone, we pay a price for carrying those particular fears in our mental suitcases.  However, not all fears come with the same price tag.  Some fears are much costlier than others, particularly as it relates to our careers.  The following list represents the most costly fears in our careers.  If we don’t watch it, we’ll find ourselves so stuck as a result of our fears that our own emotional well-being at work can begin to look like the federal deficit – hopelessly sunk.

  • Fear of Disappointing Others – This is a common fear that can impact us at various points throughout our careers.  Whether we are new college graduates seeking our parent’s approval or a  CEO that carries the burden of other’s expectations, this is a heavy and costly fear to carry.  Raj suffered from this fear.  What was unique about Raj was that he had an unmatched passion for hotels.  He loved everything about them – from the linens on the beds to the idiosyncrasies of positioning a hotel brand.  However, Raj’s parents didn’t share that same passion.  They wanted Raj to honor the family by pursuing investment banking in New York City.  Raj despised finance but he didn’t want to disappoint his parents.  Raj ultimately decided to head off to Manhattan to pursue a career he felt was his duty.  The fear of disappointing others results in us burying our passions deep down and replacing them with the expectations and dreams of others.  The danger is that if we bury our desires too deep and for too long, we may never be able to retrieve them again.  Cost of this fear:  Ourselves
  • Fear of Change – Who doesn’t fear change?  But this fear is not about the fear of the unknown.  This fear is about fighting change with every fiber in our bodies – head on.  Susan was like that.  Every time change was thrust upon her, from a new e-mail system at work to new managers to role adjustments, she put on the brakes.  She did everything she could to derail change.  As a result, Susan stayed in the same role for nearly 20 years.  Unfortunately, Susan was unable to see the writing on the wall that her role was nearing extinction in her industry.  In the end, she was let go as her industry changed and she was left with little hope of finding a similar job.  Cost of this fear: Obsolescence
  • Fear of Financial Insecurity – I love this fear because of the utter absurdity of the actions people take to counter the fear.  Those of us suffering from this fear act as though taking a salaried position = financial security.  Tom epitomizes this all-too-common fear.  Tom told me that he would love to one day have his own company advising restaurant owners on how to better run their businesses.  He’s been in the restaurant world all of his career and loves the industry.  He has all the contacts he would need to be on his own and could pull the trigger tomorrow.  The problem?  Tom has a fear that he won’t be financially secure.  He sees his salary and benefits as a solid security blanket that can keep him warm at night.  Last month, Tom was laid off.  Cost of this fear: Inability to take action when opportunity arises (and sometimes, financial security itself)
  • Fear of Failure – This fear is more than just failing to try something new or difficult.  When this fear rears its ugly head it prevents us from going after what we really want in life.  It convinces us that there is a high probability that we can’t reach the potential we envision for ourselves.  Thus, the only way to keep the dream alive is to keep it a dream.  Regina has struggled with this fear her whole life.  She graduated top of her class from an elite college and went off to pursue a doctorate.  All of her classmates and professors voted her most likely to succeed.  She was a rising star.  Since that time, Regina dropped out her graduate program with only one semester left.  She settled for the first job that came her way at an obscure, middle-of-the-pack insurance company and has been there nearly ten years.  She has not only settled in her career but also in every other aspect of her life – from her home to her  relationships.  This fear pushes us to settle for what’s easy rather than go for what we could become or what we really want.  Because, ultimately, the fear of not getting what we really want in life is simply too much to bear.  Cost of this fear: Unmet Potential & Happiness

Any of these fears ring a bell?  Look closely at those costs.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to pay any of those prices.  Talk about high.  I don’t think I have enough credit to afford those.

Fear is sneaky, sinister and contagious.  The first step for any of us is identifying our particular fears and getting clear on what those fears might be costing us in our careers and lives.  The next step is to begin the process of overcoming those fears little by little.  Next week we’ll start down that path.  Stay tuned!