There I was, the keys to the truck in my hand, and $8,833 less in my bank. Just minutes before I’d been eager, excited, and ready. Now I was feeling something akin to terror. What had I just done? I’d traded in my cute, gas efficient, and dependable little car for this 10 year old monster of a truck with a mostly unknown track record. Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration. In truth it’s a mid-size truck and not big by truck standards, but for someone who’s never driven anything larger than a car before that’s plenty big enough.
So what had changed? I had just stepped out of my comfort zone. When you are planning to do something big, unusual, or otherwise outside of what you feel comfortable doing, there will be some anxiety. But it’s not like taking that first real step into the unknown, when theories and plans suddenly become reality.
First off, fear is at times a useful tool. It makes us think before we act, which in some situations is a very good thing. For instance, fear of spending my money carelessly, and of choosing the wrong vehicle is what lead me to spend hours ahead of time looking at various tow vehicle options. This kind of fear is beneficial.
Going into the purchase of my truck I had a good grip on what I did and didn’t want, what technical specifications were going to be necessary for towing what I wanted to tow, how much I was willing to spend, and which dealerships in the area were reputable. Therefore, when I found the truck I wanted, got satisfactory answers to the questions I had about it, had a chance to examine it, and looked up the VIN online and found no outstanding issues, I felt confident in my decision to buy it. I was even offered an extended warranty on it that would have lasted over two years with the amount of miles I was expecting to put on it (which I later dropped for a full refund when I had the time to go over the full contract of inclusions and exclusions, and determined that the probability of the warranty being worth what I had spent on it was low).
Basically, I’d done as much as I could reasonably do to make sure the situation turned out favorably, and this is important. Whether you’re planning to go RVing like me, or are making any sort of big decision that could have lasting impact, do everything that you can reasonably do to ensure that the outcome is the one you expect and want. Usually fear is based in the unknown, so make it a point to know as much as you can going into the decision.
While planning it out helps, it won’t get rid of the fear. Moving from planning to action and stepping outside of your comfort zone can be a difficult step, and some will have a harder time of it than others. I always feel sad when I talk to people who have great plans for things they want to do someday, but they fail to get from a point of planning to a point of acting on those plans, because they fear what might happen if things go wrong.
Here’s the truth though, essentially everyone experiences fear. Those who manage to accomplish difficult or amazing things push forward despite it. While there is no way to completely avoid fear with big decisions and dreams, there are things you can do to help you get use to moving out of your comfort zone. Start with small things that make you uncomfortable, and work your way up to larger ones. For me, these included introducing myself to strangers, and speaking up at work when I felt I had a better way of doing something.
Another way to combat fear is to ask yourself these three questions about your proposed decision.
First, what would happen if you fail? And I’m not talking about anything along the mundane range of normal failure, I mean the worst case scenario. You know, the one your mind replays in the wee hours of the night when you start to doubt if you can really make it work? For RVing, mine usually goes something like this: I’m not able to find work and I run out of money, then my truck breaks down in the middle of nowhere, and I’m all alone and its raining, and when I call my friends up on the phone to ask for help they just laugh and say deal with it, and I have to pull what I can carry out of the RV, and I end up living under a bridge like a hobo and…. Well, you get the point.
Now that you have your worst case scenario in mind, think about this a moment. How likely is it to happen, really? Not very. Probability has a thing or two to say about the chances of everything possible going wrong at once. Yeah, theoretically it could happen, but it’s slim. In fact, the chances are actually rigged in your favor. This is because the worst case scenario assumes that you just stand by and let it all happen to you without taking further actions along the way to correct your course. If you’ve made it this far, if you had the guts and tenacity to be out living your dream, you won’t just stand idly by.
Grab a paper and pen (or open your word processor), and start thinking now about the things you could do to turn your worst case scenario around. So I’m out RVing and I can’t find any work and I run out of money. Already I’m seeing flaws in this prediction.
For starters, I keep a close eye on my money. In fact, I’ve already decided the amount for how low I’ll let my savings drop before I drop what I’m doing and focus my attention on making money again. I’d start looking for a way to earn some more dough long before my savings hit 0.
I worked in food service and retail part time when I was in high school and college. These jobs aren’t high paying or fun by any means – definitely not my first choice for employment, but they’re more common than other sorts of jobs. I could work one of them and earn at least a little money while I continued searching for a job that met my needs and interests better. I could also look into part-time or temporary jobs, and I’ll still have my certification for the work I do now. If it came down to it, I could always go back and find a job again in my current field. In fact it would be easier to do if I’m on the road without a lease out on an apartment or anything because then I could search for jobs in my field over a much wider geographical region.
So the other part of my worst case scenario: My truck breaks down and everyone I try to call just laughs and me and won’t help, and I end up living under a bridge. Well that’s silly, yeah it’s true that fair weather friends exist and maybe not every friend I have would be able or willing to help, but I know some of them would. I could always go back and live with my parents for a while while I get back on my feet. This would be an uncomfortable situation for sure, but remember, we’re talking about if the absolute worst should happen.
As it turns out, most of the fear exists only in our heads. I can look at the above worst case scenario at this point and chuckle at how unlikely it is.
The second question to ask yourself is what would happen if you did nothing. If you decided not to follow your dream, and just continued doing what you are doing now. For me, this is a pretty depressing thought. I imagine myself on my deathbed and sad when I think of all the things I wanted to do and never tried.
And the third question, what would happen if your idea worked out? Instead of falling into the trap of dwelling on everything that might go wrong if you follow your dream (and remember, the chances of the absolute worst happening are very slim indeed), instead concentrate on what it would feel and be like if it worked out. If you are doing as much as you reasonably can to ensure success, this will be the more likely outcome. Give yourself permission to be excited, to think about the positives of your great idea, to daydream about it if that will help you to follow through.
What helps you overcome fear?
Image courtesy of neil alejandro
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