Seem to have a struck a nerve with a previous post on a specific human condition, namely our unique ability to fear the unknown even more than we may dislike our current situation ~ even if it means suffering through a miserable existence. I spoke with several friends and colleagues about the topic, whether it be our professional or personal lives, we have all endured a period where we chose to “hang in there” b/c of our fear of the unknown.



“Seriously, what is there to fear?”

So, we asked the obvious question…what is it that we’re so scared of? Comes down to normal primal feelings:

  • Fear of loneliness – We all know the guy/girl who stays with the human albatross to satisfy their need to be with somebody.
  • Fear of poverty – Hey  man, you try to find a job in this market.
  • Insecurity – What if we’re really not as good/smart as we think we are?
  • Fear of the wife – “Dude, she’ll KILL me if I leave a job without another one on tap.”

These are all easy anxieties to understand – no one wants to live on the street, friendless and starving, especially not if you have the added responsibilities of being a family provider. But seriously, how many of us would face that particular fate if we left a source of unhappiness? If you dig a little deeper, you find that some (most? all?) of these fears are smoke-screens for a couple decidedly less “primal” fears:

  • Fear of regret – “What if I’m wrong? What if I look stupid?” For the same reasons a purchasing decision has a layer of “buyer’s remorse” attached, no one wants to make a decision & then live to regret it.
  • Fear of being “new” –  We may not be “happy” at our current position, but we know where the cafeteria is, we know when our boss leaves the office early, and it’s at least a comfortable misery. Being the new guy or girl is damn scary for a lot of people.
  • Fear of being a “failure” – This is for all of those entrepreneur-to-be’s that sit idly by with business plans, possible company names, and countless hours of dreaming big. The one missing piece of the plan? Pulling the trigger. It’s a fear of being labeled a “failure” more than the act of failing [that makes perfect sense in my head.] Pride, embarrassment, ego – no one wants to feel like a loser.

I think the piece of the puzzle that can’t be replicated is the ability of the human spirit to rise to the occasion. If you have aspirations and dreams, then you’re surely smart enough to know they come when paired with inspiration. We are often shackled by our comfort (again, even when miserable) to the point that our inspiration is muted. We need to do something to be inspired; “So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we don’t just sit there. If we screw it up, start over. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.” (Lee Iacocca)

What are you scared of?

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder of the HR Hardball™ Straight talk, no-nonsense approach to workplace issues. 

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