Six months ago, I took the biggest risk of my life: I quit my corporate job in New York City, packed up all of my things, and set off into the world with nothing but a carry-on. This was the beginning of my quest to circumnavigate the globe by couch-surfing through my social network, a project that has since taken me to 60+ hosts across 4 continents and 17 countries.
So far, my risk has more than paid off: my social presence has grown twentyfold, I’ve published dozens of articles about my experiences, and collaborated with companies in almost every country I’ve visited. Even so, my journey hasn’t been completely rosy. Despite the successes of my decision to become a digital nomad, I still occasionally fear that something will go wrong. What if I run out of money, can’t find work, and have to return to New York City to live the same life that I was unhappy with?
When we are pursuing what we really want in life, fear of failure is almost unavoidable. We have a choice: we can let fear prevent us from moving toward our goals, or we can use it as a tool for motivation. Some tips on how to work through fear of failure:
Identify what motivates you.
In other words, what do you aim to accomplish? What keeps you up at night?
Identifying what motivates you is important because it will keep you focused when doubt creeps in. We all have fears stopping us from achieving our goals – just thinking about the “what if’s” of what could happen if we fail can be downright immobilizing. We cannot, however, allow this fear to paralyze us.
Leaving corporate America to travel around the world, for example, was the first real risk I’ve taken in my career. What made the risk worth the possibility of failure was realizing how much travel motivates me to be more creative, open-minded, courageous, and experimental in my life and work. Once I identified this, I understood that being a digital nomad was what I had to do.
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Accommodate your fears.
Push yourself, but do it kindly. An effective way to conquer fears is to move past them gradually.
Once upon a time, I was too scared to travel on my own. The thought of going to a foreign country by myself was too intimidating as I was terrified that I’d fail at independence. To accommodate this fear, I decided to start by only traveling to countries where I had a friend that I could stay with. By exploring on my own during the day and having someone I knew to come home to at night, I satisfied my need for independence while also accommodating my fear. Gradually, I “weaned” myself off my fear of solo traveling. Fast forward a few years, and I have no qualms booking a ticket to an unknown place and traveling there on my own.
You don’t have to immediately fight a fear to conquer it – get comfortable with it, work around it, and chip away at it while consistently challenging yourself to take a step forward.
Acknowledge your progress.
When you are in the thick of pursuing a goal, it’s hard to see how far you’ve come. Taking a step back from your fears to observe your progress is essential to stay motivated.
When I look at my day-to-day situation, it’s not always great. Sometimes I’m low on funds, sleep deprived, or having a huge writer’s block. Fear gives us tunnel vision and only lets us see what’s not working out. When I take a step back and look at everything that I’ve accomplished over the course of six months, my perspective completely changes: though I have bad days, I’m significantly better off today than I was when I left New York. Realizing how much progress I’ve made despite my fears motivates me to keep going.
While it’s hard not to fear failure, this fear should be approached as a motivator rather than a deterrent to your goals. All of the risks I’ve taken since leaving New York to become a digital nomad have not only been worth it, they’ve given me a profound sense of purpose and fulfillment in my work. If anything, the fear of failure makes every victory that much sweeter.
Article originally published on Forbes.
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