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4 Powerful Questions to Free You from the Daze of Fear and Inaction

Deep Thought

“The lives we lead have everything to do with the questions we ask ourselves.” ~Lori Deschene

You lay in bed night after night, tossing and turning, eager to push forward but unable to shake off the onslaught of what-ifs.

What if I’m making a huge mistake? What if I fail utterly and miserably? What if I’m overestimating my ability to go through with this? What-if…? What-if…?

Yet, no matter how crazy your anxiety and fears seem right now, you can snap out of it and make that new start you so desperately desire.

How do I know?

Let me tell you a little story…

The Grand Decision to Quit a Great Job

Two years ago, on a day that started like any other, I got an unexpected call from my husband from the hospital. “Don’t worry. They just want to run some tests before letting me go,” he said.

He ended up having a four-hour emergency procedure followed by complications that landed him in the ICU for four days. Then a week of recuperation at home, followed by another mad dash to the emergency room.

We needed weeks to get back to the “new” normal. Slowly the truth sunk in—my husband will likely live to a ripe old age, but he has a chronic condition and we’ll always have an invisible sword hanging over our heads.

Something in me changed irrevocably after that incident.

I set out on a crazy journey that has transformed into a complete overhaul of our lives. Part of the change process was my decision to quit the job that paid well, but sapped the life out of me.

I planned every waking hour to discover an alternate way to earn a modest livelihood while living a life of purpose. I saved diligently and prepared my family and friends for what was to come.

Then, ever so slowly, it was time. I set a date to resign.

The Moment of Truth

It took me two years from the time of my husband’s hospitalization to get to this point. You’d think I’d be excited and thrilled, right?

Instead, an intense anxiety attack seized me. It took me completely by surprise. I couldn’t sleep. A slew of what-ifs threatened to wash away my resolute decision.

In desperation, I brought it up with my mentor Jon Morrow. Jon got me to ask myself a few questions that finally snapped me out of the paralyzing grip of fear and anxiety.

Question 1: Be a pessimist for five minutes. What’s the worst that can happen?

My first reaction was: Why, the world will come to an end!

But even in my crazy, anxious state, that sounded too dramatic and exaggerated. So, I tackled the what-ifs.

I could be making a big mistake. But I’d still have my resume, work experience, and the good relationship with my (soon to be ex-) colleagues. If it was indeed a mistake, I could always go back and get a regular job. A little humbling, but not quite the end of the world.

I’ll fail utterly and miserably. At making money—possibly, yes. But with other things—like trying to become a better person, a better parent, and creating a better world starting with my family first—there’s no failing. As for the money, again I could just go back to a regular job. Nowhere near the end of the world.

I’m overestimating my ability to go through with this. OK, that’s just whining. Enough, already!

So, ask yourself: What if all your what-ifs came true? What is the worst that can happen?

Question 2: What will happen if you don’t make the change?

I suddenly had this vision of a rich bride on the way to the altar to marry a poor bloke she desperately loved, get married, and live happily ever after in a tiny cottage, wearing the same two gingham dresses all her life—or bolt back to the comfort of her rich parents but be wretched for the rest of her life.

Frankly, neither option looked very enticing.

But if I had to make a choice, I think I would rather go ahead with the marriage. I could always spruce up that cottage and, heck, maybe even make a fine fashion accessory with the hay from the barn. Or something.

So, ask yourself: Why did you want to make the change in the first place? What do you stand to lose if you don’t make the change?

Question 3: What’s the real reason for your anxiety?

I had no rational reason to feel anxious; I had covered pretty much all the bases.

Or so I thought.

As I dug deeper though, I realized my anxiety was essentially an identity crisis.

I had spent the better part of the last 20 years being an engineer, and in the pursuit of making money.

And here I was, on the verge of throwing that away. And with it, my old identity.

While the rational part of me was okay with it, and even looking forward to it, a core part of me found it hard to let go.

So, ask yourself: Are there any obvious reasons for your anxiety? If not, are there any underlying reasons that you may not have recognized yet?

Question 4: What little step can you take now to get started?

I knew switching my identities overnight was unrealistic. So, I took steps to slowly ease into my new identity.

I took two days off each week and on those days, I wrote articles for blogs that I admired (just like this one) and interacted with their audiences. This let me test-drive being a blogger—my new identity—without actually having my own blog.

I immersed myself in books on self-help and parenting, the topic of my future blog.

I interacted with other bloggers through comments, emails, forums, and Facebook groups.

And with each passing week, my anxiety shrank.

So, ask yourself: What can you do right now to see the other side of change, in spite of the anxiety? Who can you reach out to that can help you quiet the negative inner voice?

Finally, at the end of March, I walked into my manager’s office and handed in my two weeks’ notice. I felt calm. I felt in control. We had a nice chat and wished each other luck.

Bottom Line

In the end it all comes down to one thing: change isn’t easy.

Despite your best-laid plans, you will have a few very low points. Your chances of success are often a result of how well you respond to them.

This—the fear, the anxiety and the panic of starting—is just one of the low points.

If you can beat this fear, you will not just succeed at making a new start now, but you’ll significantly improve your chances of surviving through all the future lows.

So, what’s it going to be? Ready to ask yourself some tough questions?

After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Photo by Chang'r

About Sumitha Bhandarkar

Sumitha is the blogger behind afineparent.com and invites you to come take a look at the unique parent-child journal she has designed which could be the most meaningful gift you could give any child! Connected Hearts Journal is a keepsake memory book parents put together with their kids and in the process have conversations, teach life lessons, build up self-esteem, instill an attitude of gratitude and so much more! Click here to find out more.

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  • Sebastian Daniels

    Thanks for this post. I am about to make a big change in my life and be honest and expose myself to a lot of unnecessary shame. The change will be for the better because it will help me live authentically. This post has given me more strength to do that thing. My world will not end when I do what I have to do on Friday.

    http://www.findingonespath.blogspot.com

  • Guest

    @Sebastian, Congratulations on your decision to change in spite of the possible harsh consequences. If that is what your heart desires, go for it! Wish you all the best to handle the consequences. Do the right thing and come out the other side with your head held high!

  • Sumitha

    @google-3d591cef2cf8de1609ec28732243ccd5:disqus, Congratulations on your decision to change in spite of the possible harsh consequences. If that is what your heart desires, go for it! Wish you all the best to handle the consequences. Do the right thing and come out the other side with your head held high!

  • Jamie

    @sumitha
    I really enjoyed reading this as it really resonates with me. Yesterday was my last day at a job and/or role I played for almost 9 years. I made my way through fear and the paralysis it can evoke to first, make the decision to leave and then to execute it. I’ve been busy behind the scenes building my life coach business and in being true to myself and wanting to live authentically, I knew I couldn’t stay in the same place any longer. Bravo to you and thank you for sharing this part of your life as we can all be a catalyst and positive force in the lives of others by sharing our experience.

  • Sumitha

    Thanks, @disqus_xySxYsBXOf:disqus! And Congratulations on your change. One door closes, another opens… I hope you will find a lot of peace and happiness in your new business. Good Luck!

  • Asim

    Beautiful Blog…Thank you for the 4 powerful questions and your comments on them.I am also making a huge leap of faith and this inspires me 🙂 thank you Namaste

  • Thanks for the great post. As I was reading i had the thought – what if we changed our what ifs into – What if I am incredibly successful. What if I am so surrounded by love I no longer have any room for fear.

    What if …. and then think of all the amazing things that could ever happen.

    Years ago I started turning my fear into something ludicrous.If I was afraid of not having enough money I would see myself as a homeless person, smelling bad, hungry and tired. Make the image really gruesome and then ask myself if that is what I really want. Of course the answer was NO. Then I would focus on what I did want. Doing that took the power away from my fear and helped me focus on what I did want.

    Thanks again Sumitha for the post.

  • Sumitha

    Wow @twitter-15320350:disqus, what a beautiful and insightful comment!!! Thanks!

    With me, I’m either “dreaming big” or “freaking out”… I love your idea of turning the what-ifs around to temper each situation and ground us. And to bridge the oscillatory tendency that I have when I make big decisions. Thanks!

  • Sumitha

    Thanks @13daef087525f337fd3fec4424ff53ca:disqus. Wish you the best as you make your choices!

  • Hi Sumitha, Great story, and I enjoyed reading it. “What’s the worst
    that can happen” is a great way to lower the anxiety. I’ve made a lot of
    changes in my life and haven’t worried too much about many of them, but
    recently I’ve had a hard time quelling anxiety about selling my house and moving into an apartment. I know it’s a sensible decision, and nothing really bad will happen (more time to write!), but
    I’m still not completely convinced (though my house is already for
    sale), and that’s where the anxiety is coming from. I can’t replace
    certain things (like my rose bushes), and I don’t know if the move will be good for my big dogs who love their yard…so I’ll have to dig deeper, as you did, before the decision can’t be reversed. Thanks!

  • Sumitha

    Thanks, @leahmcclellan:disqus! Less time on cleaning with more time for writing sounds sooooo good to me right now (just spent the last two hours tidying up the house for family that is visiting us for the long weekend!). 🙂 And you can always have window/balcony gardens — have a rose and smell it too 🙂 All kidding aside, until you move to the apartment and maybe for a while after that you will probably still be a little anxious… but then, that will be the “new” normal and life will go on. Good luck!

  • Sumitha:
    Excellent advice. Thank you so much. I am saving this post.
    Best regards,
    David

  • Sumitha

    Thanks, David!

  • Ally

    Thank you SO so much for this article. I am going through so many similar things –
    I quit my job last year May. And I fell in to a deep depression, and my anxiety reached an all-time high. I am still struggling to get out of it, but reading this article last night – around 1am – it was like a little light went on inside.
    I too think that I am having an identity crisis. I’ve been trying to put a label on it for so long now.
    I was in the commercial property industry, and then I quit. And I’m trying to go back to doing what I really love, but it’s not that easy. I need to figure out who I am, again… and where I want to go. And then I have to work towards that. It’s a long and lonely journey though.
    But thank you, again. I appreciate what you wrote with all my heart and soul.

  • Emma

    I am going travelling, with maybe the possibility of moving to Canada…not sure yet. I had the chance to emigrate to Canada 2 1/2 years ago but due to high anxiety and panic attacks I called it off, which led to a bout of depression. Now my visa will run out next year if I don’t go now. So I have a year off on sabbatical and am going to Canada in June for as long as I feel capable of coping just to either get it out of my system or to see whether I still want to live there. I am still struggling with major anxiety and have a ton of “what ifs” going on in my head, the main one being what if I don’t like it and what if I come back and the job my company offer me is not what I want … my main fear, even though I am almost 40 years of age, is still being 3000 miles away from my family/parents….silly I know, but I am very close to my dad and cannot imagine not seeing him regularly…..
    A lot of people do not understand anxiety and how it can literally paralyse you and stop you from doing things. I know I can travel, as I have done this before, but the thoughts of being in another country on my own long-term, possibly permanently is freaking me out…..I am still going to give it a try though, as I know this fear will never go if I don’t face it and try.
    Thanks
    Emma

  • Great post and congratulations on your choice to go out on your own Sumitha. Though it’s not all sunshine and rainbows… being in control of your own destiny and doing something you love is totally worth it 🙂

  • I hope this post helped you Emma. It might help to focus on the fact that you’re just going to Canada to check it out rather than worrying about moving there just yet. I moved out of my parents’ house in New Zealand and went to the UK with no return ticket… I ended up staying there a year. Then I moved to Spain for another two years.

    I remember sitting on my bed in London a few weeks after arriving and thinking… “Wow! Was it really just that easy to move my life to the other side of the world?” Travelling is an amazing gift so make the most of it when you have the opportunity 🙂