Why do we feel anxiety about starting something new? Why do we hold ourselves back from beginning a new job, a new business, starting or ending a relationship, or even moving to a new city? How can we overcome that fear and move forward?
It’s a double edged sword: on the one hand, we have anxiety that the thing we’re jumping into won’t work out well, and on the other hand, we fear we might be giving up something that would have been smart to stick with. These two anxieties gang up on us and make it difficult to make a decision.
But the truth is that fear, anxiety, and nervousness are a fundamental aspect of life. We all experience these emotions when considering new paths, because we can’t be sure how things will turn out. Risks are scary, no matter what. We’re nervous to reveal ourselves, to put ourselves out there, to be exposed.
Our minds, in an effort to protect us, imagine all the horrible possibilities that could result from a new situation. This response is a useful tool, one that helps us make good life choices. However, when we let fear control our decisions, we can miss out on massive opportunities, growth, and potential happiness.
This is why it’s crucial that we learn how to deal with our anxiety in healthy ways so we can move forward and build the life that we deserve.
The first way we can begin to deal with our anxiety, is to acknowledge it.
When we don’t acknowledge our fear, it’s easy to let it control us. That’s why it’s so important to reflect on why you are hesitant to begin your new venture. Are you really holding back due to carefully considered, logical reasons? Or are you just experiencing the natural fear of starting something new?
Without introspection, fear runs rampant. But once the anxiety is acknowledged, you can begin to defuse it with logical and emotional arguments.
Next, accept the possibility of failure.
Once you’ve acknowledged your anxiety about starting something new, there are many different ways to deal with it. One powerful way to ease your fears is to radically embrace your anxiety.
Get familiar with the feeling of being afraid, and embrace it! It’s there to protect you, but it doesn’t have to control you.
In fact, go ahead and accept that failure is possible. Even plan on doing it wrong first. Plan for your first attempt to totally blow up in your face. Plan that you may not have all the answers, that you might not be perfectly prepared. Failure does not make you any less worthy of trying, and it doesn’t mean that you should give up. It’s simply a redirection to help you find the correct path.
By giving yourself the freedom to fail, it will make starting much less daunting.
And remember, you wouldn’t be nervous about starting something new if you didn’t really care about it. Being afraid is often an indication that the thing you’re afraid of is truly important. If you care so much about something, then isn’t that a good sign that you should probably do it? It may be a big undertaking, but it’s going to force you to grow and change and put in a lot of effort — and that’s exciting!
Don’t pursue success — pursue learning.
Another way to reduce anxiety is to fundamentally orient your life around learning, instead of achievement. Rather than hoping to succeed at something new, start your venture out of a desire to learn. Then, no matter what happens — even if you fail — you will learn something from the experience.
When you shift your core values away from badges of success and towards a learning mindset, it makes trying new things much less intimidating. Your ultimate goal is simply to learn. So whether you fail or succeed, you will certainly learn things that will help you in your next endeavor.
This mindset is also helpful since you’re more likely to continue trying new things throughout life because you’re not interested in staying stagnant. Rather, you’re interested in continual growth, which requires stepping outside of your comfort zone regularly.
Replace your anxiety with something else.
Another useful tactic to reduce your fear is to stop trying to smother it, and instead replace it with something else that’s more powerful.
Think about your reasons for wanting to start something new in the first place:
- WHY do you want to start that new job?
- WHY do you want to start that new relationship?
- WHY do you want to start that new youtube channel?
- WHY do you want to start that new etsy store?
Come up with a long list of reasons that excite you about starting your new venture, reasons that drew you to that course of action in the first place, and write them all down.
This exercise helps you actually replace your anxiety with excitement. Instead of focusing on negative outcomes that might happen if you start, you’ll focus on all the great things that might happen if you do.
Finally, cultivate ignorance.
This might seem counterintuitive — but cultivating a certain amount of ignorance can help you stop worrying so much and help you take actions to move yourself forward.
It’s common for people to do a lot of “research” before taking action. They spend hours in front of the computer learning about starting a business, but never do. Or they read lots of books on learning a skill, but never put it into practice.
At a certain point, this becomes a crutch, allowing you to feel like you’re moving forward when you’re really just avoiding taking action. Too much research is detrimental because it keeps you from moving forward and because it causes you to easily become overwhelmed.
In Martin Scorsese’s Masterclass, he explains that cultivating ignorance is useful for beginning new things. He explains that if people understood all the things that go into making a feature film, they’d never do it. This applies to so many other things in life as well: everything involved in starting a business, all the things you’re going to have to do to make a relationship work, the myriad of steps it takes to move to a new town. Even though they are big tasks, they ARE doable, and people do them all the time. Instead of focusing on the big picture, just focus on the first steps you have to take. This will help ease feelings of overwhelm.
Find what works for you, and then take immediate action.
In many situations, there’s nothing worse than not starting at all.
When you truly feel passionate about something, your passion will outweigh the potential negative outcomes. In that case, not starting at all is actually the worst possible scenario.
Finally, just remember that everyone feels fear too. Everyone has to go through learning periods before they find what really works. All the most successful people have actually just failed more than regular people. They’ve failed so much, and not given up, that they’ve ended up learning more than most and using that knowledge to build something great.
And the reality is, anxiety about starting something new never really goes away — that’s why we need courage.
So if all else fails, just do it scared.