“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela
Living your best WorkLife is about choice. It’s about having courage to face your fears and make changes. It’s about taking a step back and asking why this isn’t working for you, and exploring why you are unfilled or unhappy in your WorkLife. It involves taking a hard look at yourself and recognising the sources of pleasure in your life and the sources of frustration. It’s about stepping beyond your place of fear, to embrace what lies ahead, which comes from taking that first courageous step.
Richard’s Story: Improvisation Career Change and Hiking in the Alps: A Case Study: Stepping Beyond Your Place of Fear to Embrace What Lies Ahead
During an improvisation workshop, one of the exercises was for the group to work in pairs and to tell a story by each saying one word at a time. We were using the first principle of improvisation: ‘Yes, and…’, in which you accept and build on each new contribution.
There’s no time to negate or judge an idea — the shared goal is to propel a scene forward and make something new. So you roll with whatever is served. It’s about letting ideas breathe, trusting each other, and going on a journey of the unknown together. ‘Yes, and…’ lets you build and grow. This principle applies well beyond improvisation.
In the workshop we did this by moving around the room, and began to step into the story, playing out the actions and emotions as the story unfolded. The instruction was to go with it even if it took us to a scary place, and to then go beyond that and experience where it took us from there. Every single pairing ended up dying, and then coming back to life in a different capacity; and that was where our stories became even more interesting, and great fun, as we began to explore unknown quantities in respect of the pathways ahead of us as they unfolded in the moment.
I have conversations all the time with people who have reached a scary place in their WorkLife, and they are struggling to go beyond that. This reminds me of a Mark Twain quote: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear”. Metaphorically speaking, the courage needed to go beyond that barrier of fear to the other side of their WorkLife can be compared to the fear felt before dying, and crossing over to the other side or spiritual world.
Richard’s story is one of many in terms of people who have come to this place in their Work- Life. Richard is a language teacher — his first language is English, and he’s also fluent in French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. His whole career had been within private schools teaching young adults, and while he enjoyed his work, he felt he needed a change, and wanted adventure and excitement in his life. Unlike some people who reach this stage but don’t know what to do next that will give them what it is they’re seeking, Richard did know; but nonetheless, it was still a scary prospect because to take this step beyond, would take him away from the security and stability he had in his current role and into the unknown.
Richard wanted to move into the travel industry with a specific focus on educational travel languages and cultural programmes within Europe. This would allow him to use his language skills, and to nurture his knowledge and love of medieval and twentieth-century European history. He was experienced in designing school trips, and had established strong collaborative working relationships with partners in a number of countries. He had also spent many holidays skiing and hiking in the Alps, and so all in all, he was in a pretty good place in knowing the possibilities that could be out there.
But it kept coming back to giving up a full-time job and everything that went with that. It would also mean leaving his home in the UK for part of the year at least, as well as the social life he’d established for himself. He had a pretty good life in London embracing his cultural interests, and he had a good circle of friends, and so he fought this urge to move beyond where he was — which was actually pretty good, but at the same time lacking that sense of excitement and adventure that he yearned for.
It was actually three years after I first met Richard, and when he had shared his WorkLife dream with me, that it finally came to fruition. He admitted to having been scared to take the step he so wanted to, and of course, he needed to consider the reality of the situation — particularly around the financial implications, relocating and what he would do with his home in the UK as well as moving away from his friends.
During these three years he did, however, work towards his WorkLife goal, and spent his holidays exploring the countries of his choice before narrowing it down to specific regions, all the time talking to people and building relationships and friendships. Once he began to open up to people about what he aspired to do, he began to have interesting conversations from which more and more ideas opened up to him around how he could make this work along with an increasing awareness to the opportunities that were out there.
For peace of mind, he wanted to secure enough work for his first year; and the good groundwork he put in place throughout his three-year research enabled this to happen. He got his first assignment in a ski resort in the French Alps, working with Japanese businesspeople to ensure they experienced the cultural highlights of the area. He has further work that will take him into the summer and autumn organising hiking exhibitions throughout the Alps.
Richard has now resigned from his teaching position, he’s rented his home for one year, his friends have all promised to visit him, and he’s already established a good circle of friends in France. He’s stepped beyond that place of fear and is ready to embrace what lies ahead.
Develop Your WorkLife Story Chapters
Every book, every chapter, every story begins with an outline — bullet points of ideas which are then left to breathe. Draw on the principles of ‘yes, and…’ to step into your WorkLife story to play out the actions and emotions as they unfold. Go with it even if it takes you to a scary place, and then go beyond that and experience where it takes you from there. Explore your ‘what if’s’ to know what you could do to overcome your fears, what steps of courage you need to take to develop a new WorkLife chapter.
Richard’s story is one of the stories featured in my book: How To Overcome Your Fear To Live Your Life With Courage, from The School Of WorkLife Book Series.
The stories I write are based on real WorkLife challenges, obstacles and successes. In some stories I share my own experiences, and with permission stories of people I’ve worked with, whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Other persons and companies portrayed in the stories are not based on real people or entities.