“Come to the edge,” he said.

“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“We can’t. We will fall!” they responded.

“Come to the edge,” he said.

And so they came.

And he pushed them.

And they flew.

Guillaume Apollinaire

Have you ever felt really excited about making a big change in your life, but then the “yeah buts” and “what ifs” started creeping in and you no longer knew what to do?

When your doubt and second guesses start to get loud, it can be hard to hear yourself think. You go back and forth, not sure which way to turn. Part of you pulled in one direction, another pulled in another.

You are not alone.

In fact, doubt is such a normal part of the journey to following a calling that in the great stories, before the hero crosses the threshold to embark on their journey, they go through a phase that Joseph Campbell named—

The Refusal of the Call

The main character in the Refusal of the Call is the Voice of Doubt, the part of you who says— “Yeah, but… What if…? Are you sure this is a good idea? What will people think? What if you fail? Are you sure you’re ready? Isn’t there another way? What if something bad happens?”

Many people respond to doubt by ignoring their doubt or ignoring their callings. Or they try to get rid of their fear. Fearing your fear makes a lot of sense when you’ve been raised with a mantra that says the only thing to fear is fear itself.

The problem is, if you believe you need to get rid of your fear, you’re more likely to withdraw from your goals or from people who could help.

The truth is, fear is a normal physiological response to the unknown.  In fact—

On the journey to living your call, fear is usually a sign that you’re moving in the right direction.

Following a calling requires you to step beyond the borders of your tribe, to leave the safety of home, to expand the boundaries of who you’ve been until now. Fear arises anytime you’re playing at your learning edge. Following a calling is, therefore, almost necessarily scary.

Because of this, I encourage you to stop trying to get rid of your fear. Instead, I invite you to sit down with your Voice of Doubt and having a conversation.

Your Voice of Doubt might have some important things to tell you.

Although it may be hard to believe, your Voice of Doubt always has a positive intention for you. It may fear that your needs won’t be met if you go through with your plans. When you understand your Voice of Doubt’s positive intention, you can foresee unintended consequences and better prepare for your journey.

Many adventurers fall in love with the idea of a project and dive in head first without thinking through the potential ramifications or doing the necessary preparations first. They invest lots of time and energy before they’re forced to see what was right in their face from the very beginning.

To prevent this from happening, in Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow, Nobel Prize-winning social psychologist Daniel Kahneman encourages decision-makers to do a “premortem” before taking on a significant new project. In a premortem, you imagine that it is a year in the future and you went ahead with your current plan, but the outcome was a disaster. Then, you write a brief history of the disaster and look at what went wrong. Having a dialogue with your inner Voice of Doubt is like doing a premortem.

A Dialogue with the Voice of Doubt

I invite you to have a dialogue with your inner Voice of Doubt now. Grab a pen and paper, and find a quiet, distraction-free space where you feel comfortable. Take a moment to get centered.

Then, bring to mind a decision you feel uncertain about. Make it about a 3 or 4 on the 0 to 10 discomfort scale. Write down what the situation is at the top of your paper. Then, write what comes up in response to the questions below and pay attention to any subtle shifts in your body as you write.

Listen compassionately to what your Voice of Doubt is afraid of.

  • What’s the worst thing that could happen if I pursue this course of action?
  • What else are you afraid might happen?
  • What needs do you want to make sure I meet?
  • What is your positive intention?

Get curious about how you might move forward while meeting your needs.

  • How might I meet my needs while also taking my next step forward?
  • What is the best case scenario?
  • How might I prepare to help make this best case scenario a reality?

If necessary, prepare to prepare.

When you ask these questions, you might immediately know what to do. Or, you might need to get better prepared by gathering more information, having important conversations, or any number of things.

To discover if and how you need to prepare, ask yourself—

  • What do I need to be ready to move forward?
  • Are there any questions I need to answer before I move forward?
  • How might I answer these questions?

Then, make a plan to take steps to get ready to move forward.

I’d love to hear from you!

What is your Voice of Doubt’s positive intention? And, what do you need to do to prepare?

Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments below, and I will be sure to respond!

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