Facing your fears doesn’t mean you have to do anything about them.

Blog | February 10, 2021

Recently, a sought-after Chief Marketing Officer in the tech industry was being heavily recruited. She’d been unhappy in her work for some time and thought the answer was to move to a similar role at a better company. Let’s call her Alice.

Great companies were making her offer upon offer, competing to entice her to jump ship. You’d think this talented, intelligent woman would be in my (virtual) office, reveling in the news with her coach.

Instead of celebrating, however, an unnamed anxiety plagued her. 

At night, Alice lay awake obsessing over making a decision. Dreading the next day. Spinning and losing sleep.

After seriously considering each offer, Alice had refused them all. She always had a “good reason” why it wasn’t a right fit. She told herself she hadn’t received the best offer yet. And yet, she still didn’t feel good about any of it.

Together, we got to the root of the problem. 

Alice admitted, finally, painfully:  She didn’t even LIKE being a CMO.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter what offer these companies made; none would ever be the silver bullet to make her feel fulfilled.

She had resisted admitting the truth to herself and acknowledging the real issue because she worried that she’d then have to make major changes in her life. Changes she didn’t feel ready for.

And HERE was the crux of her anxiety: Not fear of recognizing the truth, but that once she acknowledged it, she would have to DO something life-altering about it. 

We’ve all been there, barreling down a particular road—with a course of action or study, working toward a goal, or even in a relationship—then suddenly realized it’s the wrong road.

It’s devastating. We’ve already invested so much time (years!), energy, and resources, to realize it’s not the right path after all can feel scary to face.

This is where our coaching work came in. I asked, “What if this is only information?”

“What if you don’t actually have to do anything about it, at least for the moment, or even ever?” 

Alice’s relief was palpable. 

First, simply admitting that she doesn’t like her work immediately alleviated her anxiety. 

And second, and perhaps most importantly (because this is why Alice had avoided doing the first for so long), she permitted herself NOT to take immediate action on this information.

Once she realized that the work didn’t thrill her and that no offer would give her that satisfaction, Alice could more clearly measure the offers against other, also-important needs: salary, location, culture, and work-life flexibility that would allow her to pursue happiness outside the office.

With this new awareness, she was able to gain clarity. And let go. For sure, she wouldn’t have to waste a single moment more considering another offer if she didn’t want to. All that time and energy she’d spent anguishing over each one was now reclaimed.

That night, she slept better than she had for months.

With this newfound clarity, she did end up selecting an offer with a higher title that paid better, at a sexy name brand company where she felt valued and appreciated.

Coming to terms with what’s really going on below the surface, for yourself as well as colleagues and team, mastering this “inner game,” is key to your success as a leader… not to mention a good night’s sleep. 

Our team of coaches at MettaWorks can help. Learn more by scheduling a complimentary discovery call.

Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant