What would you do if you weren’t afraid? This question, posed in the book, “Lean In”, by Sheryl Sandberg (original reference, Spencer Johnson, 1998) struck a chord with me. It is a powerful question that challenges our thinking and perspective about what is really important to us in our life.

Contemplating this question often will have us think about our deepest desires or wishes for our current life or for our future.  Many people may have images of travelling to far and exotic places or taking that big adventure of sky diving or white water rafting.

But this question can also be very applicable to our every day life and our roles in our workplace and community.  Sandberg uses this question as a platform to discuss the opportunities and barriers (perceived and real) facing women who have the desire and potential to take on new challenges and leadership roles in all walks of life. While Sandberg’s focus is primarily on women, fear may be stopping any one of us from reaching our full potential and our desired future.  Fear of failing, fear of making a wrong decision, fear of being uncomfortable, fear of standing out from the crowd and so on could be holding us back and preventing us from doing what we would really like to do and what would give us a greater sense of professional and personal fulfillment.

Another way of looking at this is to ask yourself the question, “What is the cost to you (or your loved ones) of not pursuing that goal, that dream, or that new opportunity?”  “Does it mean disappointment, unfulfilled potential, breaking your spirit, taking away your “joie de vivre”, boredom, or even denying others from the benefit of your great talents and skill.?

As you read this it may seem too much about the pursuit of the big lofty idea or vision. Yes it is about the stretch to go for the big ideas. It is also about taking the small or intermediate steps. Speaking up at the next committee meeting and expressing your ideas is as valuable as reaching for the big vision if it moves you to another level of confidence and achievement.  Taking on a new role or a project that in your heart you would love to do and previously passed by because of some fear is about believing in your abilities and not being afraid.

Being aware of what you are afraid of helps to understand what it may take to overcome the fear.  Where might you draw support to help you to move forward? Could a trusted colleague, friend, or family member be your confidant and a resource to you? You may also consider seeking a coach to be your thinking partner and trusted ally as you come to new awareness of what you are afraid of and create strategies to overcome your fears and to accomplish what you really want to do.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Are you missing out on what is vital to who you are and what you desire to accomplish?