Knowing the impact that you are called to make in the world, even in great detail, is not enough for success. Another mission-critical piece is facing the fears, doubts, and mistaken beliefs that keep you from moving forward in living your purpose. As Tim Kelley, founder of the True Purpose® Institute says, “Knowing your purpose changes nothing; living your purpose changes everything.”

Many of us carry subconscious ideals of what devoting oneself to a purpose-directed life would look like, such as living in poverty like Mother Teresa or separated from everyone you love serving in the Peace Corps.

These pictures trigger fears that living your higher purpose means sacrificing too much. In fact, the most paralyzing fears are the ones that lie deep within our subconscious, because we don’t see them and think something must be wrong with us if we aren’t taking action toward our calling.

Imagine instead recognizing that you do have choice in how you express your calling. It makes such a difference when you realize that you can make specific commitments that will support you in your calling rather than suffer in service to an ideal.

A client I’ll call Lisa came to me because she was burned out in her high tech career and wanted to pursue more meaningful work. When we explored the hidden fears keeping her frozen, here are a few that we found:

  • “I won’t make enough money to support myself and my family.”
  • “I’ll do it badly and make people’s lives worse rather than better.”
  • “If I succeed in improving people’s lives I’ll become arrogant and lose touch with my humility.”
  • “I’ll be traveling so often that my relationships with my children will suffer.”
  • “It will all be too much, I won’t have enough time for myself, and I’ll get overwhelmed.”
  • “I won’t know how to do what I’m supposed to do, so I will fail.”

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

After exploring the worst that could happen in each of these cases, I helped Lisa create these corresponding conditions and agreements to prevent the worst case scenarios from coming true:

  • “I regain my current income within 2 years from any new venture. To ensure this, I have checkpoint assessments along the way and change course if it looks as though this condition will not be met.”
  • “I regularly get objective feedback from trustworthy mentors and colleagues that incorporate both positive and negative elements.”
  • “I stay in weekly contact with my closest friends who support me yet aren’t afraid to call me on anything that feels off.”
  • “My travel schedule includes at least two weeks at home every month.”
  • “I pace myself with every new challenge and take at least one day off every week.”
  • “I clearly articulate my current expertise and if needed I get training for what I need to learn.”

Once she committed to these agreements, Lisa could feel her whole being relax and shift into gear again. This level of relaxation means that you have set up adequate support for yourself around the current fears about your new endeavor.

Fears serve as a message from the subconscious. It’s important to not try to simply eradicate them without understanding the reasons behind them – there could be some very critical practical advice available that would keep you from doing foolish things.

If Lisa did not look beyond “feel the fear and do it anyway,” she might have made some bad business decisions and driven herself into exhaustion and repeat burnout.

And, this exploration will continue as new fears arise when you step into greater and greater influence and impact. I invite you to welcome each one you find and learn from them.

What pearls of wisdom and practical advice lie within your own fears of taking the next step toward your calling?