Wowza!  I am fearless!  I say this because I attended the Sanford Business and Professional Women’s Conference in October.    The Women’s Exchange is a half-day women’s conference designed to help women succeed personally and professionally.    I was actually a panelist with other women who have made drastic career changes.  The topic this year was fearless.  Prior to being asked to speak at this conference I did not see myself as fearless.  I accepted the invite based on the topic of career change, fearless I had not quite accepted just yet.

Below are some of the questions that were provided prior to the conference, not all questions were asked, but I think they may help others see the benefit of being “fearless”.  The ones I am sharing were most helpful to me because they helped me accept being seen as fearless and also helped me define it for myself.

Question:  Our theme this year is “Fearless”.  A number of you have made significant decisions to change careers.  Did fear play a role in your decision, if so how did you address it?       Answer:   Yes,  I was fearful, but probably not for the reasons most would be.  Thinking about the fear I felt before changing careers was an interesting activity.  Looking back isn’t alway 20/20, but I remember that I didn’t think about the financial side of things,  I didn’t think about the impacts to my children – the social acceptance of having less or potentially being perceived as having less (e.g. a townhouse vs a house, a Mazda vs a Jeep)  My fear actually was a promoting factor in my move.    My fear was that of regret.  When I was offered a job to be a contact photographer I didn’t hesitate to talk it through with my husband, he was on board.    The overwhelming feeling was if not now, when?  My fear of regret is what propelled me to ask for a severance package.  This action in itself is a fearless action,  I think because I was ready to leave either way, with a yes or a no to the question, I was not fearful of any repercussions.  The decision to leave was already made.    I was fortunate to have a good relationship with my boss.  In reality I was in a perfect position as I didn’t have a crucial role within my team and they were looking to let people go.  I simply raised my hand.  It took some time to be realized, but it happened.  So many things could have gone a different way, but it worked out.     I realize  true “fearlessness” comes from feeling the fear, acknowledging the fear and then moving through the fear.  The fear of the unknown, the what ifs and the what will people think thoughts and feelings.  All these thoughts and feelings were present to some degree as I initially ventured down the path I am on today, but they didn’t hold me back from moving forward.   They don’t go away over night and they come back often for a visit.   To define fearless , the absence of fear can also be defined as courage.  The courage to know that you don’t know what will happen, but believing in yourself and your support system to keep moving forward.   I mentioned my children above, this is probably one of the best outcomes of my change.  My decision to change careers resulted in us selling our single family home and me trading in my fun to drive Jeep.  They have had and still have some negative feelings on the move every now and then and often tell me they miss the old neighborhood.  These feelings have lessened over time as we formed a new normal.  In my opinion a better overall quality of life- me being more present.  The best part is though despite those feelings on occasion, the girls  are happy.  We have more time together and the time is quality time, lots of laughs and fun.  I sometimes ask if they would want me to still be working at the bank and they answer with a very loud NO.  Change isn’t easy, in fact it is often hard in ways you don’t even expect, but if the change is something that will help you to be your true authentic self and a happier person, it will be worth the work to get there.

Question:  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said ” What you are afraid to do is a clear indication of the next thing you need to do”  Have you ever compelled yourself to do something to go beyond the fear?   Yes,   being a panelist at this conference was one of those moments.  How can my story inspire others?  What did I do that would qualify me to be seen as fearless?  I was fearful of speaking to a large group of successful women.  I was encouraged to just share my story, my reasons and what I have learned through the process.  Just sitting on the stage and hearing others speak, created a great deal of anxiety.  I am not alone in this feeling.  There are many groups to help people learn to speak in public.  I tried to normalize my fear and worked through the feelings.  I spoke up during the conference to share my story regarding the difficulty faced when moving from working for someone to working for myself.  Being able to share my feelings and tell my story was a powerful position, one I didn’t think I would ever have.  If one person that day heard me speak about the good that has come from this journey and chose to think differently for even just one minute, then I would consider myself successful and goal achieved.  There is a good chance I will never know if I did that, but just doing it makes me feel like I have at least made an attempt to help others.

My goal in sharing this experience with all of you is to give hope to anyone who has a dream of doing something different.  Those that are living the status quo.  Living a life with intention and putting in the work both personally and professionally has been life changing for me.  I won’t lie- it was not easy.  It still isn’t easy, but it has been so worth it.  I walk taller, I smile more and I get to share my love of photography with so many people.    I am amazed at the doors that have opened for me since I changed career paths.  I am further amazed at how many I have walked through despite not knowing what was on the other side.  If you are interested in learning more about the BPW, check out the website.   The Business and Professional Women (BPW) organization  promotes the interests and needs of all employed women.  The organization was started by women to improve women’s issues.  The BPW promotes the professional and personal growth of it’s members by empowering them through networking, education and development.