Navigating the Unknown: "The Slate Shoe"

“So, what are you going to do, babe?” my husband asks. “You’ve been pondering this for over a year now.”

“I know, I know,” I reply. “I’m just...confused. I hate my indecisiveness.” I look down at my nails and start picking the skin from the side of my finger. I tend to do that when I get antsy.

“I told you I support you no matter what you choose to do--”

“I know you do, babe,” I cut him off. “But it’s not that easy!”

He shakes his head in frustration and begins to walk away. But, suddenly, he stops in his tracks and turns to ask me a question that shakes me to the core. It is the one question I am avoiding to face...“Fran, what are you afraid of?”

I stare at him blankly as a million-and-one reasons come flooding to my mind. I open my mouth to say something, but I don’t even know where to begin or what excuse to give.

He continues, “You’re not one to turn down a challenge. So, the only roadblock you’re facing right now is fear. So, tell me, what are you afraid of?”

I sit back into the dining chair and let out a deep sigh. I start, “What if I suck at this new position and get a manager who's out for my demise again? Or what if I take this pay cut only to find that I can’t build up my commission to help us financially?” I shake my head viciously and chuckle, “Do you want me to go on?! I mean I can name a list of things that could go wrong!”

“Alright, I hear you. But what if you’re great in this new role and have a manager who equips you to be successful? What if you earn double what you’re making right now?” I know he’s right, but I can’t seem to grasp his perspective right now.

“Fran, what’s the worst that could happen, huh? You don’t do well, so you quit and find something else. Whatever the outcome, every door is leading you to something better, even when it’s a closed one.”

I stare out the dining room window for what seems to be forever. He is right...what am I afraid of? After all, my biggest fear isn’t anything I mentioned. It’s never knowing what could have been if I don’t take a leap of faith into the unknown…

Have you ever been at a crossroads of a major decision? Yup, we all have, so trust me, I know how you feel! Navigating the unknown is the scariest thing for us, so we opt to stay in our comfort zones where we feel safe and sound. However, this is probably one of the most dangerous things we can do to ourselves. Confining ourselves to our comfort zones limits our personal growth and creates a wall between where we are now and what we can achieve.

Research has shown the main reasons why we stay in our comfort zones are that we fear the unknown and fear failure. Well, duh! Who wants to dive into anything without knowing what the end result will be?! I’m going to make an assumption that you’re like me: you prefer to be in control of your situation so that you can prepare for a known outcome. We’re all wired this way and would prefer certainty and familiarity over the contrary.

However, if you think about some of the best things that have happened to you, you’ll note that most of them were things you couldn’t predict or know. Moving forward required you to overcome the fear of the unknown. Maybe for you it was finding a new job you never thought you’d love so much; or falling in love with the person you’re now married to; or moving into a fixer-upper you didn’t know you could transform into a beauty; or starting a business you didn’t expect to be so lucrative. Whatever that “thing” was for you, can you remember how much you tossed the idea around in your mind trying to convince yourself that this was probably not the best move, but you finally gave in? What was it about that “thing” that gave you the courage to move forward?

I can tell you. It was FOMO. Your fear of missing out on what could have turned out to be the best decision you made surpassed your desire to stay in your comfort zone. When you weighed the options, you realized that the worst thing that could happen was the regret of never knowing what could have been. And that was worst than landing the worst job, or dealing with heartbreak, or a business failing, or not building your dream home. Given time, these are all things you can “fix.” But you can’t “fix” time you’ve lost or opportunities you’ve missed out on.

So, if you find yourself at a crossroads as you’re reading this, I challenge you to weigh your options. If being in control is more important to you than the possibility of getting closer to living your best life, then I have to say, I feel sorry for you. But if you’re dying to know what awaits you on the other side, I dare you to take courage, let go and take a leap of faith! After all, courage is not the absence of fear. It is the willingness to continue in spite of your fear.*

*Quote: author unknown.

Each post is named after a fictitious pair of shoes. I chose "slate" because it represents a blank slate. Navigating the unknown can feel so "blank" at times, but we have to be willing to start the journey on a blank slate!