Dancing with fear and confidence


When people ask me, “What made you give up skydiving?”, my standard response has evolved into, “The bottle began to outweigh the buzz” – meaning the fear I was feeling began to outweigh the excitement of doing it, and my confidence in being able to avoid a terminally hard landing.

So, I was intrigued when I came across a paper in the Journal of the National Institute for Career Education and Counselling – ‘Mid-life career reinvention: Dancing with fear and confidence.‘ by Laura Walker. Mid-life career reinvention, and leaping out of aeroplanes – similar emotional conflicts?

As a mid-life career changer (or am I? – that’s another article) I’ve experienced the presence and changing amplitudes of fear, excitement, and confidence in career-related decision processes I’ve been through. If you’re a mid-life career changer, it seems likely you’ll experience those emotions too.

Walker’s paper describes the idea of ‘systemic readiness’ for career change and how that readiness is impacted by a dynamic between fear and confidence. Walker also recognises the situational context and personal differences between people that make career change less of a logical decision-making process and more of a process of personal discovery.

Systemic readiness? Interestingly, in this study that involved interviews with 7 career coaches and 7 late-career clients, the dominant need causing concern seemed to be financial security. One client noted, “I did have a lot of weighing up with my coach to do that – I was leaving 18 years of stability, pension, bonus and all that security.”

Need to weigh up your finances before committing to change? A reasonable start is to come along to one of Brave Starts’ online finance surgeries – check out our events page for details.

Systemic readiness is evident in decisions to start a process of discovery around career change, and to mobilise any transition resulting from that discovery process. A combination of factors can prompt us to enter a career decision making process, and a combination of factors need to be in place for us to make any change that seems attractive to us.

Moderating our systemic readiness is often the interplay between fear, excitement, and confidence. One of Walker’s study participants likened the experience to, “…being a hermit crab that needs to move into a new shell…you take a deep breath and emerge…then you scuttle into the new shell…”.

Walker describes fear and confidence as co-existing and growing and declining at different paces and switching in their dominance – the metaphor of dance partners works well.

At Brave Starts we don’t believe in one solution to career change that fits all people. We work in supportive groups to help choreograph your dance with the career change discovery and transition process. Whether you think you want to be a dog walker or a skydiving instructor, we’ll try to help you towards a soft landing.


Walker, L. (2019). Mid-life career reinvention: dancing with fear and confidence. Journal for the National Institute for Career Education and Counselling. Issue 43.

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