If your future doesn’t terrify you, you’re doing it wrong

Last Saturday, more than 1,400 students graduated from Regent University. All those seemingly endless hours of hard work finally culminated in hundreds of small but significant moments, when a diploma was passed into each student’s hands. Having two years of undergrad left to complete myself, I can only imagine how thrilling the experience must have been. But I can bet there was a good amount of anxiety mixed in as well. Right now, many of those graduates are asking themselves what is probably one of the hardest questions to answer: now what do I do?

If you are one of these graduates, the answer might mean searching for or starting a new job. Some of you will go to grad school, while others will take a different route entirely. At each turn, however, the real world is looming before you, waiting for you to step foot in it. That can be pretty scary.

Many who are still in school likely feel similarly about their future. They feel as though they still don’t have their lives figured out or are unprepared to set out into the job field. They might be nervous about a new summer job or internship or volunteer opportunity—the sort of thing that keeps you awake at night, on edge about what comes next.

But let’s get one thing straight . . . it’s perfectly normal to feel uneasy when thinking about your career path. In fact, this sort of thing should scare you.

I don’t mean that you should spend every waking minute worrying about your future. That’s not in any way healthy. And if you’re excited about what’s in store for you, all the better!  But stepping into something bigger and better will always feel a bit nerve wracking. We all experience it—whether a newbie college grad or a seasoned professional, taking that next step is frightening. Yet that’s what it takes to grow in anything, whether professionally or personally or spiritually. We have to step into the unknown, the terrifying, the extraordinary. To do anything less is to settle into complacency and remain stagnant. We have to keep moving forward.

Doing so will often take us far out of our comfort zone. That’s why these things scare us so much. But like a hobbit leaving his hole for a grand adventure, what lies outside will always be better. And you can bet you won’t return the same as when you left.

Whenever I find myself nervous about taking that next step, I remind myself of Steven Pressfield’s words in his book The War of Art:

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

So if you’re terrified of what the future holds, chances are you’re on the threshold of success. All you have to do is dive in. Don’t listen to the fear in your head. The only time you should listen to it is to confirm that you are in fact moving into something bigger. And remember, if it’s easy, it’s probably not worth doing. Always be advancing, always be reaching for more. What’s next might be scary, but it’ll also be much deeper and fulfilling than where you were before.