Recently a client asked me how to tell the difference between the natural anxiety a person has when they’re moving forward into something new and the gut instinct that something is truly wrong for them.  Good question, right?

And the answer is: I don’t think you can tell the difference.  At least not right away.

Both of those feelings are so profoundly uncomfortable that it’s easy to see why some people stay stuck in the familiar.  As my wise friend Amy Ahlers once told me, “If you are out of your comfort zone, you can expect to feel uncomfortable.”

I think the only solution is to take a few deep breaths, recognize that discomfort is part of change and then take a few small, manageable steps toward the new thing.  Then you can look around and see how it all feels: are you feeling supported and excited?  Are unexpected angels conspiring to help you?  Are you enjoying yourself?  Or are there roadblocks and potholes and feelings of wrongness?

Only once you have taken a few steps into the unknown territory can you determine if you should keep going or not.  You can’t tell from where you are.

But do not underestimate how very uncomfortable it can feel to start to play in a bigger arena, to put your self out there, to begin a new work.  You will feel vulnerable, afraid and very….exposed.  And here’s what’s worse: no one will give you credit for your bravery.  They will just sort of assume that it must be easy for you to publish, to perform, to create, to change your world.  Because that’s just how cool you are.

(And also notice that you make that assumption, too.  When your friend releases a new CD of original songs or mounts a gallery show or puts up their Etsy shop, you don’t automatically think of all the blood, sweat and tears they must have poured out to accomplish that work.  You just think, “Oh.  Cool.  They did that.”  So maybe next time give them a bit of a pat on the back, nu?)

You must hold your own hand, talk yourself off of whatever ledges you find yourself on, reward yourself with lots of treats, surround yourself with a few compatriots who will acknowledge your efforts and then…keep walking.

Pay attention to the foreboding feeling in your belly, but don’t let it make your decisions for you, OK?