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Tackling the Fear Zone of “I Can’t”

By Maureen Atkinson July 11, 2023 Mindset

Have you ever had a great idea about something new you wanted to try or place you wanted to go and then immediately thought, “I can’t possibly do that.”?

We are very creative with our excuses; what are your go-tos? “I’m too old,” “I was never agile,” “What will they think of me…!” are the most common excuses. If they’ve been a constant for you, congratulations, you are at the Comfort Zone.

Comfort zone from positive psychology

This graphic from says it all. We do not get to the Learning Zone or the Growth Zone because our fear pushes us back into that Comfort Zone where we feel safe and in control. Often that is what happens when we enter the Fear Zone. So let’s talk about fear.

One of the biggest barriers to growing in your 60s is getting past that Fear Zone (the fear of failure). There is a high correlation between perfectionism and fear which makes learning and growing even more challenging for those of us who have these tendencies. Something that often goes hand in hand with fear of failure is procrastination. Sound familiar?

Five Tips for Overcoming Fear of Failure

Here are five quick tips for dealing with fear of failure thanks to a Positive Psychology blog – How to Overcome Failure: Your Ultimate Guide.

  1. Cultivate a growth mindset – this is all about reframing failure as a path to growth.
  2. Build the failure muscle in a safe space by trying new things like a new hobby such as learning a musical instrument, or drawing. Enjoy the process of failing but failing better each time.
  3. Choose icons – recall famous people who had a great attitude towards failure – a famous one is Thomas Edison who said it wasn’t that he had failed a lot, he just found 10,000 ways not to create a light bulb.
  4. Learn from a toddler learning to walk – they fall and get up and then fall again. What do we do when we see them? We encourage them and help them. Do you give yourself this same encouragement when you stumble and fall?
  5. See failure as a teacher and one step towards growth. When you fail, ask yourself what you can learn from this and how you can do better the next time.

Pushing into the Growth Zone

One great exercise that I have done before is writing my obituary. What is your legacy? Do you really want it to be about how you played it safe all your life? Try it. Definitely an eye-opener.

Another way to getting beyond the Fear Zone is to surround yourself with people who regularly challenge themselves. My late husband really challenged me to do things that scared me. From making a speech in front of a large audience to going on an African safari, he encouraged me to take risks. Sometimes when I experience fear, I ask myself “What would John tell me to do?”

As a culture, we have a lot to learn from failure. If we avoid failure at all costs, we lose our opportunity to do the great things that we can do. This is especially true as we age and think that we are not capable of changing. Wrong!

Now is the best time of our lives as we have the experience and time to do great things or at the very least have lots of fun. The best time to take our space in the Learning Zone and the Growth Zone.

Here is a blog that I wrote about an experience way out of my comfort zone called African Adventure – Fight or Flight Response. This experience pushed me well into the Learning Zone and Growth Zone.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are there parts of your life such as your health or your friendships where you stick close to your Comfort Zone? Do you have successful strategies to push past your Fear Zone? Are there people in your life who are great at pushing you beyond your fears into your Learning Zone?

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I lost my husband of 34 years at the end of October, 2022. We were very active, dancing, hiking, biking …. travelling. Now I am 71.5 yrs of age, living in an area I do not particularly like – it was never meant to be our permanent place, but Covid and cancer played a role. Now I am on my own and wondering if I can step out of my comfort zone and possibly sell my current home and purchase a new one in an area that offers more activities that I like – mountains, more trails, closer to one of my brothers in law and his family. This article came at a timely moment for me as I have been thinking about the future, but know the rule of thumb is not to make major decisions in the first year of a loss. My husband and I never talked about what I would do after he was no longer here. Its been a very difficult time for the past 2.5 years with cancer, death and now a new phase of life.

Maureen Atkinson

Bailey, no one can know what you are going thought but when I read you comment, I really identified with you. My husband passed away in September 2021. The loss was devastating. We shared so much. Going into ‘widowhood’ really forces you involuntarily out of your comfort zone. You have already faced a lot but maybe now is the time when you think about stepping out even further into this new phase of your life. I really wish you all the best.


All the best Bailey, you got this. Blessings

Marcia R Corenman

I have pushed myself out of the fear zone so many times in the last 10 years I don’t know where to begin…I gave myself a six week walk on the Camino de Santiago for my 60th birthday. Since then I’ve been to over 75 countries and made friends the world over.

I also took up golf, ballroom dancing, volunteering, singing in a chorus and enjoy attending theater and concerts regularly. My life is very full and I even took a chance on marriage again. That could have been rated a ‘failure’ but I’m on the other side of that in a new community and home enjoying all the possibilities again.

I’m now coming up on my 71st birthday and 10 years ago when I took my first step on The Camino I never imagined how my life would change, how I would grow…My friends all thought I was so courageous at the time. I didn’t understand why they thought that but now I do. They had Limiting Beliefs that placed them firmly in the ‘comfort zone’ stuck there by their fears of taking the first step.

Not everyone needs to take a six week hike but everyone needs to step out and put one foot in front of the other to somewhere new. The world is not a scary place, it’s truly magical!

Maureen Atkinson

Marcia – I can only say WOW. You really prove that once you get through the Fear Zone a few times, you really take off!! Learning and growing all the way.

The Author

Maureen Atkinson is Founder of Lifeshiift, an online community that supports women in their third act to live healthy vibrant lives. An active role model, she inspires members that age should not limit new experiences and adventures through her speaking, blogs, and videos. You can reach Maureen at

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