No matter your role or how long you have been in it, we all have situations we would rather avoid. Scenarios can range from taking on a project in which you are not sure you will excel, having a difficult conversation with a client or colleague, or even simply interacting with coworkers in a social setting outside of the workplace. No matter the situation, most would agree that leaving your comfort zone can create the opportunity to flourish professionally, personally, and financially. Yet that comfort zone can be a cozy blanket of security quite difficult to shed!
So how do you become comfortable with the uncomfortable?
Think back to your days as a child; in your neighborhood you may have had a community pool with a diving board that (especially in your youth) seemed about twenty stories tall. And each summer, during swimming lessons, the instructor would force you to you climb those stairs, teeter out to the end of the board, and basically push you off the end. Do you remember how that felt? Your whole being was screaming at you not to do it, because you knew that the inevitable would happen and you were most certainly going to plunge to your death. As you fell for what seemed like eternity, suddenly you would hit the water and have the realization that you had survived and, in fact, it was not that bad at all.
As children, our parents or our swimming instructors or our teachers were obligated to give us a gentle nudge over the edge. Embrace the fact that now, you are the only one who can take that leap of faith. We know how the story continues with those summers at the swimming pool; you throw yourself off the diving board once, and then realize that it’s pretty fun and you actually enjoy proving to yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to. You then jump off enough times repeatedly that it’s no longer an intimidating challenge. So, the first step? Embrace what makes you uncomfortable; professional growth comes from new experiences and often distressing ones.
If you want something in life that you have never had, you will likely have to do something that you have never done. However, knowing what needs to be done and understanding what is holding you back from doing it are two different tasks. It might be completely evident to you what the looming task or situation is; what you may not be able to immediately recognize is why you’re feeling the way you are. What is it about the situation that is triggering the feeling of fear?
More than likely, it is a fear of failure or a fear of not being good enough. Simply summarized, most paralyzing situations stem from one of those two roots. Reflect on the uncomfortable scenario you envisioned when first reading the opening paragraph of this article; would you agree that the underlying originating fear is one of those two roots?
When you start listening to the doubts of yourself and others, the voice in your head becomes a breeding ground for negativity. People will always have an opinion. Understanding that those people are entitled to their own thoughts, yet disassociating yourself from those opinions, is an important step in moving passed any fear of being judged.
Coach To It
As comedian George Carlin stated, “If you’re looking for self-help, why would you read a book written by somebody else? That’s not self-help, that’s help!” In short, let go of the need to try to solve your challenging situations all by yourself! When faced with a situation that seems overwhelming, seek out an individual who you respect in terms of their ability to handle similar situations. Ask for guidance; pursue coaching from a more veteran individual or perhaps even role play in order to make the foreign seem less intimidating.
If we acknowledge that people’s words and perceptions of us can actually shape our own beliefs about ourselves, identify someone who can provide positive mentorship and feedback as you work through whatever it is that is creating the intimidating environment. In time, positive reinforcement can be the catalyst for courage.
Act On It
At some point, you must make the choice to step off the high dive. The battle is half won by that small step! If needed, “fake it until you make it” and simply pretend to be confident. When you have come through to the other side, you will likely realize that it was not as bad as you thought it would be, and you are proud of yourself. Remember that fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.
To make change a constant and not a singular event, consider investing in your own personal and professional growth and well-being. Go ahead and get the membership to the gym that you have talked about for months, research therapists or personal coaches and sign up for an exploratory conversation, book the vacation you’ve been wanting to go on, splurge on a massage, or ask others for suggestions of personal development books they have enjoyed – the key is to act on something! If you are not taking the necessary steps to have a plan for personal and professional growth, the road ahead may not seem so uplifting.
We all have the right to live our best life; anything else is mediocre – and none of us were put in the roles we are in to simply be mediocre.