How often do you deliberately put yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable?
As human beings we are creatures of habit and in our working life we tend to love routine, patterns and someone else making the decisions. But as entrepreneurs that flies in the face of our independent and spontaneous spirit. After all, when you’re running your own business, you are calling the shots, making the choices and pushing the boundaries. So why then, when the dust has settled and the initial wave of setting up our own business has faded, do we all too often slip back into a steady comfortable routine?
Are you playing it safe?
If you are doing what you have done before, and not progressing to the next level that you know you’re capable of, then you’re in the ‘playing it safe category’. If you make excuses to justify why you’re not pushing yourself and the boundaries of your work, then you’re in the ‘playing it safe category’. If you’re not allowing anyone to challenge your assumptions or your way of thinking, then yep, you’ve guessed it, you’re in the ‘playing it safe category’. When you play it safe there is no growth, no rewards and stagnation sets in.
Setting up a business isn’t always easy, we know that for sure. But after a period of time, most of us eventually become comfortable with that feeling that we’ve all experienced. You know what I am talking about, feeling terrible and frustrated at the same time, along with being downright scared. Second guessing yourself all the time, suddenly being unable to make a decision on a simple thing like the design of your business card. Yes, I’ve been there too!
All is not lost!
Before you start beating yourself up for not making the kind of progress you were aiming for this month, this quarter or this year, there is a lot you can do to rediscover your spark and the determination to really make the best of your business.
It’s all about taking deliberate and regular steps to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. Now, these can be small or large steps but the important thing is to keep challenging yourself in new ways. The top business leaders, gurus and professionals take calculated risks, they don’t take any old risk, they think about the risk, they weigh up the pros and cons and take the emotion out of the equation. Often they talk to people whose opinions they respect and then they make a decision. Although nothing is set in stone and being flexible is vital, they don’t dither once a decision is made, they’re firm in their conviction and they get on with it.
Noted American psychologist, educator and self-help expert Dr Martin Seligman once said:
It’s not our failures that determine our future success, but how we explain them to ourselves.
So ask yourself this question:
‘If you knew you could handle the outcome, no matter what it was, what actions might you take that you are not taking now?’
Rocking it out!
In one of her last shows, Oprah Winfrey said that when she looks back at the picture of her 5 year old self, she could never have known what lay in front for her. She was happy reading, going to school and playing with her friends. She wanted in fact to be a school teacher. The young Oprah, never thought she would be one of the most successful, loved and respected women in the world. If we don’t let our setbacks and mistakes define us, and recognise that taking a risk doesn’t lead to failure, then like Oprah we might just find that the world stage becomes our classroom.
What does amazing look like?
It starts with a feeling of trepidation and nervousness in the pit of your stomach, mixed with a lightening bolt of excitement. Despite the way you feel, as you oscillate between fear and jubilation, your heart pushes you forward and you:
- Try new things like a sport or hobby. When you attempt something new, you expand your vision, your brain creates new neural networks – so you really are never the same again.
- Make bold choices and take smart risks – it’s ok to talk them through with someone you trust e.g. a business coach or a friend whose opinion you really value.
- Proactively change your thoughts. The best remedy for removing fear is taking action. It’s ok to feel nervous and when you feel nerves getting the better of you, draw upon your arsenal of positive thoughts and affirmations. Repeat them over and over again and feel the anxiety slipping away; don’t let fear win.
- Visualise getting to the next level of your business success.
- Encourage people to challenge your thinking, as changing your mindset is one of the biggest hurdles you will face. My business coach often challenges my thinking and makes me stop and reconsider my world view, in a way that helps me stay motivated and determined.
And if I’m still struggling for inspiration, I sometimes turn to the words of one of my favourite authors and leadership experts Robin Sharma, who says (among other things) in his ‘Rules for Being Amazing’:
– Risk more than normal
– Learn more than is required
– Speak your truth
– Shatter your limits
– Aim for genius
– Stay humble
– Act now; change the world!
Stepping outside your comfort zone is not supposed to be easy and it doesn’t always feel good, even after you’ve taken that leap into the unknown. But it’s also true, that as human beings we exaggerate in our own minds, how uncomfortable an experience might be before we have even tried it. We are too often afraid to leave the safety of familiar challenges and experiences but as business people it’s very important to push these boundaries and face our fears head on. In time, you will probably find yourself looking back and wondering what you were ever so afraid of!
Let me know in the comments below, if you would like to share your thoughts on moving outside your comfort zone!