Last month I attended the gala finale of a group of fledgling public speakers. The evening was the culmination of six months of intensive workshops, self-reflection and various challenges. I was one of the helpers who soothed them before they took to the stage and greeted their friends and family who were there to support them.
Before the evening started most of them looked a bit pale, sweaty and anxious. Afterwards they all looked triumphant, smiley and buoyant. Their energy fizzed, the room buzzed and each one looked like they could conquer the world.
I think we all recognise the feelings of well-being and achievement that we experience after a comfort zone stretch. I’ve had it after performing at a big, important gig and after I spoke at Speakers’ Corner—what a rush! Somehow we find the courage to do something a bit scary that we’re not sure we can pull off. Then, when it all works out we feel amazing! That high can last for days afterwards.
And yet, most of us don’t push ourselves that far very often. It all comes back to ‘pale, sweaty and anxious’. We’ll do anything to avoid those panicky feelings that come with the imminent stretch of a comfort zone. So most people don’t grow very much, or very often.
It’s all about risk-reward. The more we practise risking failure, humiliation or whatever it is we fear, the more we get used to feeling uncomfortable. And actually, being ‘at ease with feeling uneasy’ dramatically increases our rate and speed of success and growth.
- What are you willing to risk?
e.g. looking like an idiot, falling flat on your face (figuratively or literally), being rejected, not being perfect, coming 2nd or 3rd (as opposed to 1st), appearing vulnerable…
- What might the rewards be?
e.g. freedom, growth, promotion, self-expression, connection, impact, influence…
- How might you feel after you’ve achieved this stretch of your comfort zone?
e.g. relieved, elated, buoyed, unstoppable, like a super-hero!
- With those potential rewards in mind, what’s one step you can take towards that big comfort zone stretch?
- How might you stretch yourself regularly, so you become accustomed to feeling uncomfortable, knowing the outcome will be worth it?
Do let me know how you get on.