How to find the courage to step out of your comfort zone

The start of a new year is often a good time to reflect on the year just gone, and to plan for the year ahead.

What did you accomplish in 2014?
What do you wish you had accomplished?
What do you hope to accomplish in 2015?

It’s useful to analyse why you were able to achieve some things, and what stopped you from achieving others. Maybe things happened that were out of your control. But many people find they are blocked by fear, procrastination or lack of self belief.

This article focuses on the internal blocks that prevent you from achieving what you want. By identifying and working through them, you can gain the courage to step outside your comfort zone, and set yourself up for a successful and fulfilling 2015.

Creating a plan

First things first. Here are some questions to help you plan for 2015:

What do you want?
What will it look like when you get it?
What will it do for you?
When, where and with whom do you want it?

Create a timeline that starts with the end date, and add in monthly milestones that are outcome-focused – these ‘baby steps’ will help move you along to achieve your goal.

Identify what or who could get in the way of you achieving this goal, and what you will do about it.  By anticipating and planning how to deal with potential blocks, you are more equipped to overcome them.

“I am not a failure if I don’t make it…I am a success because I tried”

Logical levels – where are you blocked?

The NLP logical levels model (sometimes called neuro-logical levels) was developed by Robert Dilts.  In the context of achieving your goals it can help you identify what your blocks might be, i.e. at what level are they?

  • Identity: Your sense of self, core beliefs and values that define you, built throughout your life and very resilient
  • Belief: Principles that guide your actions, what’s important to you
  • Capability: Skill (both thinking and physical)
  • Behaviour: What you do, and what other people see you do
  • Environment: Place, time and people involved

Here is a sentence that demonstrates all five levels, depending on which word is stressed:

  • Identity: “I can’t do that here”
  • Belief: “I can’t do that here”
  • Capability: “I can’t do that here”
  • Behaviour: “I can’t do that here”
  • Environment: “I can’t do that here

It’s clear which level these statements are from:

You may feel a goal you’ve set yourself will only be successful in specific circumstances, or with particular people. Identify what level you are stuck on – that helps you identify the root cause so you can address it. Brainstorm actions to take, for example, whether you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone, or develop a practical skill.

This links to last month’s article about archetypes (particularly entering the abyss).

“The best way out is always through”
Helen Keller

What is your attitude to decision-making?

Many people are blocked because they are fearful about making the wrong decision, for example, should you take a new job or stay in your old one.

In her book, Feel the fear and do it anyway, Susan Jeffers suggests it is impossible to make a ‘wrong’ decision. Change your attitude to believe that whatever you decide will provide you with benefits. This moves you from being fearful and paralysed to knowing that you will gain – whatever you decide.

Every time you encounter something that forces you to handle it, your self-esteem is raised considerably. You learn to trust that you will survive, no matter what happens. The knowledge that you can handle anything that comes your way is key to allowing yourself to take risks.

Note that you still need to weigh up your options, do research and due diligence, and think about your decision-making criteria (see my article on Models for Decision-Making). But the essence is to have a win-win approach and mindset rather than win-lose.

“Rather than look at what could go wrong, identify the opportunities your options will create”
Susan Jeffers

Five truths about fear

These truths are also from Feel the fear and do it anyway:

  • The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow
  • The only way to get rid of the fear about doing something is to go out…and do it
  • The only way to feel better about myself is to go out…and do it
  • Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else
  • Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness

Finally, here are some useful insights that relate to this topic:

Notice where you feel discomfort and try to identify why. Don’t let it hold you back from taking action. All successful people feel fear, self-doubt and blocks. What sets them apart is that they don’t let it hold them back. You will feel much better about yourself than if you avoid discomfort and stay in your comfort zone.

This links to my article about the power of vulnerability where I explained that social workers are taught to ‘lean in’ to the discomfort of their work. Sheryl Sandberg also advises women to ‘lean in’ to develop their career (Lean In). You may also wish to read my article How to develop your confidence.

“Ships in harbour are safe, but that’s not what ships are built for”
John Shedd

Take action

Stop prevaricating! Put your plan in place, and decide what you will do by the end of January to kickstart your 2015. Remember to celebrate milestones when you achieve them, and let me know how you get on.  I wish you a fantastic and fulfilling 2015!

Next month, we look at how to navigate office politics.

If you found this information useful, please click the social media buttons below, to share a link to this article with your network, and let me know if you’d like more details about this topic.