A few weeks ago, I talked to a colleague I’ve known for several years. We talked about a few projects I’ve been working on, and I stated that I was craving some constructive feedback. All I had been receiving was positive and struggled to squeeze anything constructive out of anyone. She responded, “Maybe you need to challenge yourself a bit more.” ‘Physician, heal thyself’.
I often talk to others about pushing out of their comfort zone in order to change and learn. Perhaps I’ve been in my comfort zone for a while. It’s like she just turned on a really bright light in my cozy den to reveal the bags of Doritos and empty wine bottles sitting around me. (Take that as literal as you wish.)
Okay, so I get it. It’s time to push myself a bit. But what should I do? I decided that the first best step was to write about it. Writing for me is often more catharsis than sharing my story with others. (It turns out writing this piece in itself turned into its own challenge.)
Finding ways to push myself became a bit daunting. How do I know what I need to work on? I love a good model or steps to follow, so I created my own. They may or may not work for you, but if you find it’s time to push yourself, they might help.
Step 1: Get clear on your long-term goals.
What do I need to do? Skydiving or mountain climbing would certainly be well outside of my comfort zone, but they aren’t things I feel I need to do in my life. The first step I realized was to ensure I was clear in my long-term goals. This first step is a great way to ensure alignment in your life every time. Are you doing the things you need to do to get there? For some, this step alone may evoke some discomfort. I have quite a bit of clarity on my long-term goals, so this was good to reflect on and realign.
Step 2: Identify at least three things that would benefit the long-term goals you haven’t yet actioned.
Why haven’t you? Who else could provide perspective? Are you surrounding yourself with a diverse set of folks? This step is helpful, because I guarantee there are things you could be doing that you’re not. Either because you haven’t thought of them, are too afraid of doing them, or don’t see how they might help. Conveniently, I recently talked to another acquaintance about recent projects I’ve been working on for the last few months. He works in a different industry and line of work. He was able to readjust my perspective on a few things through some tough love conversation. It helped me start thinking about new things I need to do to move closer to my long-term goals more effectively.There are several things that I haven’t pushed into, mainly out of avoidance of discomfort.
Step 3: Action one of them!
Like, DO something! Perhaps this new action will require you to learn something new – which can be an act of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Whatever it is, don’t just attend some form of learning – watching a video, reading a book, taking an online course – doesn’t necessarily mean you’re moving forward positively. Real learning requires action, doing something new or different.
Step 4: Plan for failure.
In step 3, you identified what action to take on your goal. Remember, we’re bound to have missteps whenever we try something new. You should expect to fail, but don’t push so hard that you move into panic. There’s a sweet spot where discomfort helps us learn, but if we go too far, it’s counterproductive. As you’re planning to fail, find ways to gather feedback. Who can give you perspective? How will you know what’s successful and what’s not?
Step 5: Iterate.
Good job! You tried something new, and learned from your missteps. Now keep adjusting and working to hone your craft. I’ve seen a few articles that talk about how achieving your goals often means adopting new habits. Perhaps your action was skydiving. In that case maybe it’s not a habit you need to form. But, perhaps the things you identified to action and help achieve your goals are things that would benefit your long-term goals by being habits.
I’m continuing to refine my list of actions. One of them was just writing this piece. Here we are, and I know that I need to continue developing a more regular writing practice. So look out for more of step 5 from me.