You’re standing at the front of the room, aware that every pair of eyes is on you. Palms clenched and sweaty, your heart thuds so hard it will crash out of your rib cage. You open your mouth to begin your presentation, but just a breath of air leaves your lips. You want to die to escape, but then you remember a horrible, universal truth.
Fear itself kills no one.
Never be afraid to leave your comfort zone. When I gave my first presentation in front of two hundred people, all strangers, I did an excellent job of bombing it. I could blame it on the fact that I hadn’t been properly informed about the audience – the material I presented wasn’t challenging enough and they complained it was too simple. Throughout the painful, 3600 second duration of my talk, I could feel impatient eyes pushing me off the stage. I wanted to do what they asked, to escape, but their dislike alone couldn’t make me melt under the spotlight and die. The comments I received on the feedback forms afterward I would never frame on my wall, but I don’t regret the experience. It has become my war story about how I spoke while on hostile territory and survived.
When you get uncomfortable, you grow.
Humans can live through a lot of things, and with each experience, we stretch that elastic band that defines our comfort zone. I redefined the boundaries of mine when I gave that work presentation. I fear bombing a presentation a lot less because I’ve told myself that it’ll never be that bad ever again.
A little bit of anxiety = a little bit of adventure.
If you’re considering leaving your comfort zone, you should start with something small, like changing your routine to or from work. Instead of taking the main road, take a detour down a neighbourhood to check out the types of buildings and people that are there. Instead of keeping to the sidewalk, venture into the corner store to discover what they sell. Don’t let metathesiophobia – fear of change – get the better of you. Get uncomfortable, by just a bit at a time.
Fear of the unknown, fear of disappointment, and fear of failure are just three phobias that prevent people from trying something new.
Fear of the unknown can be terrifying. If you look down a long, dark tunnel, and cannot see the end of it, you may not venture in. What if there’s a beast living deep inside? What if entering that tunnel causes you to lose ten years of your life for every minute you spend in it?
But what if I told you that anyone who enters the tunnel will have one of their dreams granted after they reach the other side? Would you enter then?
Take chances and leave that zone of comfort.
Traveling to a new country used to be out of my comfort zone. I was taking a job in a country I’d never been to, in a city where I didn’t speak the language, and the only person I knew would be a friend from my home city. I chose to leave my comfort zone because I needed a job that paid well, but more importantly, my friend was going to leave me to live in a place where I’d never been. I didn’t want to be apart from him, and if he were going with me, I wouldn’t be alone.
The adventure didn’t quite turn out the way I had intended. My papers came through more quickly and I ended up in Tokyo, Japan, before he did. I was in a city of strangers, armed with only a few weeks of Japanese lessons. My assessment of the situation: highly uncomfortable.
Time passed. He joined me eventually, after I was settled in. Then I got homesick and left, and an ocean separated us for many years after that. Long distance phone calls became more sporadic, and ten years later, when we were reunited, we were strangers struggling to complete a conversation. My fear had come true – our friendship had fizzled away, but I had no regrets. I wasn’t wondering if our friendship would have lasted if only I’d had the courage to follow him on his travels.
The upside of the experience was that I was more comfortable with visiting new places. Focusing on all the positive of what could happen inspired me to keep trying something new.
Leaving your comfort zone is like learning to walk.
Imagine if all babies in the world never leave the crawling stage because walking is scary. You could fall on your bum. You could sprain a finger. “Walking is hard! I give up! I’ll crawl for the rest of my life!” But at some point even babies decide to take one step at a time to leave their comfort zone and try that new way of moving that’s so efficient. It starts with standing up and putting one foot forward at a time.
Everyday, entrepreneurs try to challenge themselves to do something they haven’t done before. It’s easy to feel safe and secure. However, you attain success only when you change, and only when you change do you grow into a new you.
For me, becoming an entrepreneur was not an overnight process. It involved a lot of slow growth mixed with plenty of setbacks (one step forward, two steps back) before I started to enjoy a smooth ride. Each day now, I get closer to my destination.
So how about it? How will you challenge yourself today?