This is the second part of a short series on how to go about pushing your comfort zone and trying new stuff. Last week we looked at why it’s a good idea to leave your comfort zone. This week we’re exploring the relationship between leaving a comfort zone and fear of the new; how our fear of getting it wrong can hold us back, and how to move past it.
Last week I told you about how I decided to move past my belief that I was No Good at Sport, and chose to enter the Bristol 10k. I recognised that I had a belief that was limiting me and set myself a goal to help challenge it. But what happened next? Which of these two stories do you think is more true?
Story 1: Jen organised a training programme and stuck to it. She was at all times completely confident of achieving her goal because she was doing the necessary work. On the day of the race, she found it easy.
Story2: Jen didn’t know where to start. She did some research and found training plans and advice. She tried to follow them, but found it hard work, physically and emotionally. Many times she felt like quitting, and she was terrified of getting it wrong and making a fool of herself. Even on the day of the race, she wasn’t completely certain she’d make it.
Worked out which one is the truth yet? Yep, the second. I was leaving a comfort zone and fear of the new was a major problem for me. I felt scared almost every time I went out to train.
The truth of it is that people stay in their comfort zones because they are, well, comfortable. People like being comfortable. When you try to challenge a belief or behaviour in yourself that you don’t like, you pretty much need to expect it to feel uncomfortable. It may feel odd. It may even feel wrong.
We need to expect it not to feel good. Sometimes you’ll surprise yourself because it will, but more often than not you’re going to be dealing with levels of discomfort.
So we recognise that leaving a comfort zone and fear are very closely related. How do we deal with the discomfort? Here are my five big tips:
1. Make sure you’ve chosen a goal that is challenging but still realistic. I, for example, as a non-runner, did not choose to make the London Marathon my first ever race! I chose something that was not going to be easy, but that was still achievable.
2. Have a plan to follow. Do some research, find out how other people typically go about achieving the goal you’ve set, and then modify that to your own circumstances. I was lucky and found a ready-made training programme that I could adapt easily.
Sometimes planning is trickier, and you may not be sure of all the variables you need to consider. in those situations, sometimes it can help to talk to someone who specialises in planning and reasoning. If you need help with the planning aspect of your goal, contact me and I’ll see if I can help you out, or at least point you in the direction of someone else who can.
3. Have a good support network. I had a friend who was incredibly supportive, and who actually ran the race with me. I also had friends and family helping me find the time to train, and just generally cheering me on. Support isn’t essential, but it sure makes things easier.
4. Accountability. If you are worried you might quit or find excuses to dodge the discomfort of trying the new activity/behaviour, you may want to set some consequences to help you stay on track. For example, a friend may ring you each week to check on progress. Or you might try using Stickk, a new website that was created to help people stick with their goals.
5. Be kind to yourself. Recognise that sometimes your ‘lizard brain’ (limbic system) is going to catch up with you and cause you to feel panicked. Just keep breathing, remember that everything is fine and no one is in imminent danger of dying, and let it pass.
This week, if you haven’t yet chosen a goal for the activity or behaviour you want to try/change, set one! Start working out how you are going to achieve it. Do some research. Set some consequences for bailing out. And start. Setting up your support network. And be kind to yourself.
Image by John Kasawa, FreeDigitalPhotos.net