I always think of myself as someone who doesn’t like change. I like to hang out in familiar places. I like to spend time with people I know well. I like to eat the same things every day. Basically, I am a big fan of familiarity.
For a long time I believed that this was just an intrinsic part of my personality. When friends would ask me to go out, I would laugh and say I was a homebody. When faced with the daunting task of networking, I would avoid people who could potentially help me, just because I was too shy to talk about myself and my ambitions. I thought that this was just the way I was, and for a long time, I was happy with my low-risk habits.
But then something started happening. I started to wonder whether I was missing out on opportunities because I was afraid. I had all of these vague goals that I wanted to accomplish, but I wasn’t taking any steps to achieve them. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that I was letting my life pass me by.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable
I knew that if I wanted to move forward, I needed a plan. And the plan turned out to be quite simple. I needed to add things to my life that made me uncomfortable.
And so I did. I started volunteering, I began to speak to people about their career trajectories, I got in touch with old friends, I committed to doing ballet twice a week. To you, these tasks may seem objectively easy, but to me at that time, they made me incredibly nervous.
These little steps alone were not monumental, but together they injected a bit of momentum back into my life. I recently watched a Bill Eckstrom Ted Talk, who compellingly re-affirmed everything that I was feeling. He believes that what makes you comfortable can ruin you, and that only in a state of discomfort can you continually grow. Even though I wish he wasn’t, I know that he’s right.
Learning a new skill set can be overwhelming, but this growth stage is essential in moving forward.
So here I am, incredibly busy in a new job (which I love but makes me nervous often), seeing friends, volunteering, playing sports, organizing tennis leagues, the list goes on! Yet no matter how tired I get, I go to bed every night knowing that I'm moving forward.
Tips for staying balanced in an unbalanced time
If you, like me, are starting a new, uncomfortable stage of your life, here are some tips that I’ve found helpful.
1. Find mentors. This is not the time to be a know-it-all, or too proud to ask for help. When you’re moving forward and leaving your comfort zone, try and find people who can help you get used to your new environment. Ask loads of questions, be curious, and be grateful for the time that they spend with you. Gratitude can go a long way.
2. Take some time to relax. If you’re starting a new job, school program or something that’s making you nervous, take breaks from the discomfort. You need to let yourself recharge so that you’re ready to face the next day in a positive frame of mind. (Feel free to check out Anna’s great Mindful Me-Time blog for some top notch tips)
3. Remember why you chose discomfort. In my own experience, I remember the times when I didn’t have enough going on. Being mentally and physically inactive made even the smallest tasks seem daunting. Now that I’m busy and feel like I don’t have a second to spare, I try and feel proud of all the things I’ve added to my routine.
4. Take care of yourself. Eat right to keep your energy up and drink enough water. I know this seems obvious, but it is essential to success! When you’re learning something new or adjusting to a new schedule, you are expending way more energy and brain power than in your former neutral routine. Prioritize your health, because if can be the difference between feeling run down and feeling ready for whatever challenge arises.
5. Find moments to laugh and lighten the mood. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when trying something new. Be able to laugh at your own expense and embrace the moments of levity. Trust me, this helps, a lot. Laugh, take a breath, smile, keep going.
All this to say that little consistent steps forward can significantly change your life for the better. Be brave even though it's tough to put yourself out there. Try new things, and be open to everything the world has to offer you.