One step at a time… In developing your career, often development is synonymous with growth – and growth, with discomfort. Just like youthful “growing pains”, any personal growth can be uncomfortable and force us to endure new experiences that are unknown or simply go against the grain of our upbringing and perhaps individual personality. The thing is, to embrace the discomfort, as it is more of a cyclical thing, rather than something that is overcome once and then goes away.
I have had opportunity over the years to acknowledge those who do break down their own personal barriers to succeed. In fact, “getting uncomfortable” is one of my catchcries – for those who want to succeed in their chosen career or in any endeavour for that matter. One area that springs to mind when thinking of comfort zones, is public speaking. Ranked behind death and divorce as one of the most stressful and feared things, public speaking – if done well, can be a boon to a career, or something that may hold you back if you fear and choose to avoid it.
I recall early on in my career, when working in the insurance industry, I applied for a promotion. The job asked for a small amount of speaking to groups of life insurance agents. I wasn’t too sure about this, having only done a little bit of speaking at school, but bravely (or was it false bravado…?) said that I would be happy to “give it a go”. As it turned out, the role required very little speaking. Whew, got out of that one!
However, my next job required a lot of it. I went to work in corporate relations and adult education for the Australian Stock Exchange. Deciding that I had better brush up on my skills, I enlisted the help of Toast Masters Inc., a world wide group that helps people develop public speaking skills. Although not counting myself amongst the ranks of the “morning persons” of the world, I attended fortnightly meetings which required getting up and out at an ungodly hour of the morning, which I continued for four years (uurgh…discomfort!) I remember the first few meetings where my voice and knees would shake in sympathy with each other. And, the idea of critiquing the presentations of other speakers…? – forget it! But, over time, I got better and began to contribute to other people’s development as well as my own. Needless to say, my speaking skills improved, and I was able to hone my craft as my work increasingly demanded that I give presentations, lectures and the like.
Many years hence, I find myself, in my newly chosen career, in front of a group of 35 rugby players. I had spoken hundreds of times, to sometimes hundreds of people. But, something about 35 blokes all dressed in blue training shirts had me thrown. Again, for some reason, I again felt out of my comfort zone, far away from corporate, public audience I was used to, and into the realm of professional sport. But persisting and pushing through the discomfort, I got there…and no doubt provided some amusement for my audience along the way! E. James Rohn, philosopher and business educator once said “don’t wish it was easier, wish that you were better.” Good point James. Get uncomfortable. Get comfortable with getting uncomfortable.
Over time you will improve and adapt. You will become more comfortable with being uncomfortable, growth will occur and you will get better at what you practice. So, enjoy the process – perhaps affording yourself some comforts along the way, as a reward for pushing through the discomfort!