It seems that the older I get, the more risk averse I become, particularly as it relates to my health and safety, and that of my family. So over the holidays, when I had a chance to go snow-skiing for the first time, I was hesitant. "What if I get hurt?" and "What if I don't make it back down the mountain?" were among the many questions I asked myself.
While I know many people who enjoy skiing, I was not so sure this was something I should try. However, maybe because I was embarking on the start of a new year, and a new decade, or maybe because I wanted to set an example for my child, I decided to at least try it before I completely wrote off the activity.
Surprisingly, as I learned and became more comfortable, I actually enjoyed skiing. With that in mind, and with the start of a new year — when many are considering what they want to accomplish both personally and professionally — I am sharing some thoughts about stepping out of your comfort zone.
Take Lessons. With skiing, one of the first things I learned was the importance of lessons. After spending time with an instructor learning some of the fundamentals of skiing, I began to feel more comfortable.
The lessons cemented my understanding that when undertaking anything new, it is important to spend time with others who are more experienced. Listening to their tips and tricks and asking questions better prepares us for the task at hand. This obviously applies to our professional lives, as well. While it can be uncomfortable to take on a new task for the first time, learning from those who have done it before positions us for greater success than we have on our own.
Seek Encouragement. I also was fortunate to have an instructor who encouraged me to do more than I felt comfortable doing on my own. Again, the fear of falling and hurting myself led me to want to go very slow and not try more advanced techniques. However, spending time with someone who challenged me to push myself allowed me to progress more quickly than I would have on my own. Further, knowing that if I fell, my instructor would help me get back up, provided additional encouragement that I needed.
Translating this experience to our professional lives, as we look to grow in our careers, it is important to surround ourselves with people who push us to do more than we would on our own. Often, others see more potential in us than we see in ourselves. These are the people who are instrumental in helping us reach new milestones.
If you don't have someone like this in your professional life today, begin seeking such a person out and building a relationship with him or her. In the future, as you reflect, you will likely see that this person was one of your biggest cheerleaders along the way.
If you fall, keep trying. Not surprisingly, while skiing I did fall more times than I care to count. I also had one particularly bad face plant. What I learned, fortunately, is the actual falls were not as bad as I had built them up to be.
When taking on anything new, there may be bumps and challenges along the way. However, those bumps are part of the journey and make the eventual accomplishment that much more rewarding. Also, similar to my experience, the bumps may not be as dreadful as we expected and frequently are the best learning experiences.
As we wrap up another year, it is an opportunity to reflect on the things that we have accomplished and what we want to accomplish in the year to come. With the start of a new year and a new decade, embrace opportunities to do things that may push you outside your comfort zone — both personally and professionally.
Stepping outside your comfort zone will undoubtedly help you grow and build new skills. And like me, you may actually enjoy it.