Does this sound familiar… A month has gone, perhaps a year, and the same hard thing is staring at you at the top of your to-do list? You might be wondering why it’s so hard to make hard things happen? And the worst part is that the hard things aren’t even that hard physically, it’s the mindset change that is difficult to overcome.
Isn’t it just so much easier to stay in the comfort zone and to do the things you are good at? We are supposed to focus on our strengths, aren’t we! But whilst we are building on the things we are instinctively good at – our natural talents – we still have to keep expanding ourselves to go forward. And to do this we either have to learn new things to complement our strengths or we can team up with people who posses those abilities.
The latter sounds very attractive and might be the best way forward, but it’s not always the most realistic option. Do you have lots of extra cash to spend and hire a fabulous team who can sort out all of those uncomfortable questions? Or perhaps you are so talented and known in your area of expertise that people are going to willingly give up their time to team up with you? Yeah, right… and back to square one. The only way forward is to learn new skills and do things that are difficult.
The difficult thing about hard is that we have an image of perfection in our minds.
On one hand the vision can drive you towards bettering yourself, but on the other hand it can prevent you from getting started because the image just isn’t at all realistic and thus so out of reach.
Hard things don’t happen because there’s too great of a gap between where we would like to be (= the image of perfection) and the reality of now; and our own refusal to fill in the gap, to do the work. Our own refusal to travel the journey.
And why push the boat out to the stormy sea?
It’s more fun to do the stuff you know. You get praised, you are admired. Your ego is being stroked on a daily basis! But when you try something that’s hard it most likely isn’t going to be a big success at first. And it’s difficult to know even where to start.
Fear of failure keeps us paralysed and firmly docked at the port.
But nobody knows it all. When we see a person who’s really good at a topic we instantly assume she’s really fantastic in everything she does. Well that’s simply not the case. We all know our own craft, but for all the other stuff, we are all beginners! To learn new things you must expose yourself to potential failure and even occasional ridicule.
1) Success depends on what you want
Fear of failure only exists inside our own heads. There really is no audience. Nobody is watching you. Nobody is checking on you if you do things ‘perfectly’. And one woman’s perfect is another woman’s failure anyway as we all want different things from life.
When me and Jennifer sat at the empty room two years ago, it wasn’t our greatest triumph, and someone could have seen it as a failure, someone might even have ridiculed us, but for us that evening gave us evidence of our own determination.
It’s best to define your own success and give up feeling shame because of setbacks.
2) Try new things little by little
I was terrified when we started DrivenWoman just over two years ago. It was completely outside of my comfort zone. It was also something quite different to what I was known for in my professional circles. I felt I had to explain myself to my former colleagues and friends.
The way I got over it was by taking small but determined steps. I was exposing myself one little bit at a time. First starting the blog. Then doing the first event. Then starting with social media. And so on. I felt like I was doing human experiments on myself, like I was conditioning myself to a new drug, a drug called ‘what am I really capable off’. And that, my dear sisters, is the best drug of all!
3) Label it research
The trick is not to let your hard thing paralyse you. Once you chopped it up to smaller chunks simply think about going into the unknown as exploring. Label it research. Make it into a project. Call your project ‘How Many Times It Takes To Be Rejected To Succeed’ or ‘Two Steps Forward And One Step Back’ or ‘I’m A Newbie And I Like It’. Think of yourself as a scientist trying new chemical experiments in her lab!
4) Accept failure
Accept that you will fail. Think of the first 10 or 20 sales calls/ interviews/ tweets/ blog posts/ what ever hard things you are trying to do … as a practise run. Accept rejection and set backs as part of the process and give up unrealistic dream of perfection from the start. Start where you are, not where you would like to be!
I’ve given up shame, I’ve given up trying to guess where other people put their bar every day and if I fit their image of success. I’m walking my own path and I’m free to learn from things I find hard. Exploring my capabilities daily has become hugely motivating for me and deeply personal. I don’t want to waste my life worrying about someone else’s opinions and agendas when I have my own fabulous life to live! I’m also blessed to have found a group of fantastic, driven women who occasionally fail at hard things around me to provide a realistic benchmark.
Take the first step, do the hard thing. Push the boat out of the calm, cosy harbour. Once you’ve found the courage to start sailing it will soon turn into your comfort zone. Rinse and repeat. Becoming life’s eternal student is so much fun!