Fear holds us all back, both personally and professionally. As we get older we seek comfort, or status quo, and we are willing to compromise ourselves to keep it. The more comfortable we are, the more likely we are to accept things that are just not right. This applies not only to our personal life, but just as much to your business life.
The more comfortable we get, the more we start to make mental calculations about situations, like being in a job we hate or in a relationship that has run its course. When we start to think 'It's easier to stay in this job, even though I hate it' or 'I'm retiring in ten years so why leave now?' or 'I'm not happy in this relationship but it's easier to stay in it than find someone else', our alarm bells need to start ringing.
I am not suggesting that you should throw in your job at the drop of a hat, but you should be honest with yourself and ask why you are staying if you really don't enjoy what you do or the company you are working for?
The same applies to relationships. We all know they take work, there are ups and downs and challenges, but sometimes a relationship simply runs its course and needs to end. I met a married couple recently who live in the same house but have completely separate lives, right down to different bedrooms. They both date other people and, in reality, they don't even like each other any more. They say the charade is for the sake of their children who they don't want to put through the distress of a divorce. Really?
A divorce can be devastating with long-term effects. But is it really better to stay together, living a lie? What kind of message does this send the children about loving relationships and honesty? Wouldn't they prefer to see their mother and father happy? The truth is that this couple is too comfortable in the scenario they have created, despite its difficulties. It is easier to stay with what they know than to leave and face the unknown and start a new life.
As human beings we learn to get comfortable in even the most unusual and unfulfilling situations, mainly because we have certainty in staying where we are. It can be incredibly scary to break away, to make the changes and to get uncomfortable, but once you do, you can start to feel the blood pumping through your veins again and your passion for life coming back.
Do you remember the fairytale about the princess and the pea? The queen hides a pea under a pile of mattresses to see if it causes the princess discomfort, as a test to see if she really has the soft skin of royalty. I believe we all need to put a pea under our cushion to stop us from becoming too comfortable with our lives. It's nice to be comfortable, but our greatest growth as human beings comes when we are challenged.
The achievements that I am most proud of are the end result of me getting uncomfortable. I was terrified of public speaking, as most people are (statistically most people would prefer to burn to death), but I pushed through my fears and made myself get up and talk. Today I present to large groups of people all over the world. I still get nervous, I still feel uncomfortable and there are times I look at the door and think about making a run for it.
Today I have learnt to turn the fear into excitement and I absolutely love public speaking now, even if I have butterflies. It has become a real passion of mine and this passion has enabled me to make it a rewarding career traveling the world.
Making yourself uncomfortable often precedes great accomplishments. People rise up and do great things when they are challenged because necessity makes them. So why not get uncomfortable more often?
When I came up with the idea for my first book, 101 Ways to Market Your Business, I spoke to a number of people in marketing about it. Many of them told me, 'It's really hard to get published, so why set yourself up for disappointment? Best to just let the idea go.' It's true that writing a book takes a lot of discipline, creativity and hard work, and many books are rejected.
The easiest thing for me to do, the most comfortable thing to do, would have been to put the manuscript in the bin and just get back to life as normal. Fortunately, while their comments did make me question my dream, they also motivated me to succeed.
I know how hard it is to move out of your comfort zone, even when the situation you're in is hurting you. When I talk about challenging ourselves, it doesn't mean we all have to climb Mount Everest. For some people challenging themselves is simply taking a different route to work or trying a different type of food. That's good. What is most important is that we challenge ourselves in any way that we can, both big and small.
I have encountered so many extraordinary people in my life. They all share one magnificent trait - they have big peas under their cushions. They don't let themselves get too comfortable and they never accept second best, in themselves or those around them.
Getting uncomfortable means that we stop focusing inwards on our fears, our perceived failings and our shortcomings and get on with the task at hand, which is living a rich and meaningful life. And this often means developing a fearless approach to life, no matter how scared we may be.