I don't really mind feeling uncomfortable. I recognize it as a sign that I am growing and learning. In fact stepping out of my comfort zone can add energy and excitement to my work stimulating new thought and creativity. Sure I feel self-conscious, nervous and even inadequate at times when I am stretching, but I do it anyway. I firmly believe that all personal growth is dependent upon pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone.
Lately I've had plenty of new experiences to get me uncomfortable. I recently started a Fordham Masters Degree program at nearly 50. I just submitted my first project and realized that the last time I turned in a college paper I typed it on a green screen TRS-80 from Radio Shack, saved it on a 5.25" floppy disk and printed it on a dot matrix printer. The idea of emailing a paper brought up silly questions like: "Do I send it as a PDF or Word doc, and do I put my name in the document title? I felt ridiculous and lost.
If that wasn't enough, I am currently revamping my entire social media approach for these columns. The patterns I created over the last two years have served well, but to grow my reach I have to try new things that are beyond my current knowledge. I have to learn, and change behavior patterns to make the most of it. I feel ignorant and slow.
I don't like feeling lost or stupid. But I do love how I feel when I get to the other side. The feeling of accomplishment and traction are completely satisfying especially when the growth process was a big challenge. The reward feels so good that I constantly stretch out of that comfort zone like a satisfaction junkie looking for the next accomplishment fix.
Here are ways I cope with the stress of the time in the edgy zone. Hopefully they will help you stretch bigger, farther and faster.
1. Clear your head
Every time I try something new and different, my inner voice gets really loud. The only way to make it quiet is to clear the noise around me and inside. A little meditation or prayer goes a long way in providing space and calm to both my head and soul readying me for the adventure to come.
2. Write about the process.
When you are feeling uncomfortable you need to release the tension. Writing about it is a great way to express the feelings and relieve the pressure. It also helps organize your thoughts and emotions so you can get a clear picture of the path ahead.
3. Reward yourself.
If you are going to put yourself through a bit of hell you are certainly entitled to a bit of heaven as well. Get yourself something nice. Indulge with that once-a-year restaurant. You are taking risks and working hard. Show yourself you appreciate you for making this happen.
4. Share the journey.
Some challenges are yours and yours alone. But that doesn't mean you have to feel lonely in the process. Include your closest friends or a great coach in the process so they can support you and be entertained by your struggles and eventual success. If you can entice another friend to join you on the journey, it's even better.
5. Create easy time.
When you are pushing for a breakthrough everything can seem hard. Make sure you set time away for simple tasks that you have mastered previously. This will rebuild your confidence and remind you that you have broken through the difficulty before.
6. Take the plunge.
Toe dipping into the danger zone makes it hard to really get things going. Jump in full body into the process. Being fully immersed in an uncomfortable environment may be more stressful but at least you'll get the whole experience moving and get to the success side quicker.
7. Celebrate small wins
The struggle through growth provides a steady good kind of pain and suffering but it's generally a long process and not a quick event. Set recognizable milestones to the process and get excited every time you reach one. Be proud and pleased with each progressive step you achieve. Then party big time when you get to the finish line.