Before I started Uncommon Clarity in 2004, I read Alan Weiss’ book Getting Started in Consulting. Any independent professional, whether consultant, painter, lawyer, or something else is in the marketing business first and foremost. Hanging a shingle on the proverbial door might let you call yourself a consultant, but it doesn’t let you practice it. Weiss' book made this perfectly clear. It also identified almost two dozen different ways to become known, many of which left this introverted, Scandinavian, engineer quaking in her boots:
- Business group committee leadership
- Radio interviews
- TV appearances
- Adjunct professor
However, after looking at each suggestion separately and reading Weiss’ concrete steps, I couldn’t see any reason why I couldn’t give each a try.
That first year in business, I figure I was out of my comfort zone 99% of the time. The second year, it was more like 75% of the time. By the third year, that number was closer to 60%. I was getting comfortable. Too comfortable. It was time to stick my neck out farther! I felt like a different person from the one who sheepishly hung that original shingle emblazoned with the bold promise of uncommon clarity. And I liked that feeling! I was even a little worried about my marriage, not for any concrete reasons, but because I wondered if my husband liked the person I was becoming. I felt that different. So I pushed onward until I’d accomplished everything on Weiss’ list. None of them had killed me! As a matter of fact, most were enjoyable. But not networking. I’ll never be a fan of networking. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do it!
A baker’s dozen years later, I thought I’d share 16 reasons why it is good to get out of your comfort zone:
1. It won’t be as bad as you expect.
I attended a story-telling event recently where one speaker stumbled badly, repeated his introduction twice, and admitted his stage fright. His confession was met with cheers. The applause when he finished was loud and supportive. The audience clearly admired his willingness to push himself.
2. Egos heal.
There are no bones to break in an ego. How long yours takes to heal depends only on your attitude.
3. No one is paying that much attention to you.
When you are self-conscious or nervous, you feel as if the whole world is watching. They aren't.
4. Others are scared too.
When you are nervous or scared, you feel alone. You aren't.
5. People with no more talent and no less fear than you are successfully doing the thing you are avoiding.
I remember vividly one of my very first business breakfasts. Everyone got a chance to stand up and give an elevator pitch. I was unprepared and sweating bullets. I'll never forget watching a woman with admitted nervousness and far fewer traditional advantages than I stand up and knock it out of the park.
6. There is no better way to grow.
Push yourself and you will grow. Guaranteed. And it feels great!
7. You might discover something you love.
Seriously. Think of all the things you've never tried. How can there not be tons of wonderful activities on that list!
8. New challenges and experiences rewire your brain and make it more adaptable, stronger, and healthier.
Research shows that brains benefit from new exercises. New challenges are a great way to keep your brain young and healthy.
9. You will boost your self-confidence.
This one needs no explanation, but I certainly didn't want to leave it off the list!
10. You will be proud that you took the leap.
We all stand a little taller with the pride of a new accomplishment. You can make that happen far more frequently than you are today.
11. Each milestone makes it easier to tackle another milestone.
Success breeds more success thanks to the confidence, experience, learning, and determination it inspires.
12. You will be more promotable and/or will earn more money.
Those who are willing to step up to challenges and take some risks earn respect and promotions. Independent professionals must take personal risks to make more money.
13. You will learn that failure is rare because the most common outcomes are success, learning, and growth.
You learn the most when things don't go perfectly. If you are determined to try new things and grow, you will focus on what you are learning and forget about failure.
14. As your comfort zone expands, you will see new opportunities previously obscured by barriers of your own making.
Staying in your comfort zone is like wearing blinders. You will tell yourself that all you care about are the things that are already a part of your life. You will continually convince yourself that you dislike the things you've never tried. They just aren't for you. And with every such thought, you erect thicker walls between yourself and everything that makes you uncomfortable. Take some risks and the walls start coming down.
15. You will become more resilient and prepared for whatever comes your way.
Life can be tough. Things can happen that will yank you right out of your comfortable nest. The more open you are to new possibilities, the more diverse your experiences, and the more confident you are in your ability to face new situations, the more resilient you will be.
16. It could change your life by opening doors you never knew were there.
New experiences can change everything about what you believe, what you like to do, how you behave, and how you live. The possibilities are truly endless.
Are you feeling inspired to take some risks and try something you've been avoiding? I hope so! You'll probably do great! If not, you'll learn. Go for it!
This article originally appeared in Forbes