Recently I was on a retreat with a fabulous bunch of women. One of the things we were encouraged to do was to go beyond what we normally feel comfortable doing.
Now of course when that’s on the agenda you know there’s going to be something a little terrifying and adrenalin charged. For us, it was climbing a rather high and narrow pole, and then hurling ourselves into the air to try and touch a suspended ball, before being lowered to the ground.
Yes, there was a safety harness – thank goodness!
Each of us approached the challenge differently. For me, it was about getting to the top of the pole as quickly as possible, and then breathing really deeply before I took the last, rather steep step to have both feet standing on the top of pole (which was about 25 cm in diameter). For others, it was slow and steady.
As we got to the top, people gave advice as what to do (or not do). Some people found this helpful. Others unhelpful.
There was no right or wrong way to tackle the challenge. We each did it in a way that worked for us – in terms of pace, how high we went and what support we needed.
It was a great reminder that we are all different. We all have different appetites for adventure and change, and we all need to be given the space and choice to find our own way through it.
Some people want to figure it out for themselves, while other people want lots of support and encouragement.
What was common was that we all felt scared (to varying degrees) and we were all unsure. Uncertain about whether we could do it. We all felt discomfort.
With any form of growth and change there is a period of discomfort. In fact, if you aren’t feeling uncomfortable it’s pretty likely you aren’t doing anything new, or learning anything new.
The discomfort you are feeling is just your brain’s ways of alerting you to the fact that you are doing something new. So rather than seeing the discomfort as a bad thing, you can choose to accept it and embrace it as a good warning sign.
To do this it helps to have already uncovered what your appetite for change is. That is, how much risk are you willing to take on? How willing are you to push yourself beyond what feels comfortable?
Some people love change and doing new things. It’s like they’re starving for it, and can’t wait to get going. At the other extreme, there are people who avoid it. They’re not hungry at all.
Ask yourself: What’s my appetite for change? Does this appetite differ in certain situations?
You may be somewhere in between those two ends of the spectrum, and it may alter depending on circumstances.
All change involves some form of risk, and so understanding your appetite for change is helpful.
Once you’ve identified the range it becomes easier to then work out in what situations you may want to dial it up, and how to best do this.
This is about you building your understanding of YOU, to enable you to best move forward with change. As well, building your capabilities to extend your zone of acceptable change, increase your appetite, so you can ultimately approach change, challenges and uncertainty with renewed vigour and determination.
The first step in this process is simple. It’s to start. Just put one foot out, and the next one will follow.
As American author, Harold Blake Walker, noted, “The only true failure lies in failure to start”.
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today!
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate your Career’. For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact [email protected].