It’s all about moving into your ‘growth zone’.

It’s easy to get comfortable with our lives, living in what we now often call the Comfort Zone. While it may feel quite nice and cosy, it’s also the place where nothing new can grow. It can be pretty difficult to leave this zone voluntarily, without some big trigger or life crisis to propel us. The most self-sabotaging scenario is when things are actually “OK enough” and our fears are the reason behind maintaining a status quo.

Stepping outside of our comfort zone without an external motivator can be hard. We most likely will have to work at actively cultivating a sense of internal motivation (while handling our fears) to propel ourselves and grow. Here’s how to find the internal motivation to reach your growth zone…

1 Turn to your personal brand

Everyone has a personal brand, whether they realize it or not. It essentially comes down to how others perceive you – what you stand for.

Your personal brand includes things like your purpose, your passions, strengths and values in life. When equipped with self-awareness and a strong personal brand, you’re more likely to develop a stronger sense of overall self-confidence and it will often raise the confidence that others have in you – fantastic things to have when making a life transition!

Looking carefully at your values, passions and strengths can help you determine your next chapter and whether what you want is good for you, be it a new job, moving to Paris or getting a dog. If the decision is driven by a desire to escape from something or someone, or if there is a disconnect in values or even your passion for it, then perhaps it’s not right choice. If you are moving towards something and realise that it’s in line with these values, it can help give you more impetus to move forward.

2 Normalise your worries

Worrying about the reactions of others can hold us back from making that change. The fact is that we care what others think; it’s part of our DNA! In our distant past we had to rely on our clan, the tribe of people who supported us for survival. We just wouldn’t have managed it on our own. Therefore, being one of the gang and wanting to please and connect with others is part of who we are as humans. This naturally brings about a fear of judgment or a fear of failure. There may even be worries about what they might say if we succeed…after all, we may not be one of the tribe if we get that great job or retrain. So know that worry is a normal part of your evolution.

Recognising our vulnerability is helpful, but it’s hard to just bypass it. Instead, work with it. Admit it. Tell people you trust that you feel vulnerable and ask for their support.

In recognising your vulnerability you are already growing.

Also be aware that these worries about what others think can hide themselves, manifesting as procrastination, perfectionism or having expectations that are too rigid. Watch out for these as they can also become obstacles to moving forward.

3 Move with the fears

There is a lot of talk around of powering through your fears and combating your anxieties in order to reach success. But there’s no need to combat anything – by using that language you’re already making things harder for yourself. Getting into this mindset means that things start to become a control agenda – control of yourself, your environment, etc – and it’s easy to get stuck there. It’s a place of struggle that you may never escape!

So, what can we do instead? There are a number of ways to approach this.

Notice unhelpful self-talk, or what some people call the voice of their inner critic, and try to change the narrative. Your mind is ultimately just trying to keep you safe (and how lovely it is that your mind is being considerate and looking out for you!). Once again, this “danger alert” system is hardwired into us and we need it. However, if there’s no real imminent danger, your fears can hold you back from trying to obtain what you really want in life. When you hear a voice in your head saying “you can’t do this, who are kidding?”, see if you can tap into a more positive narrative, such as “I know I can handle this”, or “I will just try my best”. You might even want to “thank your mind” for trying to keep you safe and then deliberately take steps to move toward your goal.

Acknowledge that thoughts are not reality. The negative thoughts behind this fear are just thoughts, and thoughts can’t actually control our behaviour. Your mind may tell you that you don’t want to go to that seminar, but you can still pick up your bag and keys and head out that door. Try following through with the action you committed to without getting hooked by negative thoughts or the emotion around them. Accept that the negative thoughts and feelings will pass and your body will learn how to regulate this over time.

Practise mindfulness. This is especially helpful for combating our inner critic, when we get too “caught up” in the chatter of our minds and want to redirect ourselves to the present moment. If we’ve established that our inner dialogue is unhelpful, we can learn to notice thoughts without buying into them and “going down the rabbit hole” with them. We can then turn away from them and move on towards our goals.

4 Practise self-care

Change can be frightening and tiring, even if it’s something we really want. It’s essential to practise self-care and look out for yourself during this time. This includes eating well, good sleep habits, physical activity, socializing and/or other pleasurable activities. As part of taking care of yourself, also ask yourself questions like:

Who is my support network? Who can I lean on to help me get thorough these times? Who will support my endeavour without adding pressure or trying to dissuade me?
Do I have a safety net? Who or what can I fall back on financially if things take longer than I would like?
Who are my inspirations? Who are the forward thinking, energetic people I can talk to, read about or be around that can provide me with some fuel?

5 Determine what type of swimmer you are

When talking about change, I like to use the analogy of a swimming pool. We are all different; some people like to dive right in and get swimming, while others edge in slowly, taking mini-steps and clutching the side. It’s important that we don’t let the pressure of what other people are doing make us jump in too quickly, or slow us down. Think about what’s right for you and establish whether you are a diver or a mini-stepper. Also, do remember that you can often take a step back or come out of the pool completely if it’s the wrong decision. Think about the number of ideas generated or attempts made by entrepreneurs before they hit the big one. When things don’t work, they move onto the next idea. They look forward, not back.

By Lisa Orban of Dr Lisa Orban is a clinical psychologist and personal brand consultant who advises clients on finding, developing and using their personal brand to get them through the big and small life transitions.

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