I'm a big believer in everyone's abilities and find advice like 'jump into the unknown' somewhat aggressive and unhelpful. It's based on the idea that we are all hunters, but if those 'kill or get killed' traits don't apply you may be left stranded at the starting blocks thinking there's something wrong with you. It is true that in order to tap into your potential and go after your dreams you must embrace uncertainty and take personal risks. However, the steps don't have to be so harsh.
I have been privileged to hear the personal story of over thousand women in the past couple of years. I know there are as many routes to success as there are women. Not everyone is going to apply the 'steel heals' approach or be the 'warrior' to 'crush it' and 'make a killing'. We have been brainwashed to think that the only way to success is combative because that's the dominantly patriarchal language we are surrounded with.
Women must learn to embrace change using their own inherent strengths.
When we women learn to tap into the tools we already carry within, and stop trying to force fit masculine strategies, we will be able to let go of fear and step outside our comfort zone in more gentle ways. I have learned that women are much more likely to adopt a new direction and go after their dreams if they accept taking small steps and avoid big leaps of faith.
It’s about embracing some of your natural instincts and seeing them as strengths. We have been told that feminine traits, such as nurturing, relationship building, appreciation of beauty or compassion aren't valuable. Now, if you can't be your authentic self and celebrate your feminine talents, then everything you try to do will feel outside your comfort zone!
Here's what I have learned from the women who have successfully followed their dreams and reached their goals on how to step outside your comfort zone.
1. Get clear with your values
It's very easy to lose yourself in the definition of success our society is serving. I meet a lot of women who are confused of what they actually want for themselves which is only natural if you have been following the masculine prescription for a long time.
After having her second child Marisa was determined to find a job that would be "worth leaving her kids behind". Her dilemma was to step outside her comfort zone and look for different kinds of firms and jobs than before having kids. After doing the Foundation exercises with DrivenWoman and getting clear with her values, a new direction naturally emerged and didn't feel out of bounds anymore. And within months she was in her dream job where she even got to write her own job description!
Ask yourself, what is important for you? How do you want to live? What values do you hold dear to you? You can use this simple tool to inspire you.
2. Forget self belief
The second myth to bust in this whole comfort zone matter is confidence. Every piece of advice I see about stepping outside comfort zone is about confidence, and that you must just believe in yourself. But how can you believe in yourself when you are starting a new chapter and have no clue what you are doing? ... that's why it's called a discomfort zone, right!
I didn't have any idea what I was doing when I started this women's network five years ago. I had no experience in running events or building a community, but I did it anyway. The journey has built my confidence, not the other way around. I had to step out of the comfort of my own little world of insecurities to create something larger than me that empowers others.
3. Test the waters
A well rooted advice is that in order to push your dreams forward you must become visible and announce your dreams to the world. That might be easier said than done if you are only toying with a new idea or a project.
Michaela wanted to start a side project, a financial advice website for women. She had a high level day job and was struggling to make her project visible or tell anyone about it. By the time she thought she was ready to publish it, what had been an unique idea two years ago, a lot of people were doing it. So instead of publishing her website, she decided to start group coaching. But now she was facing the same dilemma. She'd have to step outside her comfort zone!
Instead of making her plans visible, she asked other women in her Lifeworking group to join a free coaching session with her. Testing her idea in a small group felt much safer than approaching strangers.
If you are struggling to step outside your comfort zone and make your project (blog, book, photography, business idea or new career path) visible share it first with a small group of women who you know will not reject you or be judgemental. This will give you some honest feedback and you will be more prepared to take your project public later.
4. Take the smallest step possible
No matter what it is you are trying to avoid doing - that's what staying in your comfort zone ultimately is about - there's no need to stay stuck. You will only find yourself even more frustrated couple of months down the line, those goals and dreams buried even deeper and the idea of stepping outside comfort zone even harder. The only way to get from here to there is to start. And the only way to start is to find the smallest possible action you can take straight away.
Sarah came to DrivenWoman when she was feeling stuck in more than one area in her life. She had a great job working at a financial institution in the City, but she didn't think it was a great fit and it didn't make her feel empowered. She felt there was so much more inside her on all levels (career, relationships, creativity) but she was struggling to express who she really was. At the first Lifeworking workshop she wrote down her long term vision: to kill the librarian. She felt like her true spirit was trapped inside a "grey librarian's shell".
Just thinking about her bigger vision made her exhausted, but when asked to write down the first action points she found the smallest possible step she could take that involved no risk and would remind her of her new direction. She was going to apply mascara every day!
I have used this as a metaphor for small steps ever since. What is the smallest step you can take NOW to start moving toward a new direction?
5. Connect with your feminine tribe
Women are natural collaborators and connectors. We nurture relationships and love doing things together. Research even shows that going out with your girlfriends improves your health. But when it comes to starting a new project or working on your goals outside comfort zone we try to figure it all out in our head. Why?
Based on the experience I've gained meeting hundreds of ambitious women it's very clear that it's the ego that stops women from embracing their natural instinct to connect and ask for help. I call it the 'perfection trap'. It's a protection mechanism for navigating the patriarchal system. When women compete for the attention and approval of the top males we turn our backs on each other.
Now, five years into my DrivenWoman journey, I'm getting more and more convinced that the reason we women feel so stuck and overwhelmed, unable to express what we really want or experience the so called 'impostor syndrome' are all simply symptoms of hundreds of years trying to fit in and suppressing our feminine qualities.
There's nothing wrong with you.
You are capable of everything you ever wanted.
You can create the life you want.
And you don't have to play by the cutthroat rules you thought you should.
Ladies, let's embrace success in our own terms. Let's start moving into our power gently. And let's step outside our comfort zone applying strategies that we can call our own, inherently feminine.
If you are struggling to find a group of women to support you on your journey to bigger life, join one of our Lifeworking groups. Find out more here.