Stepping outside our comfort zone is one of the central themes at DrivenWoman. Then I read Deepak Chopra's 'The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success' which claims everything you do should come naturally to you, almost without effort. It got me thinking, did we go all wrong with our 'Push That Boat Baby!' message? Let's find out, here are my thoughts.
If you are aligned with your natural Self things should come easy to you. We use our energy efficiently because we are in tune with our true selves and with our surroundings. We put our natural talents and our personality into a good use to help people around us. Things flow with ease.
That all makes sense. We should tap into our unique talents and personality to express who we really are.
But hang on a minute, does this mean one should only engage in activities that feel fun and nice? Does this mean if I don't like something I shouldn't do it? If I need to push a little harder, it's all going wrong, is it?
Possibly not. I'm a firm believer in stepping outside my comfort zone and constantly pushing myself to try and learn new things. Because if we just stay where we felt comfortable we'd still be drinking milk out of a baby bottle!
So how do I know when to push myself into the darkness of the unknown and when to take my feet off the accelerator? I think about this a lot now whilst building DrivenWoman. Are we pushing the right agenda? Are we trying to shove something down people's throats they don't want, and should we be doing something else but we don't do it because it's outside our knowledge?
To answer this question I'm going to look back 15 years when I first moved to London at the age of 28 years. After university I got a fabulous marketing job in an international confectionary company HQ. There I discovered I wanted to learn more about brands which led me to move to London, the branding capital of the world. I was lucky (or persistent) enough to get a job in one of the leading branding agencies. But as I was coming from the 'client side' I had to learn everything starting from the basics. For 6 months I came home from work, crying. My job was to check packaging labels art work before it was sent to printers. A very detailed and boring job, hardly something I thought was worthy of my MSc in Economics education or the rows of suits I had acquired to look smart in my previous international marketing job at job! But it was compulsory if I wanted to learn everything about branding and design, and to be able to lead a team of designers and art workers later on.
I had to climb a hill I didn't want to climb to get to the other side. I knew there was a sunny valley on the other side so I was motivated to get there. I wanted to get to the top in branding so I pushed myself to learn things I didn't want to learn. My motivation to get there was pulling me through the discomfort. I didn't do it to impress others, quite the contrary. My tittle chasing, ladder climbing, image hungry friends thought I had sank to the bottom of the barrel when I was checking the correct spelling on Swedish beer labels!
Blogger Slummy Single Mummy recently wrote a post called '9 good(ish) reasons to give up running'. Me and Jennifer are runners but can appreciate it's not for everyone. So if you quit running, is it about avoiding your comfort zone and enduring some pain, or just stopping something that is not aligned with your true Self?
Not everyone should run. I on the other hand have no plans to start sailing, surfing or playing team sports. Why? Because those sports doesn't interest me at all. And this has very little to do with comfort zones.
So how can we discover if we are trying to avoid something just because we are lazy or afraid of the unknown, or if we really are better off not going into that particular activity at all?
A friend of mine keeps studying a subject I'm not sure she actually loves. She keeps putting in the hours and signing up to new courses one after another. She says she needs to really push herself to do this and has to constantly work on her motivation. That's what being a driven woman is all about, right? Just work on it, work hard, sweat and tears. Or is it? Her argument is that she has already studied so much of the topic that it would be a waste not to finish the studies. But is she studying the subject because she loves it or is she looking for security and, perhaps, others approval?
And that's where I think I found the answer to the question 'Should I push that boat?' If you are doing something where you seek approval from others, even a small recognition, you are serving your Ego, not your true Self. For DrivenWoman I do things purely out of the joy of my heart, and I don't care if my mother or anybody else likes it or not. I put in the hours because I think I'm doing something important even though there are areas within DrivenWoman that feel difficult and painful. But I know the pain is just hills we need to climb to get to the sunnier side, so we keep pushing.
Keep pushing the boat if you:
- feel a genuine pull to the things you care about
- you do this because you feel it's important, and you don't think what others say about it
- every time you push through something difficult towards your goal you feel great
- your mind keeps returning to this idea or 'thing' over and over again even if you rationalise and talk yourself out of it
- you feel great doing it
On the other hand you should re-evaluate your choices if you are pushing the boat because:
- this is what you have always done
- your mother/brother/husband/neighbour/boss will thank you for it
- you will look like a proper and respectable citizen for doing it
- you think people will think you are intelligent if you do it
- it provided security
- or any reason that serves your Ego and is fed by rewards and feedback from people around you rather than what corresponds with your inner dreams
It's ok to stop. Stop running. Stop studying. Stop bullshitting yourself. It's ok to just quit and walk away.
I've made a promise to myself not to spend any time on things that serve only the Ego or to do something just because 'it has to be done'. I'll seek to learn things that take me over the hill to the next sunny valley, even though I know after the valley there is going to be another hill to climb. But as I keep going I have discovered I greatly enjoy the climb.
I wish you will find the hill you enjoy climbing!