“To succeed, we must become comfortable with being uncomfortable on a daily basis.”
– Tony Robbins
Recently, I took up an Improv class at the Michigan Actor’s Studio. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. My goal was to become more “present” on stage when I am speaking and training. In addition to being more present, I wanted to be funnier. In the speaking world, being funny is very important. It’s a way for you to engage and connect with the audience, not to mention being more memorable. Bill Gove, past president of the National Speakers Association said, “You don’t have to be funny, unless you want to be paid.”
Taking the Improv class has been a stretch for me. It’s pushing me outside of my comfort zone. Our instructor Rico Bruce Wade, formally of Second City Detroit, has us doing all kind of wild activities. For example, along with a partner, I had to make letters of the alphabet using my body, or use space objects on the stage that don’t exist. Talk about using your imagination. My favorite has been stealing another person’s lines and movements to create a new story.
Pushing outside your comfort zone will absolutely bring about new experiences for you. There are many advantages to “stretching” yourself a bit. What in your life and business do you need to stretch a bit to reach your best?
Here are five ways to help you stretch outside your comfort zone:
- Build Awareness Of What Makes You Uncomfortable
I’ve learned that the first step is awareness. If you don’t realize what makes you uncomfortable—how can you improve upon it? For many folks, public speaking makes them want to puke or asking for feedback makes them queasy. Maybe the idea of selling makes you want to take a long fall off a short bridge. When uncomfortable emotions crop up, we tend to want to push them back down. I’ve found that noticing the discomfort and allowing myself to feel it in its entirety has allowed me to become more accepting of it—more comfortable with discomfort! This makes it much easier to face the thing causing the reaction.
- Baby Step It
Don’t set yourself up for failure and try to take huge leaps. Start with something small that will build your confidence. I find that when you begin with something that is relatively small and doable you can work your way upward. Maybe you want to start on your ability to influence others — start with smiling at strangers and when that no longer feels uncomfortable, strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. Small steps can lead to big wins later.
- Question It
Often, we get into certain habits or routines and don’t really question them. Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your goals and aspirations that might help you jump start stretching that box a bit:
• What would I like to change?
• What would I like this change to lead to?
• What concrete goals would I like to achieve?
• What will these goals allow me to do, be and have?
- Do Your Everyday Things Differently
Take a different route to the office. Try a new restaurant without checking Trip Advisor first. Go vegan for a week, or a month. Go to a different church or service one Sunday. Whether the change you make is large or small, make a change in the way you do things on a day-to-day basis. Look for the perspective that comes from any change, even if it’s negative. Don’t be put off if things don’t work out the way you planned.
- Have Fun With It
Making yourself uncomfortable can be surprisingly fun. You get an incredible adrenaline rush from doing things that scare you—much better than watching a horror film! And you also open up opportunities for new fun activities, like singing with friends or chatting with new people, that you might not have considered otherwise.
Discomfort is natural; we all feel it from time to time. But if we can learn to accept discomfort without letting it govern our lives, we can give ourselves the best opportunity to learn and grow.