When I was younger, and not much younger, I had a fear of public speaking. I joke that I was the poster child for this fear, one that is believed to affect 75% of the population. Called glossophobia, it’s the most common phobia, more than fear of spiders or heights or even death. Think about that. Most people would rather die than speak in public. For me, I would get physically ill, almost paralyzed with fear.
Public speaking is fairly easy to avoid, so I stuck to my comfortable place. Then, 12 years ago some things changed in my life and I understood I would have to do more public speaking to large groups. I started a non-profit and I was in line to become both Chamber of Commerce President as well as President of my Rotary Club. I wanted to be more comfortable when faced with sharing my story.
For me that meant putting myself out there, looking for opportunities to speak. Each time I spoke, I was well organized, I knew my topic and I practiced (yes, in front of a mirror). And each time it got easier and easier. Now, while I may have some nervousness depending on the size and demographics of the group, I no longer get physically ill and I have given up my poster child status. I have spoken to groups large and small and have even done a live, on-air video interview with a major television network affiliate. Now that’s progress!
Recently, I realized I returned to a place of comfort around some areas of my life. For example, I have made every excuse not to walk regularly, when the real reason is that it’s just easier not to. I’m comfortable, and because I know changes can be uncomfortable, I have avoided them. It has been on my mind a lot lately, and I know that means I’m ready for changes. And then of course, this came up on my daily calendar a few days a go, confirming that it’s time.
Now, let me clarify. I don’t really think of changes as moving out of my comfort zone, it’s more like expanding my comfort zone. Progress means the uncomfortable soon becomes comfortable. This is how I define “living on the edge” always pushing the boundaries between the two so that my comfort zone gets bigger and bigger. And just like any practice, the more you flex that discomfort muscle, the easier it gets. Was it uncomfortable for me to seek out opportunities to speak? You better believe it was! Until it wasn’t.
In this way, discomfort leads to growth, which means that avoidance of discomfort, at the very least, leads to stagnation. If you’re satisfied with where you’re at in your life, then no further action is necessary. However if, upon self-examination, you find that maybe you’re just a little too comfortable where you’re at, challenge yourself to change your perspective and get comfortable with the uncomfortable. And stay tuned next week when I give you some ideas to expand that comfort zone.