To continue to develop personally and professionally, you must step outside of your comfort zone and jump into uncertain territory from time to time. If we are honest with ourselves, we can identify some things we could do that would make our lives better, whether it’s earning a promotion, starting a business, giving a speech or walking away from a toxic relationship. Most people yearn for life improvements without really knowing where or how to begin. A major hurdle is the fear of failure or the unknown, which can prevent us from getting out of the starting gate.
Here are a few tips for working around fear and taking calculated risks:
- Go on an information gathering mission. Here’s the good news: someone, somewhere has accomplished your goal and their story can be found in just a few clicks. If it’s a new career path, start by doing your research online and learning what it would take to make the leap. Do you need further education or training? Is it possible to take on additional responsibilities at work that would prepare you for the next step? Are there professional groups you could join to help you in achieving your goal? Do the same for How to Make a Great Speech, or where to look for a strong counselor.
- Talk to someone who has what you want. Identify people in your circle of contacts who either have what you want or can connect you with someone who does. The more personal the connection, the more likely they are to help. Refrain from saying, “I’d like to pick your brain,” an immediate turn off. This request is often more of a commitment than a busy person will want to make, especially if it’s someone you don’t know well. Instead, ask if there is a time you can call them for a 10-minute conversation to ask about their company, their line of work, or whatever your specific interest is. Your odds of getting a “yes” are better if you ask for their insight on a specific topic, not just a broad, “Tell me about your career.” If you succeed in getting a phone interview, follow up with a handwritten thank you note ASAP!
- Find your cheerleaders. Reach out to family members or friends who are supportive and tell them about your goals. You will need these people on your team when the going gets tough, as it most likely will. Conversely, avoid discussing your aspirations with negative people who always have reasons why something can’t be done. Social media is also a great resource to find inspiration from those who share your desire to grow. Is there a Facebook group or local tweetup you could benefit from joining?
- Plan for the inevitable hurdles. There will always be obstacles – money, time, relationships, and family concerns. Think in advance about what barriers may arise and brainstorm ways to work around them.
- Acknowledge your fear, but don’t let it stop you. Fear of failure can cause us to freeze in place before we even begin to move toward what we really want. Instead of allowing fear to keep you immobilized, realize it’s perfectly natural to be afraid of trying something new. Remember that overcoming fear and taking on new challenges is the only way to truly grow in life. Whatever the outcome, your life will be much richer for the experience.
- Redefine failure. Remember the words of Thomas Edison: “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Life is meant to have ups and downs and through the hardest times, we grow the most. You only fail when you refuse to get back up.
For more of my business etiquette tips, you may also like How to Make Yourself More Interesting to Anyone You Meet (via The Huffington Post).