When I was in college, I decided to go to Australia for a semester abroad. I had never traveled outside of the U.S., and even my U.S. travels were limited. My first stop was New Zealand, the land of extreme sports and extreme natural beauty. Something clicked and it suddenly became critical that I experience everything as quickly as possible. Anything that was unfamiliar or scary AND got me excited became high priority on my list. So, among other things, I bungee jumped for the first time. In the terrifying moments before my jump, I remember the guy on the platform instructed me to look straight ahead and jump on 'three'. I asked him if there was a secret for success. His answer, "Don't hesitate."
I held that philosophy through my travels and well into my emerging adulthood. As I grow older, a strange thing is happening. I would be ready to jump...and then hesitate.
So why am I telling this story? Because this is my first blog post for my newish business. This week, I am "launching" TakeRoot. The truth is, TakeRoot has been up and running since October 2014. I have hesitated a long time to be active on social media and to market myself. Some people may think that the “jump” would be starting a business of my own. For me, what makes me most uncomfortable is the marketing of my business. I have spent a great deal of time convincing myself that I've been too busy with existing clients and initial business tasks to put myself out there on social media and marketing. I love the work that I do, but I hate the self-promotion piece of it. So, I hesitated. A lot.
I don't think this hesitation is unusual. Many of my coaching clients spend plenty of time telling me all the reasons why they can't embark on a new path or put themselves out there in a way that makes them vulnerable to failure or criticism. They, as I do, sound very convincing. These are the same people who aspire to be leaders in their organizations and communities. They are typically highly accomplished individual contributors, and they have a million ideas on how to save the world. Yet, they are hesitant to jump. Does this sound like you?
If you're interested in leadership and personal development, here's why it's so important to jump: there is no growth without a bit of fear, a bit of risk, and a jump into the unknown. The very act of leadership is the exercise of bringing people into a space of discomfort for the purpose of positive change. The process of personal growth requires experiencing and examining something new in order to expand yourself. You can't expect positive change and personal growth by watching the same re-runs. Embrace what makes you uncomfortable and act despite it. In fact, reaching for things that make you uncomfortable or unsure are habits you can build.
So, you need to jump. But how? Try this:
1. Be brutally honest with yourself about why you're dragging your feet. You might realize that you're not acting on one thing because you don’t know everything (and you will never know everything). Usually, it involves admitting to a deep-seated fear connected to a deeply held characteristic, value, or belief. For me, I had to admit that I like external validation. Putting myself out there on social media and through marketing is highly risky for that part of me that feels valued through external validation. It ain't pretty, but it's true.
2. Come up with every reason not to jump, then pick one small thing you can do to test whether those reasons are worth holding you back. We often prove ourselves wrong with these small tests. I tested my worries by starting an Instagram account (@gotakeroot). After a couple days, I realized it seemed silly that I hadn't done it already. So now I'm moving on to this blog. Some people call these "baby steps." I call them "experiments" to test whether the reasons for hesitancy actually stand up to the test.
3. Have someone hold you accountable. Choose someone who doesn't feel the need to "fix” you or your problem. You have to do the work. Pick someone who will simply check in with you, ask if you have made the jump, and remind you why you've decided that jumping is important to you. If you need more from them, ask for it and be specific.
4. Jump. It might still be scary and not at all easy, but perhaps that is precisely why you should jump. Do the thing that scares you AND excites you. You can't fly if you don't jump.
Whether you're hesitant to act on an idea, feeling stuck on how to excel at work, trying to break an unproductive behavior, or feeling like you're not living up to your full potential, and you can't quite figure out how to jump, ask for help from people and resources who will challenge and support you. I can help, too. Though I work with all sorts of people and organizations, I specialize in working with young professionals (otherwise known as Millennials) to increase leadership capacities and professional excellence.
As I hesitantly send this first blog out into the world, I invite you to jump with me. Let's get comfortable being uncomfortable.