“What will you be doing this year to expand your comfort zone (in your writing or real life)?” is the question asked this week in my accountability group’s How I Write series. We’ve touched on this topic before and you can follow the progression in my thinking from my post “Get Out of Your Comfort Zone” last June.
I chose this photo not simply for the restrictive and limiting symbolism of the Berlin Wall itself and how rigid some of our own comfort zones can become, but because of the empowering graffiti that surely helped bring about such liberating transformation: “YOU ARE POWER”, “STEP BY STEP”, “ACT UP”, and “CHANGE”.
Tell yourself, “YOU ARE POWER”
If you want to expand your comfort zone, don’t assume you’ll fail before you try. Most of the time we’re our own worst enemies because we sabotage our efforts before we even start. How many times have you thought, “Oh, I could never do that…”, “They’d never go out with someone like me…” or “What’s the use, that’ll never work…” We tell ourselves these things enough times and they become self-fulling prophecies. More like self-defeating nonsense. You’ll never know until you try. Flip those negative thoughts around! Instead, ask yourself questions like, “What if I could…”, “What if I were the type of person who…” and see what happens.
I’m not very good at this one yet, but I’m getting better at it. My first thought about submissions and pitches is no longer, “I can’t do this! They’ll hate it!” Agents and editors love books, they love discovering new ones they want to share with the world. The reason I say I’m not very good at this one is because my first thought is now, “What’s the worst they’re gonna say?” My fears answer “‘No.'” But that answer isn’t as scary any more. You know why? Because if you never ask, the answer is ALWAYS no. And one of these times I might find out that a “yes” might mean even more work and stress than “no” ever did. But that’ll be ok too.
STEP BY STEP
Give yourself permission to try something new. Tell yourself “It’s ok. Just do it once, if you really hate it, don’t do it again. But at least you’ve tried.” Each step past the line is that much farther you’re stepping out and will expand your comfort zone. They don’t have to be huge steps, baby steps will expand your comfort zone just as effectively. As long as you keep taking them.
I used this one last year with RWA’s National Conference, 2 contests and pitching/submitting to some agents and editors. The verdict? I’m trying to talk myself into going to Nationals again this year! Not because I didn’t have a good time, I had a blast! It was overwhelming, but not nearly as bad as I’d feared. I didn’t final in the contests, but that’s ok, I did get some useful feedback! I did get some passes on the submission, but I also got a full request out of it. Now I need to finish another manuscript and do it again! But taking that first step would have been impossible, if I hadn’t given myself permission to only do it once.
Take some massive action! Take a risk! But make sure it matters. Attempt some outrageous feat that is scary, exciting and is a bit intimidating as well. It doesn’t have to be public at first, it can be private. But the important thing is to conquer it. Break it down into manageable steps, rehearse, visualize success. Then go do it! But remember, it doesn’t matter if you don’t succeed at the first attempt. You tried and you only gain self-confidence through action. Thinking about your goal, talking about your goal. They’re good, up to a point. Some time you have to DO.
This one is a work in progress for me too. I like making plans and organizing projects, often to the point where that is more fun than completing the actual project. Last year, I decided I needed to step up my game. I jumped in at the deep end by attending the RWA National convention and, instead of hiding behind a query letter, pitching my manuscript in person, not once but twice. I survived. I wasn’t comfortable at times, but I pushed through and was rewarded with positive feedback and a chance to get my work read. How I’m going to top that this year remains to be seen.
Change is hard. No one likes it. Everyone tries to resist it. But often it’s not achieving a particular goal or level of success that defines us, but the changes you have to make along the way to expand your comfort zone in order to achieve it. You have to change your thoughts and actions to be those of the type of person you want to be in order to become that type of person.
Another one where I’m struggling to keep working at the changes in a consistent manner. One of the things I’m doing this year is attempting to keep a log of the time I spend writing and doing writing related things. I’m historically bad at logging things. But I want to see the progression from writing when the mood strikes or life allows to becoming an author, someone who writes books (plural) and to do that, I have to have something quantifiable to measure and become the type of person who logs things. Even minor changes can lead you outside your comfort zone in surprising ways.
Your Turn: How do you expand your comfort zone? Have you ever been really surprised to find something you really enjoy after having dreaded it previously?
And if you’d like to read what the rest of my accountability group is expanding out their comfort zones, you can find their blogs here:
* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx