How to overcome the fear that stops you from leaving your comfort zone
When you run a freelance business, sometimes you have to step outside of your comfort zone.
And that’s how you grow.
In her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” Carol Dweck explains how to change our beliefs to begin the courageous walk towards growth, out of the limiting comfort. The same fearlessness is advocated by Luvvie Ajayi Jones in her bestselling “Professional Troublemaker”.
If you want to grow in your professional or private life, you’ll need to do things that scare you.
But how to overcome the fear that stops you from leaving your comfort zone?
1. Fight the fear with baby steps
Adapt a scientific approach and gradually expose yourself to your fear. If this method is effective in overcoming phobias and disorders, it will work with your business fears as well. For example, if you’re afraid of presenting in front of a large audience, start from attending business events in your region. After a while, move on to asking questions during the Q&A sessions, then deliver a short presentation in front of a small group. Keep expanding your comfort zone, until you feel at ease when speaking in front of a bigger audience. With regular exposure, your fear will begin to diminish. You’ll also pick up new skills and develop mastery that will help you reduce the need to worry.
2. What’s the worst that could happen?
If you have a great business idea, but you’re afraid of failure, you can ask yourself one simple question: What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe someone will laugh at you, consider you incompetent or too arrogant. Maybe you’ll lose your money if your idea doesn’t work our or maybe you’ll lose your customers if you suddenly increase your rates. Imagine yourself and your actions in the worst-case scenario. Come up with a plan to prevent the worst from happening and make sure you know how to act if it happens. Usually, the worst-case scenario is not as bad as it seems, and very often it doesn’t happen at all.
3. Focus on the fun
Even if you’re scared to take up a new challenge, there must be something you’ll enjoy about the process. For example, you might feel overwhelmed to go to a networking event, but you know the event will be held in an amazing place with delicious food. Then you can shift your focus from meeting strangers to absorbing new sounds, shapes, colours and tastes. In this way everything else will become less scary.
How do I know these methods work? Well, I use them regularly.
Long time before the lockdowns and pandemic, I was stuck in my comfort zone because of the fear of… networking events.
For many years, I would sign up for countless events, motivated to learn, meet new people, and see new places. But when the zero hour came, I would abort my mission, naming one hundred reasons why I should stay home (or in my office). On the mental level, I knew I need to mingle with other business owners, attend conferences or trade fairs, but on the emotional level I was paralysed. Stuck in my comfort zone, I missed many opportunities to grow.
But with baby steps I faced that fear and learned to enjoy every single event. When networking became quite bearable, I started setting myself new, potentially scary goals. This year my “scary goal” was to create an online programming course for translators.
Working on “Python for translators: key methods and techniques” was a fascinating adventure. With ups and downs, doubts and rewards, triumphs and traps. But like every good adventure, also this one ended well and gave me a valuable lesson. Now, every time I look at that course published on my website, I’m reminded that no idea is too complicated, and no fear is too big to stop me from getting out of my comfort zone to reach my goal.
So, when was the last time you stepped outside of your comfort zone to bring your idea to life?
P.S. I share more tips for freelancers in my free e-book “How to make the best use of your time”.
And if you’re looking for advice on how to juggle your freelance work with motherhood, have a look at my book “You’ve got this: How to continue your freelance career when you become a mother”.