You will often hear the term ‘Comfort Zone’ bandied about by personal development types, usually with the implication that staying within your comfort zone is very definitely Not A Good Thing. The theory goes that in order to grow and stretch as a person, you need to step outside your safe zone and face up to your fears. And don’t be fooled by the name, a comfort zone doesn’t neccessarily have to be a comfortable place, it’s just the place or behaviour you habitually retreat to. So this could include negative, self-sabotaging behaviour. On the surface you may not like it, but it’s what you know so you keep doing it.
Stepping beyond your comfort zone can be scary, but also immensely rewarding. We find out most about ourselves from unfamiliar situations, when we have to draw on resources we never knew we had. So if you’re thinking ‘I’m not the sort of person to do X’, then probably one of the most useful things you can do is to go and give X a try.
When I am coaching journalists and PRs, one topic which comes up fairly regularly is a fear of pitching to editors, and especially of picking up the phone and *GASP* actually speaking to an editor. The best way to nail down a fear is to take it to its logical conclusion, so in this situation I would ask
1. What are you secifically afraid of that might happen when you call? What’s your worst case scenario? How would you deal with that?
2. And what is your best case scenario? How would you deal with that? (People often have unacknowledged fears around success – that they might have to take a risk and actually prove they can do the job)
The point of approaching the situation like this is that whatever transpires is highly unlikely to be the worst or best case scenario – more likely it’ll be any one of a million other scenarios in between. But when you have mentally prepared yourself for the two scariest options, it will boost your confidence and convince your subconscious that you can deal with whatever happens. You’ve already faced up to the worst.
Of course, you can never be 100% prepared for every conceivable outcome, and in any case you don’t need to be. It’s not always a bad thing to take a flying leap before you’ve grown your wings. Sometimes in life you have to just go for it regardless of the ultimate outcome. I am tending to think more and more that life is often about the ride rather than the destination.
One point that can emerge from the journalists who fear pitching is that often their worst option is that they will get a ‘no’ from the editor. But by not asking in the first place, effectively they’ve already got a ‘no’ – an editor can’t say yes to you if you’ve never approached them in the first place. So you may be dealing with your worst case scenario already, without even knowing it.