“If you let fear of consequences prevent you from following your deepest instinct, your life will be safe, expedient and thin.” – Katharine Butler Hathaway

Without personal growth our lives are thin.  Thin is another word for shallow.  We intuitively know there is more.  Somewhere between  “I know” and “I don’t know” is where real learning takes place.  It’s not a place of comfort. However, this is where we discover our unique personal line between success and failure.

Stepping beyond our comfort zone is a buffer zone called “risk.” It’s a hero’s journey. So there we are – moving from “what I know” and “what I can do” into that free fall zone of “what I don’t know” and “I’m not quite sure how this will turn out.”

What’s the side effect of staying in your comfort zone? No progress! It’s like sitting in your car and moving the steering wheel while the car is in “park”.  There is lots of busyness, but no progress.  As you go forward you learn along the way.  But be ready. The voice of fear will try to outshout the voice of confidence.  The only real way to mute it is to move forward.

Here are 4 road signs to pay attention to as you make progress.

1. It’s closer than you think. Push against the tendency to quit too soon.  Most people quit before they should.  This is the only difference between those who succeed and those who don’t.  Most quit right before the breakthrough. The darkest part of the morning is right before sunrise. The Donner Party was only 5 miles from civilization when they did the unthinkable act of cannibalism.  Remember when it gets really tough that the breakthrough is close.

2. Your “next step” is where learning takes place. So don’t be afraid to cross that line.  That “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” zone is the point where ignorance is decreased.  Understanding is expanded.  Insights penetrate our core.  It’s just a little further to get what you want.  Is it risky?  Yes.  But not as much as you think.  Risk is an essential part of progress.  In baseball you can’t get to second base without taking a lead off first base.  That’s the stretch zone, where you expand your circle of comfort.  You can stay close to first base and wish you had longer legs, but it doesn’t work that way.  The fruit of the tree is out on the limb.  Wishing for longer arms doesn’t work.  You have to go get it.  Take the next step.

3. Get out of your own way. We often cause ourselves to get stuck.  Avoid the negative thinking.  By pass the fear of the unknown.  Ignore those thoughts of failure.  These are all emotional vampires that suck the energy right out of you.  Life is full of surprises, and that’s essentially what stretch zones are all about.   It’s all about learning something new.   Get out of your own way, and take that next step.

Avoid the ‘stinking thinking’.” Zig Ziglar

4. Use doubt as a catalyst. Anyone who makes progress has doubt. So you’re in good company. When you push yourself to grow, doubt accompanies you.  Let it be a sign you are going forward.  When doubt shows up say, “Oh, there you are.  I guess we’re making progress”!

“Doubt is a reminder, but not a ruler.”

Doubt proves you are on a hero’s journey, but it doesn’t slow you down.  When you position it and push back, you transfer its energy to your endeavor.  Instead of stagnating, you stretch.

Doubt is like a barking dog.  It can energize you.  It makes your senses alert.  But if you run, it chases you in the wrong direction.  Animals are programed for the chase.  You will discover that moving against the doubt becomes habitual.  Letting doubt become your brake is also habitual.  The light turns red.  Make a decision to use doubt as a green light.  When it lights up your mental dashboard — GO!

You will not grow beyond the size of your dreams and aspirations.  Have a supersized week and stay uncomfortable! That’s the zone where things happen.

As you make progress through the first month of 2016, consider:

  • In what ways could your doubt be a sign you are growing?
  • What is making you uncomfortable? (Comfort is overrated).
  • Where are you being stretched right now?

We’d love to hear your story.