Stepping Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

Note: This piece was originally published on DesignGood, but I'm republishing an edited version here because I thought some of you might enjoy reading it. To see the piece in its entirety, go here

 

“Who dares, wins” – British Special Air Service

“Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live” – Dorothy Thompson

These cliché quotes are familiar to all of us. The idea that fear holds us back, hinders us, prevents us from going after our goals and the things that we want to accomplish is something we all know well.

The question is, why are we still so hesitant to leave our comfort zones and do what scares us? We know the results tend to outweigh the fears, and we know that our fears are often unfounded. So, what’s holding us back?

To start, let’s talk about the comfort zone and the power that it holds over all of us. Comfort zones are physical and psychological, and they exist in our personal and professional lives. Regardless of your age or professional status, comfort zones are where we feel most confident, and, often, least challenged. We have a way of clinging to them, even when they no longer serve us.

When met with a new situation that brings us fear, we stay put in our comfort zones, hesitant to move forward. Like many of you, I’m very familiar with this feeling.

I’d call myself a classic introvert in a lot of ways – I read Susan Cain’s “Quiet” and rejoiced in knowing that I wasn’t alone in my natural tendencies. Despite this, there’s something inside of me that fights my desire to stay home and hide under the covers. It’s a gut feeling that pushes me out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. It’s drive, or maybe it’s my extroverted side. Whatever it is, it’s kept me going, changing and growing. I’ve moved cities multiple times, lived outside of my home country and pursued difficult careers – even though all of these things felt really, really scary.

I think there’s a lesson to learn from this. Don’t get me wrong – I am in no way a finished, fearless product. But there is something I can teach based on my experiences, and that’s that the rewards that come from stepping out of the boundaries of your comfort zone cannot be measured. They extend far and wide, and are much more than the literal rewards that can come with forcing yourself to act fearless. 

The secret is this: Once you step out of your comfort zone once, it becomes addictive. The feelings of initial fear will pass, and you’ll likely accomplish something new and positive. If nothing more, you’ll experience a feeling of accomplishment for doing something you initially feared.

 

Let’s break it down into a few easy ideas. The next time you’re hesitant, consider the following four steps to breaking out of your comfort zone:

1. Identify your fear: What is it that’s making you fearful?

2. Consider potential gains vs. potential loss: With many situations, we quite literally have nothing to fear except fear itself. Still, there are exceptions. If you honestly do not see yourself gaining from the experience on an internal or external level, then I’m officially giving you the go-ahead to pass up the experience. But if you think facing the fear will aid your growth in any way, move on to the next step.

3. Just do it: Unless what you’re planning to do is dangerous or harmful in some way (and hopefully it’s not), then you should stop thinking and just act. Honestly. The more you analyze the fear, the bigger it will become and the greater control it will have over you. Stop thinking and start doing.

4. Review your experience: Think about how the action of stepping outside your comfort zone made you feel. Do you feel a sense of accomplishment? Did anything bad actually happen? Consider writing down your feelings to reference the next time you’re feeling afraid or hesitant.

 

Without pushing yourself to do the uncomfortable, growth never happens. While this is something people talk about a lot, acting on it and making yourself do the things you fear most is still somewhat of a rarity.


Writing Process Blog Tour

I've been tagged in the Writing Process Blog Tour by North Carolina's Bookends – a new blog started by two writers who "haven't been writing much lately for the reasons most writers don't write – lack of time and too much Netflix."

Oof, haven't we all been there.

So today, I'm part of this Blog Tour which specifically focuses on process. In this case, my writing process. It works like this: I've been tagged, so I now write a post about my process. Next week, my fellow bloggers angloyankophile (fellow American in London, writer) and June Letters (incredibly talented and lovely San Francisco-based designer) will write similar posts telling us about their creative processes. Here it goes: 

What are you working on?

My work focus lately has been on two main projects: DesignGood and DesignGood Studio, an Austin-based, internationally-focused community that designs for and highlights the work of creative businesses of any kind who are out to do good.

On Second Floor Flat, I've begun writing more personal pieces about confidence, issues I've struggled with, my experiences as an expat, etc. I've received positive feedback about those pieces and am really looking forward to continuing them. 

I also recently started at Great.ly shop and am desperately trying not buy everything.

 

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

You often hear successful bloggers talk about being yourself and creating content that's unique to your talents. I struggled with how to put that into practice for a while, but now am embracing it. What makes my work differ from others is my honesty and willing to be who I am despite any internal reservations, and I hope that shows in my work.

 

Why do you write what you do?

Honestly, it makes me feel good. There's so much bouncing around in my head at any given time, so much excitement/anxiety/insecurity, that it feels good to just put it out there. If it's out there, then it's a Thing that can be dealt with rather than something that's just knocking around in my head. In short, I write to connect.

 

How does your writing process work?

I prefer writing first thing in the morning when my brain seems to be working clearly. I sit at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee and then just go for it. I'm a big fan of writing a long, rambling draft, and refining several times over. Either that or sometimes I'll grab my laptop post-shower and do the damn thing.

You're it, Jaime + Jess!


The Power of Outreach

I'm six years into my career and so far I've been pretty lucky about the opportunities that I've had and the places that I've worked.

I'm no Eva Chen (who, by the way, is the nicest and hardest working woman in fashion publishing), but I've worked at Teen Vogue, Refinery29, L.K.Bennett, and DesignGood, interned at Vogue, Women's Wear Daily, Time Out New York, Interview, NYLON, and written for Bustle, Glamour, and a snazzy independent mag in London which sent me to places like Monte Carlo and Budapest.

Yeah, it's been a decent run so far. And I've been lucky to have real help from a lot of great folks – my family, friends, professors at the Savannah College of Art and Design, people I've worked with. You name it, they've helped. So I've definitely been lucky.

But I didn't get to where I am in my career through luck. Sure, it was hard work, determination, etc. etc., but the reason I've gotten inside the offices and onto the pages of every single one of these places is because of one thing:

I asked to be there.

Persistence and dedication are the two key traits that I would point to for any success that I've had. When there's something I want in my career: a job or maybe a company or person I'd like to add to my network, I go after it. And you know what? It almost always works.

I'm not sure what it is, but I don't seem to have much of an e-mail filter. I can be somewhat shyer when it comes to meeting new people in person – I actually dread phone calls with people I don't know because it makes me so uncomfortable – but I am the queen of e-mail outreach.

I realize that sounds kind of stupid. Everyone can e-mail, right? And it's not like my e-mails are so well written or crafted better than yours. But it's the persistence factor – anytime I've seen a company I think I'd like to work with or just know in some capacity, I contact them. And they usually write back.

Simple e-mailing alone has led me to some incredible partnerships. It's actually how I got my main gig right now, with an amazing, inspiring Austin-based organization who designs for and highlights creative businesses who are doing social good. I found the company on Twitter, e-mailed the owner, and now we work together. That's it.

Maybe you're uncomfortable doing that. I understand, but you shouldn't be. You know those general e-mails you see at the bottom of every business's site?

hello@brandyouwanttoworkat.com

info@someoneyouwishyouknew.com

You would be shocked at how few people actually use those e-mail addresses. Of course that's not the case for every brand or company, and definitely not for large corporations, but a lot of the time those e-mails are used for general questions or complaints, not for fan e-mail or inquiries about potential partnerships.

Oh, and freelancers: is there a magazine or web site you want to write for, but you're not sure where to start? Try cold outreach. Didn't hear back? Follow-up. Then follow-up again. Then maybe again. Think about it: you're telling someone how much you want to work for their brand. What's the worst thing that will happen?

Again, I'm not by any means at the top of my career or claim to know more than I do. But what I do know is that outreach and persistence pays off.

So assignment number one, for all of you who hate your jobs or want to increase your network or whatever it might be: contact me. Comment below, reach out through social media, or e-mail me. 

You would be amazed at what can come to those who ask.


Good Reads: 1 August 2014

On our way to see Boyhood this weekend and I'm so excited. Have any of you guys seen it?

I've also had a few conversations lately about Michel Gondry's latest, Mood Indigo. I saw it a couple of months ago and honestly wasn't completely in love. There's a few great moments with this song though, so that kind of made everything better.

Hopefully you guys are up to something fun! Would love to hear about it on Twitter or in the comments, if you care to share. :)

PS - almost just signed that  "Love you!" as if I was e-mailing a family member rather than writing a blog post

I'm looking for pen pals! Want to be my pen pal? 

A map of the introvert's heart. 

Matt Sweeney's photos of Hollywood blew me away. 

Just now reading this Simon Rich piece from 2013, but I adored it. 

The perfect robe

In love with MadeClose – a new site that allows you to search for items that are made close to you aka locally. They're about to be my jam.

Mentioned this in my natural beauty post but in case you missed it, GoodGuide is everything you need for shopping smart socially and environmentally.

Would very much like to be wearing this this weekend. 

Books from every U.S. state. 

How to have a simpler life. Hallelujah. 

 

...and a few things I wrote this week:

9 Street Artists You Should Support and Follow

Up-and-Coming Indie Designers You Need to Know Now