BY TRACY HARRIS
Standing in the doorway to a room full of strangers, my heart pounding, the thought repeatedly going through my head, “Why did I agree to do this?” and then, it’s time…..to be funny. I’ve had bad dreams about that exact thing happening most of my life, and a few years ago it happened. Now, I am not a funny person. The thought of having to make people laugh makes me physically uncomfortable, but somehow I had been convinced to be a guest performer for an improv troupe.
The logical question would be, then why do it? Why put yourself in a situation that you know you have had nightmares about? The answer comes in some advice I once received from a mentor. Do one thing a week that makes you uncomfortable. By pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, you grow as a person.
Now that seems simple in theory, but when you are faced with the butterflies in your stomach and the overwhelming urge to get sick, you start to wonder if it’s worth it. Do I want to grow or do I want to settle for who I currently am? I wasn’t convinced that doing something that pushes my boundaries would make me grow until he put it more directly. He said, “You are either growing or dying, choose your path.” Put that way, I certainly wasn’t interested in “dying,” as he put it. Now, he didn’t mean literally dying, but metaphorically dying, or being stagnant.
So when I was asked to be a guest performer for the improv troupe where they wanted me to do the opening monologue by myself, I agreed. I was literally living one of my nightmares. But I wanted to grow and become outstanding, so I needed to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
OK great, I am going to be uncomfortable a lot in life. Sounds like fun, right? To me, it didn’t until I read some advice from a former Green Beret, Jason Van Camp, as to how he was able to get through Beret training.
- There is no way around it – when you start something, it always sucks, whether it is a diet or learning something new. The most important thing to do, though is to just start!
- Don’t quit.There were so many times I thought, “No one will care if I just quit.” But I knew that if I did, I would know, and I am by far my hardest critic.
- Push yourself past your comfort zone. There will come a time when you are standing in the “doorway” scared to walk through, but you must find a way to push yourself through it.
- Embrace “the suck.” Let’s face it. It will. You might get embarrassed. You might fail. You might think, “I should have done this differently.” Don’t allow those thoughts to enter your head. Instead, laugh. Embrace “the suck.” It has a purpose.
- Be around like-minded people. Having people around that embrace what you are trying to accomplish is like having your own cheerleading squad. It is necessary for the wins and even more so when you have the losses.
- Recognize your improvements. You will improve. Take the time to recognize it. You put in the effort, and it is time to receive the reward.
- Finally, “rinse and repeat.” You might fail. You might not be perfect at whatever you are trying to do. That’s OK. Don’t dwell on it. We tell our kids when they are learning to ride a bike that it’s OK to fall – just get back on and try again.
Now, I’m not saying that if you follow those steps, you will magically feel better. Nope. But what I am saying is that it will help. If you continue to push yourself, you will start to notice a pattern. You will start to realize that the uncomfortable feeling doesn’t mean anything more than your body acknowledging something new, and every time it will get a bit easier.
So I stepped through the doorway that day into a room full of strangers and made them laugh. That night when I was alone, I thought about what I had accomplished. The standing ovation made me feel good, but knowing I pushed myself outside my comfort zone made me feel amazing.
So get comfortable being uncomfortable, because you are either growing or dying.