Comfort Zone or Adventure?

Last weekend my partner and I did some white-water rafting in West Virginia, the land of the wild and wonderful. As a public speaking and communication coach I encourage clients to explore territory outside their comfort zone and you better believe that focus took hold of me while I was on my own personal adventure.

I wasn’t sure which of my instincts would take over first – my comfort zone or my desire for adventure, but I certainly realized that I too often have a fear of failure. Our guide said anyone who screws up has to deal with ridicule and sarcasm. I chose to sit in the back of the boat where I hoped my ride would be more stable, and I would be less likely to fall out of the boat. I didn’t want to be the subject of sarcastic remarks “Merri can’t stay in control! Merri can’t hang on!”

At times on this raft adventure after we had maneuvered around rapids into calm waters we were encouraged to get out of the boat and enjoy the water. Although it was a hot day, I wasn’t sure I could get back in the boat, so I stayed put. Eventually, though, the fun others was having inspired me to get out of my comfort zone. My motive was simple – take advantage of the opportunity even if I slip up!

Many speakers can benefit from the same advice. Instead of saying you aren’t skilled enough to speak or to handle feedback or to seek listener interaction, recognize this as just an excuse. Like me with the rafting, you fear failure. And that’s a personal barrier pattern that gets in your way of seeing just how talented you are, just how much you and others can gain from the adventure.

I have been with speakers who say, “I have to have time to think about things before I speak, so I won’t talk first in a networking situation.” Could they do well initiating conversation? Probably. They just haven’t let themselves realize it for fear of failure or embarrassment.

If this is something you can relate to, take yourself on an adventure. Accept the opportunity to speak or to network or to push yourself out of your comfort zone. See it not as a time for embarrassment but as  a chance to see what you’re made of.

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