Sometimes you have to step outside your comfort zone if you want to move forward in your life and achieve your goals and find happiness.
That doesn’t just apply to quitting drinking. Your love life, your career, your health and your all round happiness often require you to take a step into an area that you might find scary and challenging.
If there is something you want to achieve and it seems difficult you have two choices.
1) Leave things as they are, take the easy option and remain stuck/miserable/unsatisfied/unhappy.
2) Have some courage and face the situation even though you know there may be difficulties and challenges. But get the outcome you want.
I have stepped outside my comfort zone – so can you!
I was asked to speak at This Naked Mind Live 2019, this is a huge conference in Denver, Colorado and it was an awesome opportunity for me to share my story, connect with inspirational people and to further awareness about Be Sober and the alcohol-free movement.
But – I am incredibly scared of public speaking. I have never spoken to more than roughly twenty people in my life (other than at my wedding and of course, I was full of alcohol, so who knows what I actually said). The thought of standing up and speaking with all the eyes on me just fills me with dread (a bit like the thought of having a day without wine used to).
So I had the same two choices as above, I could miss out on the conference and pass on the awesome opportunity I had been presented with. Or I could push myself well outside my comfort zone and do it.
I chose the second option, it was too much of an amazing opportunity. Yes it meant travelling to the USA and annoying my wife for weeks practising my talk in the kitchen, but I just knew I had to do it.
I realised the first thing I had to do when it came to stepping outside my comfort zone was to truly commit to it. So I emailed my acceptance and booked my flights and hotel so I knew there was no going back. Making a firm and true commitment is that first big step outside the comfort zone. My advice is – Don’t dither and sit on the fence, commit to it and put yourself in a position where there is no going back on it.
In the weeks before the conference I was working on preparing my speech and pushing the thoughts about how worried I was at the prospect of speaking in front of hundreds of people to the back of my head, it still seemed a long time away so I was able to manage the fear. But as it grew closer it got more and more real.
That said, even after I arrived in Colorado I was still pretty calm, I had adopted an attitude of ‘it’s not today, so it’s OK’. But the nerves started to hit me pretty hard the night before, I was awake most of the night and on the morning of my talk I was in quite a state.
But I knew there was no going back and I tried to visualise how good I would feel once I walked off the stage. I spent time thinking about success and when I had negative thoughts about failure I would reframe them into something more positive.
My head was full of ‘what if’ messages- ‘what if I had a meltdown’, ‘what if I messed it all up’, ‘what if my voice started to wobble and everyone could hear my nervousness’. Each time they came to mind I would observe the thought, allow it to pass and then change it to a statement that reinforced success. I even said a few of them out loud.
So the day finally came. I did a final run through of my talk around an hour before I was due on stage and I could feel my voice wobbling, I started to convince myself that it was going to be a disaster!
Thankfully, I had connected with Jolene Park who was one of the other speakers, she has presented TED Talks and is a seasoned speaker. She is also an expert in the art of controlling the nervous system – what luck!
We had spent some time the evening before sitting and standing on the stage so I was orientated and had built up some muscle memory, this really helped as I started to feel used to being on the stage and nothing would take me by surprise when I walked on.
Jolene also gave me some techniques to help regulate my nerves, vigorously shaking my hands and legs served to take the nervous energy away from my brain. Apparently this is why animals shake when they are scared.
Before long I was sat backstage with ten minutes to go until I was introduced. I put my headphones on played the most motivating songs I could find, at the same time as shaking every part of my body I could.
As I was introduced my hands were shaking (not in the way Jolene had suggested) and I could feel a wobble in my voice when I talked, I was convinced this was going to be a disaster.
As my name was announced I walked up the steps and on to the stage in front of hundreds of people who seemed genuinely delighted to hear what I had to say.
I said my first words…there was no wobble, there was no fear, it had all vanished. The audience were supporting me, they were laughing, clapping and joining in. It felt like I was talking to a room full of friends.
The amazing audience at This Naked Mind Live 2019
After the first few minutes I realised I was actually having fun! I wasn’t meant to enjoy this was I? That wasn’t the narrative I had given myself. I felt totally relaxed and was confident enough to add jokes and stories to my talk that I hadn’t planned.
On stage at This Naked Mind Live 2019
The talk went so much better than I could ever have imagined and I received a standing ovation. People were coming up to me afterwards saying how much they enjoyed it and asking me about my journey and the Be Sober movement.
I was on a huge high, I couldn’t believe I had done it and how well it had gone – I had pushed myself right outside my comfort zone, I had faced my fear of public speaking and overcome it and now I had my reward. I had grown as a person, I had achieved something I never thought I could do and I had even enjoyed myself at the same time.
Just imagine if I had stayed in the comfort of my home in the UK and chosen to miss out.
I will post a full review of This Naked Mind Live 2019 very soon, just in case you are considering attending next year (trust me, you should do, it’s awesome).
But for now, I want to tell you that if you want to achieve something in your life you sometimes have to be brave in order to move forward and grow as a person. Yes, this can mean difficulties and discomfort, but believe me, it is better than staying where you are.
You could be stuck in a job you don’t like or in a relationship that isn’t serving you (I was in one of those with red wine). No matter what it is – you need to move forward and sometimes this means doing or saying things that seem hard to get the outcome you want.