Adieu, Fear. Bonjour, Possibilities.
- Innovation for Ageing
- Chris Anderson
“Risk it for the biscuit.”
That’s a phrase I can get behind. I’d stick my hand in a jar filled with angry wasps for a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. Some risks are just worth taking.
Cookie challenges aside, it’s not always easy to dive into something unknown. Fear can work as a powerful, paralyzing agent keeping us from trying something new. Though, on some occasions, a healthy dose of fear can be lifesaving – cliff climbing without a harness comes to mind – it can stand in the way of leading a more expansive and interesting life, one filled with new connections, expanded skills and more confidence.
I often must hurdle barriers of fear when trying something new. Most times, my trepidation springs from a sense of self-doubt. I feel anxious not knowing what’s to come and whether I’ll be out of my depth. In other words, I don’t want to look like a fool. Really, no one does. Yet, I have found when I have ignored that voice that tells me “You might be uncomfortable” that’s when I’ve experienced some of my best moments.
A recent example was my decision to take French. Inspired by French friends who challenge themselves to speak English with me, I’d been talking for months (possibly years) about taking French lessons. Knowing that this would be a class where I couldn’t sit quietly in the back of the room kept me from jumping in. I would have to…speak French!! How potentially embarrassing! It wasn’t until one of my French friends asked me (pre-pandemic) about my 2020 New Year’s resolutions, that I finally put a stake in the ground. I told her I was going to take French. Now, I had to…and I did.
I spent most of 2020 in weekly classes on Zoom with other beginners trying not to torture the language with my pronunciation and misplaced parts of speech. I was stretching outside of my comfort zone but so were my classmates. We enthusiastically encouraged each other, spoke IN FRENCH(!) and became friends in the process. My fears never materialized. Rather than embarrassing, the 40 weeks were empowering. Though I have much to learn, I am excited that with my new skills I will now be able to ask my French friends how they are and order “un pain au chocolat” with ease.
Thinking Fast and Slow author Daniel Kahneman argues that when we are assessing risk, we tend to place more emphasis on the potential losses than on the potential gains. By focusing on the losses, they become magnified and overestimated. Most times things will work out. In my case, my magnified fear of embarrassment in taking French served as nothing more than a delay to a richly rewarding experience.
So how do we conquer these self-driven obstacles to trying something new? Here are some ways to start:
- Begin slowly. Easing into something new allows you to build confidence to dive in further. If you’re thinking of signing up for a class, audit a session first to see if it’s something you would like. Want to get back on a bike? No need to tangle with traffic. Start with a loop around the block and gradually build your confidence.
My friend Anne took this approach with running. She felt intimidated by the sport, not sure if she could meet the physical demands. So, she started first by walking. Over time, she built up her strength, stamina and, importantly, her confidence. Today, running has become Anne’s everyday joy and an important refuge during tough times. It also has been responsible for some amazing achievements. She has a largesse of marathon medals and race times that are better than most runners 20 years her junior.
- Invite a friend to join you. This is one of my favorite strategies. Not only do I learn something new but sharing that experience with a friend makes it even better.
Thanks to my friend, Karen, I took an improv class. it was something I had been meaning to do but hadn’t quite convinced myself that it was something I was comfortable doing (that comfort zone is sooooo comfy!). The class was incredible. In addition to learning that I shouldn’t pursue a career in improv (Karen can verify), the class illustrated how truly essential it is to listen to those around you. I felt such a sense of accomplishment and had loads of fun stories to share.
- Embrace your mistakes. Sometimes when we contemplate trying something new, we feel we need to crush it right away, otherwise, why bother. Toss that thinking aside. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. As J.M. Barrie wisely said “We are all failures – at least the best of us are.”
I once worked as a brand manager for a fashion designer. I’m mildly obsessed with fashion so the chance to work with an up and coming designer was an amazing opportunity. Starting the job, I was faced with challenge of knowing little about an essential skill, graphic design. I had a good understanding of clipart but that wasn’t going to serve me well. So, I began my journey of trial and error in creating different images. It was a mistake filled journey but with time (and extraordinary patience from my boss), I was able to move from “what is this?” to “this looks good!” Though, I’m no expert, making mistakes allowed me to develop design skills that I continue to use today.
In my marketing and communications role at amazing.community, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the VOICE team on our new partnership. Both communities are stepping out of their comfort zones to launch something new and are excited about the possibilities.
To celebrate our global collaboration, we will be coming together online April 10th for an exclusive, private screening of the Swiss movie “Les Dames” and an engaging conversation with both communities afterward. The gorgeous film follows the lives of five fascinating mature women as they challenge themselves to take chances in their quest for love and companionship.
Have you never watched an online film premiere with a UK and US audience? Here’s a chance to sign up for something new! The get together will be a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and to learn about the ways our new partnership will inspire you to open the door to new learning adventures.