Alexander Huber is a professional mountain climber and wrote a book called “Fear, your best friend (german original title: Die Angst, dein bester Freund)”. The book is unfortunately only in German available. While reading the book I was often reminded about my work life and the role uneasy feelings or sometimes even fear plays in it. I do love quotes with good statements because they usually hit the nail on the head. One of my favourite quotes is “Never limit your challenges, challenge your limits”. Which in my opionion seamlessly integrates with “Great things never come from comfort zone”. Both quotes are very true for me – I do not only love to take new challenges, but I embrace them with open arms. Every challenge is a possibility to grow, to learn something new, to enrich my experience. That’s one of the most important reasons why I choose project management as my career path. Because being a project manager puts you constantly in new or unexpected situations, sometimes these situations are even bigger then you think you can handle them. And that’s also the point when fear is starting to play a role. I’m not afraid when doing everyday work. But I admit I can get afraid when I move beyond my limits – it usually starts small with an uneasy feeling and increases with every step I take out of my comfort zone.
Alexander Huber describes fear as important factor when climbing the mountains. If you plan to climb Mount Everest, you know this might be a threat to your life. You will prepare as good as possible because you don’t want to leave anything to chance. As soon as you are at the mountain you concentrate only on the important things and leave all other stuff aside. Because you can’t risk not being focused.
When I move out of my comfort zone in my work I definitely do not risk my life. Nevertheless, I am afraid in certain situations. Until I read the book I considered my fear mostly as hindering and tried to deal with it by pushing it aside or getting my inner calmness with meditation back. I never thought about my fear in a positive way, that it might be a good advisor to rely on.
Moving out of my comfort zone means usually doing things I have never done before. For these things I have no experience I can rely on, I might even be in the need to adopt new skills to successfully tackle the challenge. Bad feelings or fear arise because you have no guarantee that you will succeed and the risk of failing becomes an option. You can minimize that risk by thinking and planning ahead. Being well prepared puts you back in charge of the situation and gives you a plan how you can solve it. And ultimately decreases your fear. Paying attention to the level of fear is therefore probably a good indicator to tell you how well you should be prepared to tackle a certain challenge. It means also to consider the risk of failing and how you will deal with it in case it happens. The rest of your fear which might not be more than an uneasy feeling ensures that you stay focused on the right things.
Alexander Huber writes you can take risks as long as you have the self confidence to handle them. If the fear gets bigger than your confidence and even planning doesn’t help you to get back control that’s the point to seek for help or even to admit that this challenge is currently to big for you. Admitting that it’s currently to big doesn’t mean you have to give up, it just means you put it to the side until you’re ready. You decide whether that’s tomorrow, next week or in a year.
These insights will certainly not prevent me from taking any challenges in the future, because as already mentioned – great things never come from comfortzone. But they have changed my perception of my uneasy feelings or even fear. It is not just a negative feeling, but a good advisor for all of your adventures. Therefore you should always remember:
Take every chance! Respect every fear!