If you take a few minutes to read this, sitting at your desk, mug in your hand, how do you feel? Are you satisfied or frustrated? Is everything going swimmingly in your work and home life, or do you have an unrealised ambition?
For most of us, there will be something that we still want to do. Grow the business, write a book, move house – everyone has dreams, but for many people they remain dreams becuase we are afraid to take risks, afraid to fail.
‘That’s not me’, you might say. Perhaps you are a risk taker … but do you only take risks in the field that you are confident in? If you are athletic, perhaps you push yourself to run faster, run further, climb higher, climb unroped. For me, I read more, I write more, I set myself new challenges to study new topics and write better books. Sometimes, though, we need to acknowledge that in order to achieve our dreams we need to take risks, to step into a field where we know little or nothing.
I live by the sea. I mean, right by the sea. It comes into our front garden on stormy days, we’re so close. I’ve lived here for nearly eight years. And every Spring, Summer and Autumn, I’ve watched boats from the sailing club scud past, sometimes as close as 20 feet from my garden. I loved the Swallows and Amazons books as a child, went on all sorts of boats when I was in Canada, but somehow sailing never made it into my life in London. And even living by the sea it was all too easy to let pregnancies, babies, toddlers and work keep me from even considering getting back in a boat.
But last Spring, I wanted to shake things up. I stepped out of my comfort zone, work, family and writing, and signed up for the Level 1 and 2 RYA course at the Sailing Club. I loved it! Out in a dinghy is one place where you can truly switch off from everything else. There’s no point taking your phone as chances are it will get wet. No-one can yell ‘Mum!’ and ask me to do things: I can just concentrate on the task in hand, battling the sea and wind to keep the boat on course. It’s exciting, exhilarating, I got to meet a whole group of new people and explored their used pontoons and boats, and take on a physical challenge every weekend. I felt a real sense of achievement as I learnt a new skill, and got handed a certificate!
If you have a dream, something that perhaps you haven’t told anyone, something that you might not even have admitted to yourself, what could it be? Take a moment to think about it.
And what would you risk by attempting to move towards that dream? Perhaps you might fall, you might fail, lose something of yourself. I certainly had to shove aside any concerns about my body in black neoprene, concerns about a physical challenge that I didn’t know whether I was ready for. Sometimes when you look hard at those barriers, they aren’t as bad as you think. Or, as with sailing, I found that with a bit of practice I could do it. When I said yes to the challenge, I found I had in me what was needed – despite being freaked out about deliberately throwing myself in the sea and capsizing the boat, I managed to right the boat during capsize practice with less difficulty than I’d imagined.
Taking risks, stepping out of your comfort zone isn’t easy. It takes practice. Sailing season has started again. I didn’t take part in last week’s level 3 class. I had to work – work is my safety zone, where I know I usually succeed. I’m working again this weekend – another missed weekend of sailing, another week back in my comfort zone, but there’s a level 3 training session on 9th May. I need to grip the rope and start sailing again. And this time I know that, having done it last year, once I’m on the water, it’s going to be great.
If you’re afraid to fail, you’ll never risk anything, but you won’t achieve your dreams either. Take time to acknowledge your dream, acknowledge the barriers, face up to them, and then go for it!
Here are three tips that have helped me deal with challenges, they apply to work and business challenges just as much as to personal dreams and aims.
- Work out what you want to do. Set goals, and break them down into baby steps. This makes it easier to know what you need to do next.
- Partner up. Someone else will have the skills to help you achieve your dream. Whether you need help with bookkeeping, a mentor, or simply to have a regular coffee with someone who has experience in the challenge that you are facing, support will help you succeed.
- Meeting a new challenge always a rollercoaster ride. Be prepared to persist through the downs as well as the ups.