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Mind the Gap

Taking courageous moves

Posted by Sarah Hobbs

Courage is a prerequisite for many roles – and unless you are willing to step up to challenges, progression will be slow. For a fast track career, living life outside of your comfort zone is likely to become the norm.

For some of us who prefer to be fully prepared and hold ourselves to high standards, the idea of taking on a challenge without knowing how we are going to tackle it can almost paralyse us. I’m not sure where you sit on the continuum between always being out of your comfort zone or preferring to be always solidly in your comfort zone – but this is a guide on how to approach those moments in our career that need courage.

So, how can we face up to a challenge when we are having major misgivings?

Just do it.
If you know that a job will be challenging, there is a good chance that you will procrastinate and lose the opportunity – so don’t! Act fast. Make a habit of jumping in at the deep end. The more you do this and find that you survive, the more confident you’ll become that you have skills in managing a challenge.

Remember it doesn’t require you to be a different person
Sometimes we think that the people who face challenges successfully have something special or different. Whilst there are certain qualities that make it easier to face high exposure and pressure, we all have to deal with the challenges just as we are. Work out what will make it easier for you to do – for example, if planning gives you comfort, spend a short time working out your plan before you dive in. Or if you like building work relationships, see how the challenge offers a way to do this. If you feel more comfortable with a mentor or a supportive team of friends, set this up. Use whatever works for you.

Remember the tortoise and the hare
At T&P this is one of our favourite stories – it was the tortoise with steady application who won the race rather than the hare. There is so much truth in this story for your career. You don’t have to rush into everything; being sensibly paced and disciplined can often bring balance and structure to the race, and ensure that everyone does a great job.

See the challenge as learning
Clearly you’re not going out of your way to fail, but that doesn’t prevent our brains clicking in and helping us to visualise failure before we even start. Most of the time, the reality is that failure is unlikely – but you’ll probably make a few mistakes along the way. You can turn these into positive mistakes by learning from them. A favourite quote is “Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. There is no down side.” Remember – things are rarely either a success or a failure – most of the time they are somewhere in between.

Exercise the courage muscle
I once read a quote that imagined courage as a muscle to train, and made the point that the more you do courageous things, the better you become at it. It’s not easy to put yourself in those situations, but it does get easier the more that you do it.

If you don’t face the challenge – make sure you don’t regret it
You might decide that you’re not going to take up a demanding challenge. Think about it carefully before saying no, and understand why you’ve made the decision. But once you’ve made a decision, don’t beat yourself up or constantly revisit it wishing you’d done something different. Focus on the good reasons behind the decision – and don’t worry – there will be another challenge along in a minute!

TAKE AWAY
The only way to advance your career is to face up to and deliver on challenges from time to time. Gather all of your strength and resolve, find the right time – and act!