One of my absolute favorite quotes in the world is, “If you want to change the world, encourage people to be more fully themselves”. Even before I began coaching, I quickly became aware that supporting people wasn’t about molding them into some ideal. What was important was to tune into who a person really is and find ways to encourage them to flourish to be more fully what they already are, not to make them try to be something they are not.
Today I want to share five stories that have taught me great lessons on how to help others push past comfort zones and ultimately grow past a static place that they may have found themselves in.
1. Face your fears.
A client, who had spent his career working for other people, took the leap to start his own company. Several fears surfaced — he would fail, he might be laughed at, he could go broke. By exploring those fears deliberately, they were no longer a handicap. He named those each fear that could have held him back, and kept them on a paper in front of him. Rather than allowing them to fester in the background and suffocate him, he used them to increase his understanding of what the people he worked with might be going through too. Today he is a powerful empathic leader.
2. Setting boundaries.
I was working with a couple. One party was the angry one, and the other was the accommodating one – always adapting his expression to the needs of the other. Initially it looked like the person always speaking out was the frustrated one. After scratching the surface, however, it became clear the accommodating person was the angry one carrying a lot of pent-up aggression. They committed to evolve their dynamic into something way more functional than how they had been doing it. Anger changed into clarity.
3. Finding confidence in Shame.
I had a client, a self-described alpha, who always had a shiny exterior, was very good at making others impressed with who he was and his achievements. Yet, there was a dissatisfaction in him, he felt bad about himself even though he was very good at making himself look great to others. The breakthrough came when he saw how much of this was coming from shame, from the feeling of not being good enough. Shame isn’t just shy. Sometimes it shows up as superior: trying to be more than you are. As he came to appreciate who he is, exactly as he is, a new feeling emerged of being enough. No need to prove how great he is. Once he had admitted to himself this false alpha thing was coming from shame, he relaxed. He understood this “not good enough” feeling as just a voice he had learned from all the expectations he felt as a kid. He started to listen to a different voice, a part of himself that loved and believed in him as he is.
4. Finding connection in sadness.
A client of mine was feeling very alone and wanted a partner in life. A whole new experience opened as we made it safe for her to feel the loneliness more deeply. In that depth she could also feel it as openness to love. We would not feel empty inside if we did have a great capacity to connect. This client reframed her story from “I must be lonely because I’m not good at connecting” to “this feeling of loneliness is my longing to connect, this makes me a good partner”. We reviewed times where she had connected genuinely and deeply with various people along the way. It wasn’t long before she met her future partner. Being willing to feel alone led to a connection and a beautiful loving marriage.
5. Do something drastically different.
I have been fortunate in deliberately putting myself in a place that wasn’t normally like me. Or like who I was at the time. For example my move from the UK to the US in 1993. A whole new expression of me emerged. I always look for ways to open people to doing something unfamiliar to them. Change the way you eat, shave your beard or go without make up, learn a new skill, take a cold shower, sleep on the floor instead of your bed. Small stuff to push yourself out of your comfort zone and open up to a different experience.
I hope these little anecdotes encourage you to see how you can move beyond your comfort zone, in small or big ways.