Do you feel like your life is stuck in the same dull routine? Do you have the impression that life is passing you by, while all around you people appear to be on a trajectory to greater career success and happier home lives? Do you find yourself thinking “if only” while doing nothing?
Training yourself to make and take calculated risks will have a liberating effect on your whole life.
“Everybody feels fear,” says personal development coach Alison Hollingsworth. “It can paralyse you and keep you stuck, a self-fulfilling prophecy, or you can use those nervous feelings to power you forward to make new choices, to feel energised and excited about your life.”
Personal growth coach and author Louise Presley-Turner agrees: “By saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities, you open up your life to new experiences.”
Step outside your comfort zone
“A lot of our decisions are habitual,” says Louise. “Our inner voice is telling us, ‘Oh, I can’t do that/that’s not for me/I’m not up to that.’ Start by stopping yourself automatically saying ‘no’ to new opportunities.”
Could you do that work presentation even though you feel sick with nerves at the very thought? What about booking that holiday even though it means you’ll have to drive a hire car on the ‘wrong’ side of the road?
She recommends taking time to mull over a decision, rather than automatically denigrating yourself. “Ask yourself, ‘Does this feel exciting, even though I’m scared?” she says. “If it does, do it.”
Be kinder to yourself
Break the negative thoughts that are holding you back. “You’d never talk to your best friend the way you talk to yourself. If you did, she’d probably poke you in the eye,” says Alison Hollingsworth. “Be your own best friend.”
“Think about what you want to do and make a plan of small steps to get there.”
Philippa Linane, a personal development coach and an accredited trainer leading workshops in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (the late Susan Jeffers’ multi-million selling self-help classic book), used to suffer from crippling social anxiety herself.
Instead of thinking ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ she suggests a more positive thought process. “Tell yourself, “Everybody wants me to do well, nobody wants me to fail.”
“When you take small steps to be more courageous, you grow in confidence and become more content in yourself. You never know, when you go for something, it could turn out bigger and better than you ever imagined. Doors may open for you, you may make new friends, learn new skills, travel.”
She also recommends taking your own fears out of the equation. “I realised that public speaking wasn’t about me, it was about the audience and wanting them to gain something.
“If you’re giving a talk in public, imagine it through to the end with applause and positive questions afterwards. Think to yourself, ‘If I want to be confident, articulate and engaging, what is that going to look and sound like?’ Practice - I used to stand in front of the mirror giving a talk! - and ask for help from someone who does it well. It’s human nature for people to want to help each other.”
“I often ask my clients to visualise their success,” says Louise. From a first date to a job interview, she says if you can imagine how the scene will pan out positively, you start to “change your belief system and feel more empowered.”
Do a dare list
“Think of 20 to 30 things you’ve always wanted to do, write them down, then every time you cross one off as a new experience, you can clap yourself on the back and celebrate,” says Louise.
It could be ridding yourself of ‘I can’t do that’ beliefs - driving in a multi-storey car park, learning to swim as an adult, going to the cinema by yourself - to the big life-changing events, like starting your own business or taking a sabbatical abroad.
And once you start being brave and challenging yourself to do new things, instead of being stuck in an inner mental loop of “I wish I could do that/be like her/say that”, your self-confidence expands.
Your perception of yourself changes and when the next challenge comes you’ll be able to call on prior experience to think “Of course I can do this.” New experiences and new horizons are there to be grabbed.