I was in London a while ago. I travel a lot and wherever I go, I make time to go to meetups and all sorts of programs, so that I can get to know new people, and learn new things.
This time I decided to look for a program, which would take me out of my comfort zone. I chose one about public speaking, where the participants get to try what it’s like to talk in front of strange people and can receive some tools and tips.
I was really excited about this program, as I’m also quite nervous when I need to speak in front of an audience. Even if I’ve done it several times, I still have butterflies in my stomach at the thought of it. So, I thought this would be a great start.
We were about 30 people, many of us just visiting, and many have just moved to London. The group was multicultural, with people from all around the world.
During the first part of the evening 8 people were chosen, who were asked to give a spontaneous speech in 2 minutes. Many of the speakers came to this meetup for the first time.
The host gave everyone a quote by Lao-Tzu Chinese philosopher, and the speakers needed to improvise a story around these. One of the quotes was this:
„The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
The brave man chosen for this speech was somewhere between 45-50 years old. His name was Kevin. He walked up to the stage slowly, with a nervous smile. There he stopped, and you could sense, that he was not comfortable at all.
„This has been 7 steps so far.” – he said quietly.
“I came here tonight, and it’s my first time here, to try and make myself visible, which is really difficult for me. The fact that I took these 7 steps from my chair to the stage tells me, that I’m on the right track. These steps were difficult, and to stand here and speak in front of so many strangers is terrifying, but not as difficult as I thought. If I move little by little towards my biggest and scariest goal, then maybe I will get to where I want to be.”
Then, amid a huge applause, he went back to his seat. And won the best speaker title for that evening.
Wowowow, isn’t that awesome?
So, what’s going on here?
There is something that our hero really desires, but it is something that terrifies him. This fear is paralysing him.
It’s possible, that he knows all too well, what it’s like to always stay in the background, just so that he would not have to speak in front of others. It’s also possible, that due to this elemental fear, he might not have applied for jobs, where he is expected to give a presentation or a speech in front of a team. Maybe he cannot be convincing enough at an interview, because he is so afraid to be in the spotlight.
Who knows. There could be so many reasons why Kevin decided that evening to step out of his comfort zone, to go to a new environment and do something with what is a huge challenge to him, and a serious obstacle.
This club offers a safe environment for people who want to practice public speaking. The hosts and group leaders there all started off from exactly where the newcomers were at that moment, and because of this they are doing their utmost to turn these challenges into easy and fun experiences.
And it’s a great choice to practice things that terrify us in a safe space. There is absolutely no need to these in real life situations right away. You are allowed to make mistakes in such a space. Nobody makes fun of anyone, so the risk is small.
Many people don’t start a new business, even if they would really like to and would also have the talent for it, because they are scared of failure. Others don’t look for a new job, because they think it would be too risky to switch. And still, others give up their dreams, because they are afraid that things will not work out as planned.
So, they don’t make changes. And continue feeling miserable.
We tend to think, that not changing is safe, and change is where the danger lies.
The world’s most successful entrepreneurs often state, that the biggest risk in life is not starting and then failing something. Failure is not about not being able to achieve your goal.
The biggest risk is not starting at all.
And to start, one step is enough. Or seven.
I’ve worked with many clients about what stands in their way, that stops them from doing work they enjoy, or starting the business of their dreams. We discover again and again, that it’s not because they’re not smart enough, that they don’t have enough experience, or that they don’t know what they would really like to do.
What stands in their way, is that they are afraid to go for it. The dream seems to be too distant, or too big of a challenge.
So often it is easier to let go of these dreams, and even pretend they don’t exist.
I wrote an article a while ago about the dreams we harbour. In the article, I included a 3-step challenge that I learnt from John Blakey, founder of Challenging Coaching, when we met at his workshop some years ago.
Dream – the challenge is that I dare you to dream, for a moment forget all constraints, and think about whatever would be ideal for you. What would be your Olympic medal? If you knew you would succeed, what would be the dream you would like to accomplish? What is the biggest obstacle, that stops you from getting started? How could you go around that? What will happen, if you didn’t do anything? If you believed in yourself, what would be different?
Share it – who would you like to tell it to? Go on, share it with a supportive group of people, or a coach. The fact that you have taken responsibility for this dream, and the accountability that comes together with the sharing, you have already made the first steps towards your goal.
Just start – you don’t need to know, how a brave plan will become reality, but you must take the first step. This first step is always making a commitment to action, which can actually be a tiny step.
You know, that first step of the thousand-mile journey….
This will bring the confidence to take the next steps. And a coach could help you turn your dreams into reality, instead of giving up on them.
What could be your first step to take you closer to your dream? When are you going to take it?
If not now, when?
That evening Kevin took his first steps. He chose to try himself in a safe space.
I know that this is one of the most important effects of coaching – creating a safe space, just like it was in that public speaking group. During our work, we look at what a new alternative or action step would look like in a challenging situation. We create awareness for unconscious or less-known skills, knowledge or talent. This new awareness can put a challenge into a totally different light.
As you can see, going after your dreams does not mean you need to make a sudden, and immediate change that scares you. A thousand-mile journey cannot be done in one minute, or without preparation.
So, what will be your first seven steps?
Photo by Eva Tornallyay