Here’s a secret about yours truly. Nearly 7 years ago I met Mr Right through the utterly terrifying world of online dating.
Yep. Shy, introverted little me plucked up the guts to create a profile (perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write) and put myself out there to meet complete strangers in bars before deciding if we were ‘compatible’ enough to spend the rest of our lives together. Or, you know, maybe just go for another drink.
The first time I set eyes on Ollie was at one of the busiest and most chaotic roundabouts in London. One of those where you step off the tube and feel like all your senses are being attacked as you struggle to determine which exit will lead you to your destination without adding a 10 mile walk to your journey. Why we chose there to meet I will never know. Starting a date being hustled out of the way by London’s rush hour commuters isn’t the best way to ease the nerves. A bit of dutch courage in the form of a G&T? Yes please. Angry commuters who hate dawdlers? Not so much.
Never fear though because this story has a happy ending. The day before we met, Ollie had texted me the correct exit to meet him at (which meant no panic about where I was going) and so we met up without too much palaver, headed straight for a bar in trendy Shoreditch, drank copious amounts of beer, then slowly but surely fell in love. The rest as they say is history.
But of course that’s not the whole story.
Ollie turned out to be Mr Right and 7 years on he’s now living with my parents as we save money to buy a house (and if that’s not testament to love I don’t know what is!) However leading up to my date with Mr Right there were of course a whole heap of Mr Wrongs.
From the guy who was about a foot shorter than me and looked NOTHING like his picture, to the guy who chose a horrible sports bar to meet me in before turning up half an hour late, to the guy who was nice enough but didn’t drink alcohol and was even quieter than me (awwwkwaaard), to the guy who was fun, friendly and a total gent but simply not my type…I went on lots of dates with incompatible men before Ollie came along and provided me with that oh-so-magical ‘click’ moment that we’re all looking for in a relationship.
The fact of the matter is that through the process of meeting the right person, I met lots of people who were really, really not for me. Some were interesting, some were not. But the point is, I would never have met Ollie had I not stepped out the door and tried.
Was it scary? Of course it was.
But the truth is that I had a deep burning desire to find someone I could share my life with, settle down with, start a family with and experience life’s ups and downs with. And in the end that desire to meet the right person superseded all those terrifying fears, worries and ‘is-he-going-to-like-me?’ pre-date nerves. I did what I had to do to meet someone. I dug deep, plucked up some courage and put myself out there.
Which brings me onto the crazy ol’ world of business.
After a few years of being my own boss (which consequently means a few years of ups and downs!) I recently had the realisation that I’ve got far too used to my warm, protective, zone of comfort.
As the place where everything feels nice and cosy and safe and not in the least bit challenging, there’s no doubt in my mind that my comfort zone has seriously taken over. Drawing me in hour after hour with the promise of weeks without butterflies or sleepless nights, it has served its purpose in keeping me safe whilst simultaneously holding me back from reaching my full potential.
Content in just getting by and feeling snug, I’d fallen into the dangerous trap of thinking that the ‘I-can’t-eat-my-breakfast-because-I’m-so-nervous’ feeling represented a disloyalty to my natural strengths.
Invitations to events got turned down. Clients got knocked back. Opportunities to meet with interesting people got tossed away. I stuck to my guns and followed the simple-to-follow blanket rule ‘If it makes me feel funny, it must be wrong for me’.
But do you know what?
Just like online dating, creating a successful business takes guts, determination and an ability to put yourself on the line. You have to try things out, experiment, test yourself, see what works, meet different people and most importantly, leave the boundaries of your ‘oh-so-cosy’ comfort zone so you can push through the fear to see what lies beyond.
It can feel terrifying, nerve-wracking and overwhelming. But on those days when you take the leap only to find everything goes brilliantly and the world hasn’t ended…Well, it can feel absolutely ‘high-as-a-kite’ amazing.
Unlike the warm sleepy energy you get from your place of safety, successfully stepping out of that circle can give you a level of excitement, fulfillment and satisfaction that no comfort zone can ever provide you with. It’s a type of energy that only comes when you challenge yourself and try something new – one that leaves you glowing with pride, revved up with ideas, and beaming with joy.
Will it always go to plan?
Definitely not. And I’m learning all the time that there’s a fine line between a healthy stretching of your comfort zone and an unhealthy push against your natural strengths and abilities. It takes intuition, experimentation and an ability to judge your own emotions and energy levels. It’s not always easy and I’m certainly not going to stand here and claim I’m an expert at it.
But one thing I do know is this. Until you get out there, give it a go, and simply try, you can’t possibly know how things will work out. You’ve got to be in it to win it, after all. And I for one will be plucking up courage far more readily from now on.
Because if taking the leap led me to find the man of my dreams, then who knows where else it will take me?
A daily dose of courage could be just what I need.