If you play tennis, you’re probably familiar with the concept of a “second serve.” In tennis, you have two chances to serve the ball, so on the first you can really put everything into it, with little risk since you always have that second one to fall back on. The key is how you approach the second one.
When I was much younger, I learned that it was OK – critical even – to learn how to hit a powerful second serve – something that would be nearly as effective as the first – with lots of spin to it. But that took time and effort and many, many failed attempts – even in game-time situations.
The easy solution in the moment would have been to tap that second serve right in – risking little, but also not developing for the future. But I’m very glad I got the advice I did to risk it early on, and learn from experience and failure, because now I actually have a second serve I can use effectively – something that’s actually an asset –a weapon – and something I can use in real game time situations.
And, as I’ve learned from my own experience, as well as from the experiences interviewing managers, executives, and entrepreneurs for my new book Reach, having the courage to take a leap is just as important in business as it is on the tennis court.
So, what are the best practices for willing yourself to take that leap and do something you know will help you in the long run, but which feels risky, awkward, or uncomfortable in the short term?
The first tip is to use your power of rationalization for you instead of against you. We’re all really good at avoiding situations outside our comfort zones – or in the tennis example, telling ourselves it’s important to get that first serve in now – and that perhaps in the future we’ll work on something more powerful and effective. So, instead of listening to that voice convincing you why you shouldn’t take a leap, use your power of rationalization to think of all the reasons you have to – how it will catalyze your business, enhance your personal growth, or even enable you to become the executive you’ve always hoped to become. That’s the power of rationalization, and it can be a great force for change if you can harness its power.
The second tip is to recognize that you’re already more flexible than you think. Yes, perhaps in the particular situation you’re thinking of, you’re feeling a bit stuck and afraid to take a leap. But there are certainly many other situations in your life where that has not been the case. You’ve taken leaps before: you’ve left home, probably gone to college; you’ve taken a new job with responsibilities that at the time were outside your comfort zone. You’ve gone for that strong second serve before, so you can do it again.
Finally, the third tip is the power of small steps and small wins. Let’s say your second serve situation is giving a public speech. Don’t start giving a speech in front of the most intimidating audience you know of. Instead, start small – perhaps even signing up for a public speaking seminar, and then give a speech to colleagues, or in a meeting with lesser consequences before trying it out in the more challenging and consequential situation. You want to take risks, but you also want to build your skills. So, be smart about sequencing, and your chances of success will greatly increase.
No one ever said it’s easy to step outside your comfort zone – in sports or in business. But with a solid plan in place and the courage to take a chance, you will be very surprised at what you can accomplish.
– Andy Molinsky is the author of the new book Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
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