Making Work, Work

Can you believe we are already a whole week into 2019? How are those New Year resolutions shaping up? Are you, like many lawyers in our network trying to adopt healthier habits, or have you pledged to declutter and organise your workspace? Perhaps you have something bigger in mind, such as a change of career path?

It may be too soon to judge whether a resolution is on track to succeed, but if you are already finding things aren’t quite working out as you’d have hoped, it may be time to scrap the list and focus on one single goal: to step outside of your comfort zone more.

Comfort: the enemy of progress

Resolutions have merit as general guidelines to what kind of year you want to have, but as a checking off list they can sometimes have a negative effect on our long term motivation. If we don’t achieve all that we have listed in the speed and manner that we had hoped, we leave ourselves feeling as if we have failed, and can overshadow the real, tangible progress we have made all year.

There are others reasons so many of our New Year Resolutions are doomed to fail. One is the tendency to see January 1st as a giant reset button. The start of a new year is of course a logical time to commit to starting a new project or hobby, or begin work on a long thought about goal. However, our lives don’t begin with a clean slate once the clock hits midnight. We are the same people as we were last year, and the year before. We still have the commitments and responsibilities and problems of life that we had a few hours ago in 2018. Life as we know it goes on, and the feeling of ‘business as usual’ can be at odds with both the big and small things we have pledged to changed or take up from January 1st.

But by far the biggest barrier to changing habits and achieving long-held goals is staying within our comfort zones. There is nothing wrong with having a comfort zone – we all need a state where we feel secure and grounded with familiarity – but we all need to find the will and ability to step outside of it on a regular basis to keep moving forward and growing as individuals.

Keep the resolutions by all means, but add these tips for stepping out of your comfort zone to the top of your list…

#1 Stop being ‘busy’

Yes, finding time to do what we want to do is an issue for all lawyers, but often we can get so used to being ‘busy’, we lose sense of what are necessary tasks and what we do to feel and appear productive. Making time for your personal goals will help you continue to be truly motivated and productive person. Take a look at these time management tips from attorneyatwork.com to help you free up time and headspace for achieving new goals.

#2 Get to know your fear state

There is a science behind stepping out of your comfort zone which suggests you need to find the right level of anxiety that will spur you on – too little and you won’t make the move, too much and you’ll freeze on the spot. Knowing how you reflexively respond to unfamiliar and difficult circumstances will help you identify just how far you should be pushing yourself.

#3 Change up the daily routine

The best way to get out of your comfort zone is to make small changes to your overall routine. Start the day with a walk instead of emails, take the scenic route to the office, try to visit a different lunch venue each day of the week, walk into an exhibition on a whim. Make differentiation the norm in your life.

#4 Recall previous accomplishments

Take note of how you felt about yourself at the time, what steps you had to take to get there, the luck or good timing that was involved. This will help you to visualise how to create a similar situation again.

#5 Sit back and observe

While self reflection is vital in this process, you may also need to step out of your bubble. Slow down and take time to see how other people make decisions and try new things – there may be something to learn from watching others navigate their own fears and obstacles.

 

What’s the worst that could happen?

Stepping outside of your comfort zone doesn’t have to mean taking a huge bungee jump off the edge of it (though it absolutely can mean that if you want it to!). The first seemingly insignificant small step is as important as the one that really makes you say ‘wow, I can’t believe I just did that.’ Doing the thing that scares you e.g. public speaking (a big one for many lawyers) might involve gradually conquering the fear through practice and building resilience. Whatever it is that you have actively avoided doing in your life, or have never given yourself the chance to try, start with small steps to take to achieve it – such as going along to a local Toastmaster’s event or doing a speech at a social gathering.

The Obelisk team has a range of different health, travel and personal development resolutions we want to accomplish this year. All will involve a small or bigger step out of our comfort zones and routines. Last year, one small-yet-big thing I did that was outside of my comfort zone was ask people in my network for help with work. It paid off – I realised the worst that someone could say was no, and in fact it was a truly pleasant surprise to see how someone took the time to recommend me to their peers. I have pledged this year to support more people in what they do in any small way I can, all part continuing to try to stretch my comfort zone by reaching out to people and communicating more.

Make the New Year not about new beginnings, but continuing on a positive footing, whatever that may entail. With a promise to yourself to do at least one thing this year that takes you outside of your comfort zone, the rest will follow.