A year or so ago, a handful of my husband’s co-workers were organizing a group to run a 5K race in our community to benefit the American Cancer Society. I thought it was a worthy cause—but, that didn’t change the fact that I am definitely not a runner.
Regardless of my whining, my husband begged me to sign up with him. And every time, I refused. “I’ll make a fool of myself,” I told him, “I’ll probably trip or slow everybody else down.” Yes, I had plenty of excuses for why the idea of me huffing and puffing in a pair of running shoes just wasn’t a good one.
After my husband asked me for what had to be the hundredth time, I realized something: This was yet another time when I was letting my fear of the unknown hold me back. I was choosing to limit myself, because I had created this big, scary result in my head—before I even really knew what might happen.
We all have the tendency to do this same thing—particularly when it comes to our careers. We don’t want to take on that challenging project because it seems like it’s too far out of our wheelhouse. We don’t want to make that major career change because it seems totally unfeasible. Or, we don’t want to volunteer for that office committee because we’ve never done something quite like that before.
But, you know what? Trying something new isn’t all bad. In fact, it can actually be pretty exciting. So, as soon as you catch yourself repeating one of these common excuses to yourself, I think you should lace up your running shoes and take the leap anyway.
1. “I Won’t Be Good at It”
Let’s start with the most obvious one. More often than not, you hold yourself back from something new and scary because you’re convinced you’ll fail at it—much like I envisioned myself sending an entire line of runners tumbling over a curb.
But, how do you know you won’t be good at something before you even give it a go?
Spoiler alert: There really is no way to know. And, if you convince yourself that you’ll fail at something right out of the gate, all you’re doing is jumping to conclusions with a bunch of unproductive, self-deprecating thoughts.
Don’t let the fear of failure or embarrassment be the thing that holds you back in your career. As hockey great Wayne Gretzky (or, for all of you The Office fans, Michael Scott) says, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
So, go ahead. Take a deep breath and take the shot, whether that means going for that promotion or speaking up with a new idea in a team meeting. If you miss, you miss—but, at least you know you tried.
2. “I Don’t Have Time”
Time can be limited and our days get ridiculously busy. And, leaning on your hectic schedule as a reason for why you can’t take on anything new is easy to do.
Believe me, I tried the very same tactic when trying to talk my husband out of that run I was dreading. But, here’s the thing: Deep down, I knew that I could definitely find the time—or, more appropriately, make the time—to squeeze in a couple more weekly workouts and training runs. It was just a matter of wanting to do it.
As with anything, you’ll make the time for things that matter to you. Yes, that might mean some schedule juggling or a slightly earlier wakeup call. But, if there’s something new or challenging you’d like to try your hand at, a packed agenda shouldn’t be the thing that prevents you from going for it.
3. “It’s Too Much Work”
Tying into the above point about a lack of time, it’s also tempting to tell yourself that tackling a new challenge will simply involve too much work. You already end each day feeling completely exhausted. So, why stretch yourself even more by spearheading that new initiative for your boss or signing up for a course to beef up one of your skills?
I get it—trying something new definitely takes a serious investment in both time and energy. But, don’t all great things? Isn’t there some old saying about how anything worth having is worth working hard for?
Putting yourself out there and trying something new will likely involve some elbow grease on your end—I won’t sugarcoat it. But, think about this: Do you really want laziness to be what prevents you from discovering something new and potentially awesome? My guess is probably not.
4. “I Don’t Fit the Mold”
This is perhaps the biggest excuse that echoed around in my brain when I was trying my best to slip away from that 5K without being noticed. “You don’t look like a runner,” said that pesky, negative voice in the back of my head, “Everybody’s going to look at you and think, ‘What is she doing here? Who does she think she is?’”
You’ve probably been here too. We all develop these ideas of what something or someone should look like. And, if we don’t seamlessly fit that mold, we use that as justification for walking away.
I didn’t think I looked like a runner. But, maybe you don’t think you look like you’re ready to try for that management promotion, because you’re still young and are worried people wouldn’t take you seriously as a leader.
However, here’s the important thing you need to remember: There is no mold—at least not if you refuse to perpetuate one.
I know it can be tempting to think that only certain types of people go after the thing you’re currently dreaming about. However, chances are, there’s no firm and rigid criteria for chasing that opportunity. And, if there is—well, ultimately there’s nothing wrong with breaking the mold.
The reason I know that the above are all just excuses you’re making? Because I did eventually run that 5K—and I crossed the finish line with my dignity intact.
The whole experience illustrated something important to me (other than the fact that I’m right to admire marathoners—running is hard): Just because my natural inclination is to hold myself back doesn’t mean I always have to do so. And, guess what? Neither do you, my comfort zone-loving friends.
Photo of person talking courtesy of PeopleImages.com/Getty Images.