“It’s not easy being green,” was the oft-repeated phrase of Kermit the Frog. He complained about blending in so readily and not gaining appreciation for being special. He would have preferred to stand out more from the crowd.
But while that sentiment made him popular with the toddlers of the day, the opposite is often true of grown-ups who’d like to be more highly productive and successful: we can be somewhat fearful of calling too much attention to ourselves.
That’s why one prerequisite for higher levels of productivity and success is a willingness to be noticed, singled out, and sometimes criticized unfairly just for trying new ideas, new approaches, and new techniques that might work better than the tried-and-true pathways most people follow.
Accordingly, it’s useful to look into ways to bolster your courage to be different, particularly when that difference – your plan, ambition, goal, or whatever – is aimed at generating better results in your work and your life.
Here are some techniques to help you feel better about standing out from the crowd:
How Bad Can It Get?
Perspective is a big help in bolstering your courage. Unspecified bad outcomes can be extremely scary. But when you itemize and identify exactly what can happen if you try what you’re thinking, you may begin to realize that the potential penalties would be a lot less uncomfortable than you previously imagined.
When you ask yourself “How bad can it get?”, be careful not to exaggerate. Make your assessment as reasonable as you can. If you have any doubts about what’s reasonable, ask someone you trust for help.
How Good Can It Get?
Once you have a reasonable assessment of how deep a hole you might step into by being courageous in this moment, make another – opposite – assessment of how high you can soar if your attempts work out well.
Again, be reasonable in your assessment. Again, ask for help if you need it.
Just as downgrading the danger of failure can bolster your courage to proceed, recognizing the true potential of the rewards from success can pump up your willingness to step forward.
Dial Down the Risk
Once you have assessed the downside and the upside of what you’re contemplating, and you still feel unready to proceed, a third technique is to dial down the risk.
You can do this by:
- Starting off with a smaller step,
- Allowing more time to reach your first milestone,
- Acquiring more resources or team members,
- Making modifications to reduce the risk, or even
- Waiting for a better time to begin (but be careful you’re not just stalling).
For example, suppose you’re thinking about quitting your job and starting your own business. That normally involves a pretty big risk. You can dial down this risk by starting your business as a “side hustle.” This would allow you to retain your main source of income while fine-tuning your business plan and allowing extra time for your business income to blossom.
Whatever new action you’re contemplating, there’s nearly always a way to dial down its risk.
You’re More Than What You Do
A common reason people feel reluctant to try something new is they fear they will be defined by this new action, particularly if it doesn’t pan out as they hope. But this is not likely.
“Who you are” reflects a vast collection of values, ideas, hopes, dreams, attributes, experiences, and so much more. Trying something new will not fundamentally change all this. You will remain largely the same person you are now, just with a new and different experience under your belt.
Remembering and more fully valuing your history and your current situation will likely give you more emotional strength and confidence to step out in some new direction.
Critics Are Often Wrong
One additional factor that routinely saps a person’s courage to try something new is criticism. People on the sidelines readily point out all the problems, dangers, weaknesses, and general reasons why your contemplated task, project, or goal is foolish, or even stupid.
One reason criticisms – whether from experts or others – lack prescience is they haven’t given what you’re planning to do as much thought or preparation as you have. Another is that, compared with you, your critics often possess even less courage to try something new.
Perhaps most important, critics are inherently less credible than you may think. As Theodore Roosevelt famously and wisely said:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
The plain truth is that attempting any new task, project, or goal is likely to cause butterflies in your stomach or reluctant feelings up to and including outright fear. This is natural, and – by itself – rarely a good reason not to proceed.
The techniques I’ve outlined above, and others, can help you match your courage to your dreams and feel better about trying new ways to upgrade your level of productivity and success.
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