During my work, I’ve met many talented men and women who are selling themselves short by playing it safe. They come to work every day, do what must be done, do it very well and then they go home again. One day they look up and notice other people are taking the opportunities that could have been theirs. They suddenly realise nobody sees them anymore. They’ve blended into the background.
When this happens, they find themselves stuck but when we chat, many of them say something like, “Yes, I will apply for that job once I’ve done….”
It sounds good and it appears they are considering taking some action. What they are really doing is hiding behind a plausible reason for not stepping up.
“But I don’t want to mess things up…” or “I’ve only been here a little while and I’m not ready…”
No wonder they aren’t getting anywhere.
Playing safe isn’t always the right thing to do.
Does this sound familiar?
How do we start playing it safe?
Playing it safe is all to do with feeling ready. We want to feel ready and capable of stepping up, don’t we? But “ready” is a comfort zone. We’re sitting safely in our well-worn comfort zone and we’re used to feeling safe and secure. Stepping up means leaving that safe place, so we focus on looking for a new one.
If we spend all our time trying to stay safe because we’re afraid to leave it, we don’t get anywhere. That’s when people stop noticing us or appreciating what we are capable of. You’ve hidden what you’re good at.
Stop looking for safety.
How unhappy do we have to be before we’re prepared to take a risk? I’ve noticed many people will tolerate deep unhappiness rather than step into the unknown. And as an Executive Coach, I find it frustrating because I know what are they missing out on and how their dreams disappear behind a screen of excuses?
“But what if I make a mistake?”
“But what if I’m not good enough?”
“What if I can’t do it?”
We must stop thinking like that.
Stop asking yourself what will happen if you do and start asking yourself what will happen if you don’t!
Here’s the secret: even the brave people worry they aren’t good enough.
Talk to anyone who goes for a promotion or volunteers for a challenge. They will all tell you they feel scared that they aren’t good enough. But what they will also tell you when they’ve taken a risk, they find capabilities inside themselves they didn’t know they had. They’ve learnt to trust in their ability to cope when they need to.
You only learn those things through experience, and that means being brave enough to stop playing safe.
3 things you can do to stop playing it safe.
- Be honest. Stop holding yourself back when you disagree with what’s happening and speak up. Sure, not everyone will like what you say, but most people will respect you for saying it. And the bonus is, you will develop a reputation for honesty which will help you build relationships with your team.
- Make a decision. If you’re stuck or invisible, it’s often because you are indecisive. You worry you’ll make the wrong choice, but that’s part of your camouflage behaviour. Stand up and decide when you need to. Any decision is better than none. Even the wrong choice will move you forward if you learn from it.
- Hold yourself accountable when you hide behind your excuses. It’s unlikely you’ll suddenly start taking risks as soon as you finish reading this, but don’t allow yourself to slip back behind your excuses again. When you realise what you’re saying or doing is part of your safety strategy, acknowledge it. You’re human. Just prepare yourself to leave those excuses behind. The more often you notice them, the stronger you’ll become to stop them happening again.
Recently I saw a post on Tiny Buddha’s Facebook page which said, “Don’t be afraid to start over. This time you’re not starting from scratch, you’re starting from experience.” Stop playing it safe. Stop waiting to feel ready. Stop waiting for a sign that it’s time. Stop worrying about getting it wrong. If you want to stop playing it safe just do something!
If you’d like to talk it through before you shake off your safety zone, give me a call on 0405 322 005. You’re oozing with potential. Let’s make sure you put it to good use.