When The Shoe Doesn’t Fit

Here we are at the beginning of a new year. It feels like there’s so much pressure to “get things right.” What’s your word for this year? What’s your theme? What are your goals?

creating a networking strategyAck! I love the idea of a fresh start. But I’ve never liked the idea of doing what everyone else is doing, in exactly the way they’re doing it. It doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable to me. What I prefer is the idea that you can have a fresh start any day you choose. You don’t have to choose January 1, or even any day in January.

You may have heard the premise that in order to accomplish anything of great significance, you need to get out of your comfort zone. I get it and believe that to be true. However, there’s a difference between stepping out and doing something new and different in order to reach a new level of development and trying to shove a size 8 foot into a size 5 shoe. Ouch!

Both are uncomfortable, but only one is going to serve any good purpose once you’ve forced yourself to do it. The key is to be honest with yourself about the difference. It’s easy enough to say “I don’t want to go to networking events because I don’t feel comfortable making small talk with strangers. That’s just who I am; I can’t change.” True that may be who you are today. But not true that you can’t change – if you WANT to, if you have reason enough.

How to Know the Difference

Here’s one way to figure out if your feelings of discomfort are holding you back or protecting you from disfigured feet.

If the actions you’re taking, or not taking, today are serving you, then by all means, continue them. However, if they’re NOT serving you and you’re frustrated because you’re not moving toward your desired goals, then now is a good time to reexamine the idea of making a change. Consider doing something that’s uncomfortable, but that you anticipate will move you closer to what you ultimately want.

Let’s say you hate the idea of networking. You feel awkward, you don’t know what to say to people, you feel like everyone else knows someone there and you’re an outsider. But your business is struggling because you don’t have enough clients. Or you could use some help in the form of a local assistant but you don’t how to find that person. Or all your “real life” friends work at a corporate jobs and they don’t understand your life as a solopreneur.

Staying home and NOT networking because that’s what feels comfortable is NOT serving you. So it would make sense to get up the courage to go to a few networking events and meet other people from your community. Maybe you’ll meet an architect who can refer business to you. Maybe you’ll have a conversation with a banker who has a friend who would be a great fit as your assistant.

The KEY is to figure out how to do the uncomfortable thing in a way that IS comfortable. You don’t HAVE to pick a theme or set your annual goals in January. You don’t HAVE to network the way everyone else does it, or the way you think you’re “supposed to.” You don’t HAVE to become more outgoing or act like someone you’re not.

Learn how to network in a way that feels comfortable to you. Develop a strategy that works for you – one that allows you to remain authentic to who you are. That could mean figuring out exactly which networking events are most useful for you to attend. That could mean coming up with a plan before you get there for how many people you want to meet (and allowing yourself to leave without feeling bad once you reach your quota). That could mean clarifying exactly what you have to offer so that the people with whom you share your message can easily send you referrals.

networking strategyGoing back to the shoe analogy, this isn’t about squeezing your foot into a shoe that’s too small, trying to walk and pretending it doesn’t hurt or look ridiculous. And it’s not about cursing the shoe for being too small, throwing it against the wall and stomping away while screaming “shoes don’t work for me!” It’s about finding a shoe that fits comfortably and looks good.

If you need help creating a comfortable networking strategy, I can help you. Sign up for The Quick Start Program. As for finding comfy, stylish footware, you’re on your own.

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