“In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.” Abraham Maslow
Lots of people talk about the need to go beyond your comfort zone in order to get the good stuff. I talk about it too, a lot! After all, no risk no reward!
What we don’t talk too much about is the pain, feelings of inadequacy, shame, and self – doubt that often accompany taking these steps! I don’t mean to scare you off, but the reality is everyone feels these things; it’s normal, expected and necessary if you want to get to the next level in anything!
This weekend, at an agility trial with my dog, I was reminded of the time and effort it takes to leave that comfort zone. Also that one day you realize, usually when you don’t expect it, “Hey I’m doing it! How did that happen?”
My new journey began with the adoption of a rescue dog, now called Squirt. In the dog world we have a saying “you get the dog you need”. That was SO true in my case. I had been dissatisfied with my job and just felt stuck in general, waiting for something to change. Things changed with a “bang” when I brought this dog into my life.
You see, my new dog had challenges too. He had separation anxiety! He could not be left alone without doing damage to himself. This problem initiated a series of decisions and changes that resulted in an amazing new life for me and him.
As part of a plan to help my dog overcome these issues, we became involved in the sport of canine agility. I heard it really helped to improve a dog’s confidence and build a strong bond with your dog. We definitely needed these.
I knew nothing about the sport; I thought the dogs ran around and jumped over stuff. Not exactly. Little did I know the wild ride we would be taking! By the time I figured out that this game played to all of my weaknesses- directionally challenged, uncoordinated and many more- and maybe two of my strengths- I’m a good dog trainer, persistence- Squirt and I were hooked!
As we progressed through the classes, they became excruciatingly difficult for me. I needed more of what I didn’t have naturally. However, I finally got to a point where I was comfortable, not experiencing any butterflies when it was my turn to perform the handling sequences. As a result, I remained at that level for quite some time, afraid to step beyond my new comfort zone, unwilling to feel those butterflies again.
The trouble was, I was not attaining my goals of mastering a certain level of performance and perhaps even competing. My dog and I weren’t getting any younger.
I recalled a book I really like and often share with clients, “Talent is Overrated- What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everyone Else” by Geoff Colvin. In the book he discusses the concept of deliberate practice.
Attributes of deliberate practice include:
1) Requires a teacher who designs a specific plan to improve performance. The teacher can see you in ways you can’t see yourself.
2) Feedback on your practice.
3) Repetition – lots of it.
4) Must be highly demanding mentally – a stretch beyond where you currently are.
5) It isn’t much fun!
Long story short, I began taking private lessons that met all of the requirements of deliberate practice and pushed myself to follow her recommendation to move up to the competition handling class. I followed my butterflies and ended up in the trial ring with my dog last weekend, connected, calm and running agility! Whether your goal is large or modest, follow those butterflies and you will get there.