Easing the Pain of Starting Something New

When was the last time you had to do something new at work? It can be a scary proposition. You don’t want to look silly or take too long to complete a task or make mistakes. Being a novice at something can be unsettling.

I feel your pain. Recently I decided to join a masters swim program and got back in the pool for the first time in a long time. For those of you who aren’t familiar, a masters swim program is organized swimming that provides coaching and instruction. Since I’ve been doing a few triathlons this seemed to be a great way to bring a new form of exercise into my routine as well as a nice way to meet some people.

The first morning that I got to the pool I felt a little anxiety. I thought to myself “What’s going on here? This is just exercise. Why are you worried about this?”

Well, it’s because, at my core, I am someone who wants to do well, and I am someone who wants to look like I know what I’m doing. Do you ever feel that way?

Here are several ideas for how to take the pain out of doing something new.

1)Look at your own beliefs about the new project that you’re embarking on.

That first day back, I stopped myself from worrying and took a deep breath. I reminded myself that this was a choice I had made and was something I wanted to do. Quite often at work we put ourselves in a position where we ask for a new assignment because we’re bored and we want to challenge and then when it actually happens we think “Oh my gosh what was I doing?”

Stop take a deep breath examine your own beliefs and look at how you can change those beliefs to be more affirmative.

2) Create intentional vocabulary around this new project.

If you hear yourself starting to complain or lament about your fears and worries stop and take a deep breath. Do you see the pattern here? Re-imagine how you could talk about this experience. Instead of saying “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I have to learn this new technology” or “I hate it when things change” or “I am drowning in new work”, reframe things to be more positive.

Even though it makes me a little anxious, I decided at the pool that every person I met I wasn’t going to focus on how little I knew. I decided to think about my past experiences and how successful I have been.

3) Embrace your vulnerability mindset.

Recognize that this is a new activity. It’s OK to make mistakes. I love it when I realize that I don’t have to be perfect. Being vulnerable and adding courage to that gives you the opportunity to experience vulnerability and joy when you overcome the initial uncertainty and start to master the new skill.

4) Get in the (metaphorical) pool.

Stop talking. Stop lollygagging. Stop putting it off. Start the project. Whether it’s learning some new software program or communicating with a whole new team of people or maybe learning a project improvement process, it’s time to dive in and take the plunge!

5) Evaluate how you’re doing.

Stop and take a look at your progress. Now is the time to ask for feedback from others. There are coaches at the master swim program and I frequently I ask for suggestions on how I could improve my stroke. I thought I was a pretty good swimmer, but I learned a couple of things on the first day that really changed the level of energy I had to exert and the distance that I could achieve.

Evaluate how you’re doing and ask others for help. Be sure to listen when they give you the feedback. Just listen and let it wash over you.

6) Celebrate your successes!

They might be very tiny successes in the beginning. For me, mastering my flip turn gave me more momentum as I was pushing off from the side of the pool. I was still slow when I was swimming, but I have improved in one area. Work on the challenges and keep pushing forward. That might mean extra reading, listening or observing others. Celebrate your successes. Pat yourself on the back and celebrate!

7) Repeat the above steps.

I’d love to hear about something new that you’re working on and how you’re creating your own Professional Paradise while this process is happening.

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