It can be nerve-wracking, standing at that edge between the familiar and the unknown. Everybody, no matter how successful, feels the jitters, even when they’re headed exactly where they want to go. One of my clients, a brilliant woman, world-renowned in her field, admits that just before launching a new initiative, something inside her shouts, “Forget it. I’m an idiot. Nobody will listen to me.”
Signposts along the Edge
In coaching land, we often refer to this transition from the familiar to the unknown as “crossing an edge.” Each of us, when we come to an edge in life, displays an extensive repertoire of completely normal and justifiable edge-crossing behaviors. Such as:
- A bit of back-and-forthing. “Should I or shouldn’t I take the plunge?”
- A bit of fence-sitting. “Maybe I can plant a foot on both sides. Or just wait things out.”
- A headlong rush across the edge. “I can’t wait to explore this new land.”
- Attempts to defuse our anxieties by blaming others, defending ourselves, curling up with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s-or all three.
- Second-guessing ourselves. “Maybe this isn’t a good idea after all.” “Better stick with what I know.” “This is too hard; can we go back?”
When we become aware of these behaviors, we can use them as signposts to assure us we’re on track. That client I mentioned? She’s learned “nobody will listen to me” is part of her edge-crossing process, telling her she’s finished her prep work and ready to take the big step.
Reading Others’ Signals
As leaders, it’s often part of our jobs to support others making a change. Imagine how much easier that would be if you could recognize edge-crossing behaviors in your team members. “Of course she’s listing all the reasons why this new idea can’t work. She’s figuring out how to tweak it into an even better solution.”
With a little perspective, you can transform edge-crossing behaviors, even those masquerading as barriers, into bridges taking individuals and teams to the next level. Here’s how:
- Remember why you’re here. Reconnect to whatever first inspired you to choose your work. In my experience, this is the single most powerful way successful people renew their initial passion. A great strategy to help “kiss you over” that edge.
- Acknowledge challenges. Ignoring problems doesn’t make them disappear, but can allow them to loom larger. Recognizing challenges and choosing how to address them cuts them down to size.
- Encourage yourself. Listen for an inner voice whispering, “You can do it!” Trust me, it’s in there!
- Remember successes. Tackling something new often triggers selective amnesia; suddenly, we can only remember all the times things went wrong. Instead, spend a little time thinking about times you’ve done well. Start a list to have handy for future edge-crossings.
I’d love to hear how you’ve turned barriers into bridges and what those strategies have done for your business and your life. Leave a comment below or write email@example.com.