How to get Grounded when you're out of your comfort zone

written by Erica Quam

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Walking into coaching conventions used to be a really scary and miserable experience for me.  You may find it hard to believe that a head coach of a Pac-12 program can be such an introvert.  The two don't seem to fit together. Yet...there I was.

  • I hated the networking
  • I despised the banter and posturing
  • I was overly critical 

To say I had a bad-attitude was an understatement.

What made the real difference?

I looked around...comparing myself to everyone else (or at least what I thought I knew about them). I never felt good enough to speak up. I would dwell on the fact that my team hadn't done well last season. I would make up stories like - no one wants to hear what I have to say. 

I commiserated with other coaches who felt obligated to be there because that seemed easier than actually facing the fact that I was the one who was uncomfortable.

I really just wanted to hide or go home.  

I finally realized it was my attitude, my cynicism, and my overall mindset that was making me miserable. This event was an opportunity I wasn't fully tapping into because I wasn't open to seeing the all possibilities and potential that were there.

Here are 5 things I decided to change 

Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal.
— Brené Brown

1. I began to give myself permission to feel uncomfortable and simply acknowledge that these situations aren't my favorite. I wasn't trying to make it go away or pretend...I was just trying to acknowledge my discomfort.

2. Then, I would give myself a pep talk. I challenged myself to show up, be totally open throughout the event, and be intentional about asking the questions I wanted answers to and finding the people I wanted to connect with.

3. I went into social situations with a list of questions in my back pocket (seriously...). I used these to spark ideas for conversations with other coaches. Then I could sit back and listen while they did more of the talking.

4. I made self-care a priority.  Instead of staying up late and eating lots of crappy appetizers and fried food...I would make sure to get to bed early, bring my own snacks, and stick to healthier options on the menu.

5. I also went in with a specific intention around how I wanted to feel throughout my experience.

If you can relate to this story, then you may find it helpful to become more aware of your own patterns and what happens to you when you're in situations that are way outside your comfort zone.  This could include networking events, going to talk to your boss about something that's happened on your team, having a hard conversation with a student-athlete, dealing with a lawsuit, having to fire someone, going on an interview, doing a home visit, and a myriad of other things coaches have to do during their career.

Horizontal Pattern

You'll recognize this pattern when you notice that your attention is splattered all over the place. Your mind is scattered. You get overwhelmed. Your emotions are on a roller coaster ride that slowly go up the hill, then quickly go down the hill. They veer quickly around corners and come to an abrupt stop. You might literally feel as if you have left your body.

When this pattern shows up:

  • When someone pushes your buttons and triggers you
  • When you take on too much...saying yes when you really meant no
  • When you're in a stressful situation...and your body turns on the fight or flight response
  • When you're in fear...and you literally get stuck....afraid to move forward
  • When you're in a mindset of lack (dwelling on what you don't have) instead of a mindset of abundance (focusing on what you do)

Can you change this pattern of reaction? 

This is becoming more and more challenging in today's society.  

We live in a reactive world right now. Everything in the news and on social media is trying to get our attention. People pay big bucks for innovative marketers to get us to click, like, or buy something.

You first have to want to change this pattern. It takes commitment not to be a 'reaction-aholic.'

It takes awareness of your thoughts and a willingness to let go of your stories & beliefs:

  • 'I'm no good at these kinds of things.'
  • 'Something must be wrong with me.'
  • 'No one understands me.'
  • 'I don't want to say or do the wrong thing.'
  • 'I'll never fit in.'

You won't ever totally get rid of this pattern of reaction...and with a little practice you can change how long you stay there. The more you become aware, the sooner you can get grounded and bring your power back.

Get vertical

When you notice yourself triggered and moving into a pattern of reactivity, see if you can come back to your body.  

1. Feel your feet on the ground. There's something simple and powerful about being connected to the earth. 

2. Turn your attention inwards. Notice what's going on in your body instead of looking around at everything and everyone outside of you. Focus your breath, notice your heart beat, observe where you're holding onto tension inside.

3.  Notice your thoughts. Your thoughts are just your thoughts. Is your thought real? Really? How does that thought make you feel? What if it weren't true?

The next time

So, the next time you are out of your comfort zone and want to run, hide, fix yourself, or blame someone else...see if you can pause long enough to notice the pattern and then get vertical.

Assignment for the week: Observe yourself. Begin to notice when you feel grounded and when you feel scattered. When you start to move into reactive mode: 1. become more aware 2. pause and 3. get back in your body. 

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