Stress puts us into a constant paradox. If you extend yourself as much as possible to achieve maximum success, you are at risk for health issues and burnout. If you don’t extend yourself you will have an unfulfilling life and will be stuck scraping the bottom of the barrel. I discussed this at length in a previous post (link to post). The solution to this paradox is simple to learn but not easy to master. You must learn to expand your comfort zone slowly without risking a complete burnout.
I will return to Jane Darrell, the sales representative from my previous post. Jane has been with a software company for three years. Most of her work involves repeat customers to ensure that they renew their annual subscriptions. Jane finds this boring and the pay leaves a lot to be desired. She envies her colleagues who sell to new customers and earn sizeable sales commissions. Jane knows that they make a lot of calls directly to potential clients and frequently meet with high level decision makers. She knows that this is her only path to get ahead in her company, but sales calls frighten Jane and she feels stress thinking about this type of transition. What should Jane do? And more importantly, what should you do if you are in this dilemma yourself?
First you must determine the exact skills that you need to master to make the desired change to your career. You made need a sales training course, a course in specific sales technology and some social skills training. Pick one of these skills to start with. I will use the sales training course as an example. Now you will break this skill down into small manageable steps. Start by researching available course types. There are books, audio programs, video courses and live seminars. All of these come in a variety of lengths and price ranges. The research itself is a small step towards actually enrolling in a course. If you work for a large company, enlist the HR department to see if the company offers free or subsides courses. Make a list of the available courses and narrow it down to five that you are both interested in and are within your budget. This is what I will call your short list. If you have made it this far, congratulations! You are on your way to changing your life one step at a time. Now, choose the one course from your short list and sign up. If this is a book, order it online or reserve it at your local library (many people overlook the ability to order books at their library, this is a great way to access most books for free). If it is an audio program, either purchase it or again try your library. Online video courses are generally simple to enroll in, and live programs usually offer comprehensive customer support.
Now that you have signed up or ordered the training product, schedule a time for it on your calendar (this won’t be necessary for the live events as the scheduling is built in). This one step is often overlooked and frequently leads to failure. You need to set aside time to allow your new resolution to take effect. Make a commitment to a one hour session at least one time a week. Once you have set on a time, and you have the book/audio/video program available, you are ready to take the next step. Now you can start to read, listen or watch the program. Most programs that you take to learn a new skill will come with “homework.” These are exercises that allow you to practice and solidify your new skill so that it becomes comfortable and natural. You will use the time that you have established both to learn the new skill as well as to practice the requisite exercises. Once you have completed this product to your satisfaction, revisit your short list. Determine if you still desire to pursue additional training in this area, or if you feel ready to move on to another skill set. Remember you can take things as slowly as you want.
When you are ready to move on to the next set of skills simply follow the same five steps. Research, short list, commitment, schedule and follow through. By breaking down the initial overwhelming goals of taking sales training, learning new sales technologies and working on social skills, into manageable little steps; you will dramatically improve your chances for success. This methodology is not limited to any particular situation and can be readily applied to most areas of self improvement. Studies have shown that the simple act of breaking down a large goal into small steps increases the success rate by as much as 50%. It is worth your time and effort to map out the steps you will need to take to get to where you want.
Tell me about something you want to accomplish that you could apply the small steps methodology to. I love to hear from you.