Life is full of uncertainties and unanticipated challenges. But that’s OK. To achieve a better version of ourselves, it’s necessary to accept the uncertainty and step into the great unknown—and then embrace all the possibilities found within.
“There is greater possibility in unpredictability,” says author and speaker PeriSean Hall, who focuses on helping people reach their full potential by awakening their greatness. Hall points out that we all like to be comfortable in what we know. However, there’s more potential available to us when we’re willing to go beyond our comfort zone. “Your greatest opportunities are out on a limb,” she adds. “You have to try things you haven’t tried before. You have to be unconventional. You have to feel fear.”
Hall knows about fear firsthand. Once upon a time, she, too, was stuck in a rut, unsatisfied in her work and plagued by a feeling that she was meant for something more. People told her she had talent, people told her she should be up on stage sharing her message, but she didn’t believe it. She let self-doubt obscure her path forward, and she found herself swirling in dead-end jobs until one day an unexpected layoff left her nearly homeless and stranded thousands of miles from home. At that point, she resolved to start betting on herself. And that’s when her circumstances started to change.
“If you’re waiting for the fear to go away, you won’t ever move. You have to learn to move with the fear. When we are comfortable, we’re in a stupor, walking through life on autopilot. Everything is predictable and repeatable. We need to step out of that comfort zone to learn our true capabilities.”PerSean Hall
Now a well-regarded speaker, coach, author, and singer, Hall reflects on her journey as a learning experience. It’s a journey that’s helped her crystalize advice for other people attempting to break out of a life routine that doesn’t fit them.
Before anyone can start a self-improvement journey, they need to accept the fear that comes with that journey, she notes. “If you’re waiting for the fear to go away, you won’t ever move,” says Hall. “You have to learn to move with the fear. When we are comfortable, we’re in a stupor, walking through life on autopilot. Everything is predictable and repeatable. We need to step out of that comfort zone to learn our true capabilities.”
The more you step out of what you know and learn what you don’t know, the more confident you become. That confidence replicates. It’s a growing awareness that “if I can do this one thing, then I can do the next thing, and the next thing,” Hall says. Soon, what you thought was impossible becomes possible.
You may fail. That’s not a problem. With each failure you learn, and you can take another step forward. The more you’re willing to try, the faster you’ll go. “It all comes down to how important your dream is to you,” says Hall. “Does it keep you awake at night? Is it something that’s burning within you? If it is, then you need to do everything you can to make it happen.”
Becoming a better version of yourself is a process, one that Hall has broken down into five elements that can guide your progress.
1. Promise. Make yourself a promise to stick to the process regardless of the bumps and bruises you suffer along the way. Consider who else is involved in your promise. Are you making a promise to your family? Are you promising to create a legacy? Consider how your promise affects other people and how you can bring better things to their lives if you see it through.
2. Purpose. You have to know your why. Why are you going through this process? What motivates you? Create a vision statement and commit to seeing that vision become a reality.
3. Persistence. Keep striving toward your goals until you reach them. Good things will happen as long as you don’t give up.
4. Pursuit. You have to pursue your dream relentlessly. It’s not going to fall into your lap. Keep chasing it until you achieve it.
5. Perseverance. There is going to be opposition on your journey. You have to stick with it through the difficult times and not let setbacks discourage you.
Perseverance may be the most important element of the five P’s, or at least the one that causes the most problems for people. We sometimes see opposition as a signal that we’re on the wrong path and give up. “However, just because you’re experiencing opposition, that doesn’t mean you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing,” says Hall. You have to keep going.
It may help to think of the process like a game of football. When you’re on offense, you may only advance a couple of yards at time. Or you may get a penalty and be pushed back. Don’t let that stop you from trying to move forward. If you get a first down, that gives you the confidence to get another one. And if you score one touchdown, that means you can score another. Everything doesn’t need to be a Hail Mary, long-bomb pass. Incremental improvement works just fine. Keep moving forward, taking your setbacks as part of the game, and continue the progress.
It helps to have a specific goal in mind. If you have an objective, you can focus your efforts rather than just try to improve things in a general way with no clear method to measure progress.
Self-evaluation is required for this process to be successful. Look inward at what you’re doing well and what you’re doing wrong. Be honest in your assessment but don’t be too hard on yourself. While it’s important to learn from your mistakes, you don’t want to knock yourself out of the game.
Though we call this a journey of self-improvement, it’s still important to separate our personal and business identities. That separation is always difficult for entrepreneurs such as photographers because they invest so much of themselves in the work. Rejection can feel very personal.
But it shouldn’t. Someone’s rejection of your proposal or their decision to work with another photographer isn’t an indictment of you as a person. To make the distinction, try to get into the mindset of the client. Understand that they’re not trying to hurt you. They may have something specific in mind, and you don’t fit that preconceived notion. Or maybe you just don’t specialize in what they want. You’re not going to be the right fit for everyone, and that’s OK.
Your job isn’t to be here for everyone; it’s to be here for the people who need you. Those are the people on whom you should focus your energy.
Jeff Kent is the editor-at-large.