438: 5 Psychological Factors Keeping You From Changing Careers

Big changes only happen if you are willing to get outside of your comfort zone, but how do you actually do that?


on this episode

If you set a small goal, you’re probably going to succeed. But, if you set ambitious goals and work hard to reach them, it’ll be more rewarding. 

But the problem with setting challenging goals is that many people don’t have faith in themselves to accomplish those higher goals. And so they attempt to lower the stakes to keep themselves in their comfort zone.

Andy Molinsky, an author and expert on behavior in the business world, shares the 5 key challenges underlying our avoidance tendencies when it comes to uncomfortable situations and how to overcome these challenges to achieve your career change goals.

What you’ll learn

  • The 5 key challenges underlying our avoidance tendencies when it comes to uncomfortable situations
  • How to overcome these challenges to achieve your career change goals
  • The surprising discoveries you make about yourself as you continue to face your fears by stepping out of your comfort zone

Success Stories

I see much better now how my five Clifton strengths tied together and the ones that I had felt were really not that much of a big deal, I can see better how they are innovative to me as a person and to my strengths and where they come from. And that was a kind of a new thing. What I love is new situations and learning, and I actually actively look for opportunities to push myself out of my comfort zone. So, and if I look back at past roles, I would tend to have to go back to go to the land and to run a major program that had been failing. And I didn't know a lot of the nitty gritty, the detail of all the different projects, but I had the organizational skills, I wanted to learn about the different projects. I wasn't fazed by the fact that I didn't know any of that detail. So I had the challenge of learning and the environment initially and also the challenge of language as I learn to. And that satisfied my learning.

Judith Bhreasláin, LIBOR Discontinuation Project Manager, United Kingdom

It turned out to be the best fit possible they had all the tools and all the resources. It helped me to approach the job search in a completely different way. It allowed me to put myself out there in a vulnerable way (even in the interviews) and it allowed me to get exactly what I wanted.

Scott has been a tremendous help in bringing focus to my business. Scott enlightened my path towards concentrating on my strengths and doing what I love. I recommend Scott Anthony Barlow to anyone who wants clarity about what they should be doing, and the next step to make your business successful.

Jody Maberry, Began Copywriting & Marketing Business, United States/Canada

All the stars aligned and I ended up finding the right thing at the right place at the right time, and it was you guys! Everything that you said was speaking to me and the things that you had done in the job that you had transitioned out of and into. Also how finding work that you love is your passion for people! Honestly, it was you Scott, I mean, the way that you talked about it, how passionate you were, I was like, there's no way he's gonna put out a faulty product. So I'm gonna try it, you know… I recommend you to all my friends, you know, even if they don't realize that they're looking for a new job, I'm like this is the first step, let's do this! Even if you maybe don't move out of this career. This is going to help!

Maggie Romanovich, Director of Learning and Development, United States/Canada

Andy Molinsky 00:01
There are a myriad of ways that you can, sort of, thoughtfully and consciously tweak a situation to make it just that little bit more comfortable for you, which makes it easier to step outside your comfort zone.

Introduction 00:20
This is the Happen To Your Career podcast, with Scott Anthony Barlow. We help you stop doing work that doesn't fit you, figure out what does and make it happen. We help you define the work that's unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:44
Think about this, if you set a small goal, you're probably going to succeed. But if you set ambitious goals, and work hard to reach them, it's actually more rewarding along the way. Now, here's the problem with setting challenging goals. Many people don't have faith in themselves to accomplish those higher goals. So they attempt to lower the stakes and keep themselves in their comfort zones.

Andy Molinsky 01:11
I found that across all these stories, examples, people, it kind of boiled down to five... I call them psychological roadblocks.

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:21
That's Andy Molinsky. He's a professor at Brandeis University's International Business School with a joint appointment at the Department of Psychology. He's also the author of the book, "Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge , and Build Confidence". I think you're gonna love this conversation with Andy. I want you to listen, and one of the things that you'll hear are: the five main challenges that cause us to avoid stepping outside of our comfort zones and getting into uncomfortable situations. More importantly, I want you to listen to some of the very specific ways he gets into how you can overcome these challenges. Because I've heard so many people talk about getting outside your comfort zone. Great, right? But what do you actually do about it?

Andy Molinsky 02:14
This point in my career, I'm a professor, I teach for parts of the year students, undergraduates and graduate students, MBA students. I increasingly, over the past five to seven years, have started to do a lot of consulting and executive education and keynote speaking. I also do a lot of writing, a lot of non academic writing. I do some academic writing, but I do a lot now of non academic writing. In other words, writing for general audiences. I write for Inc.com, Psychology Today, Harvard Business Review, LinkedIn, and then I, you know, I've written a couple of books. I picked my kid at school a lot. So I suppose I have a part time bus driving job. That was a joke.

Scott Anthony Barlow 02:59
I'm right there with you. I didn't have that on my resume, but I'm going to add it. That's one of the things I absolutely love is to be able to do that exact thing. Part time bus driver, done.

Andy Molinsky 03:10
I coach my son's soccer team, I guess, lots of things, you know, I do a lot of mentoring, coaching, and so on and so forth. So it's kind of a grab bag of things. But that's evolved over time.

Scott Anthony Barlow 03:20
So I'm curious then, especially since it's evolved so much over time, where did this start for you? Because you didn't pop out of the womb as a professor, like, how did this transfer for you? How did you initially become interested in what you do? How did you lead down the path? There's like 17 questions all in one, boom, go.

Andy Molinsky 03:37
So I guess they're probably two different phases, like, the first phase is how do I become interested in organizational behavior and psychology, that would be phase number one. And then phase number two, I guess is, you know, how's my career developed since then? So the first one, I'm majoring in International Relations in college, which at the time when I went to college, that was sort of like the thing that you major in when you don't know what you want to major in. Essentially.

Scott Anthony Barlow 04:00
I know that major.

Andy Molinsky 04:02
So I basically majored in that. I knew I was into International things. I always like languages. And I just thought it was cool, frankly, but I didn't know what I wanted to do. I went abroad, my junior year to Spain, and that was way outside my comfort zone to do. I was terrified, I have to say. This was pre internet. I had never been anywhere. I'd never been out of the country. I've never seen really pictures of out of the country. In those days, it was a much bigger deal, I think. And it was scary experience to do. But once I got over the threshold, it was a pretty amazing experience, I have to say. It was eye opening to me, just like there was this other world over there. And, you know, they were getting along fine. And they spoke this different language and they did all this cool stuff. I could try to learn the language. It was just so fascinating to me. I became very interested in, sort of, cross cultural communication. I then came back to college and after college, I went to graduate school right away, actually, I did a Master's program in International Business. It was a two year Master's program. And one year in, I realized to myself two things: First of all, I wanted to do more international stuff. And second of all, I didn't know anything about business. So I figured, "maybe I could try to do something about that." So I took leave of absence between the two years that master's program, and I went to France, and I worked for a French consulting company, and I learned French. And I had another sort of foreign experience. It was fantastic. I loved it. It was there that I became so interested in Psychology and Organizational Behavior, and also cross cultural communication. I kept a little diary at work, like my actual job was, like, super boring. I think it was customer satisfaction surveys for industrial companies in Europe.

Scott Anthony Barlow 05:45
That sound everything,

Andy Molinsky 05:46
Massively boring. However, it was just a year thing, and it was an opportunity to go abroad, and I kept this little diary open on my computer. And this was in a days of like, early computers, like a boxy looking Mac SE computer. And I had this diary open of just stuff I was observing in the office, frankly, like, office people makes, I was so interested in it. And so when I came back, it was Columbia University in New York City. When I came back there at the time, I was like, trying to figure out like, "what is this?" like, it was basically Social Psychology and Organizational Behavior, but I didn't know what those things were, I ultimately found out what they were, I started taking some courses in them, I got inspired. And thought to myself, maybe I want to try a PhD in this and like, actually do this. And so eventually, I went to get a PhD, and I got a PhD in Organizational Behavior in Psychology. And I loved it, I really loved it. I learned how to research, I learned the field, and so on and so forth. My PhD dissertation was actually about Russian immigrants learning to interview and network for jobs. These are people who are desperate to get jobs because they didn't have much funding, you know, you only have like about 20 months of funding or something like that for themselves and their families. And they had to learn how to switch their cultural behaviors, but they really struggled with it. And that's what my dissertation was about, essentially, acting outside your cultural comfort zone in a way.

Scott Anthony Barlow 07:04
Interesting. And not just because I also have 140 page-ish, Google Doc that served as a diary for my days in HR, but also interesting, because the things that... that's not what I thought you were gonna say in the first place. But yes, we might be able to have a whole separate conversation about that. But it is really interesting to me in terms of your fascination with the cross cultural piece, too, because I think there's so much embedded in that, that actually it transcends beyond cross cultural.

Andy Molinsky 07:34
Yeah, there's no question. And so for my first seven or eight years of my job as a professor, the deal with... if you're a professor, you know, major research university, where I was, I was at the University of Southern California, USC in LA. And then I was also, now at Brandeis University in Boston. Both pretty major, huge research universities. The deal there is that you need to write articles, academic articles, become well known around the country in the world for your area of expertise, and publish enough and have enough quality that your peers decide that you're worthy of tenure, which is a job for life. And that was my narrow focus for, I don't know, how many years, eight years, nine years, whatever it was, exclusively doing that. I always knew, though, see, I didn't come into this PhD, sort of having, like, studied in college and worked in labs in college or anything like that, I came to it from sort of the real world experience. And so I always knew, I wanted to kind of circle back and speak to just regular people and make an impact in the world. But for quite a while, I had to sort of burrow down and do the true sort of full on academic thing. I did get tenure, maybe, I don't know, seven or eight years ago or so, maybe longer, actually, maybe more time since then, as passed. And then from that point, and this is your career shift, sort of, I didn't make a massive career shift. But I definitely pivoted. And it was a pivot that I sort of anticipated, because once you have tenure, you essentially have a job for life, and you can start to be very independent in terms of what you do. And I, of course, continue doing academic research, and I still do, but, I now spend a lot more of my time, well, since before I spent zero of my time before, but a lot more of my time trying to actually use Academic Research almost as R&D for products and the products are articles and books and training programs and things that actually make a difference in people's lives. And that's sort of how I've made that kind of career transition. I always kind of knew I wanted to do it, but I had to kind of do the first step before I was able to do it.

Scott Anthony Barlow 09:29
Okay, so I'm super curious about that. What's an example of a way that you were able to use those as R&D?

Andy Molinsky 09:36
Well, I mean, R&D, I use that term loosely. It's just the idea that I'm a columnist for Inc.com, for example, and I also written, I don't know, like 50 articles at Harvard Business Review. Like, I know the field of organizational behavior. I know social psychology. I don't know everything about it, but I'm very good grounding in it. So when I try to think of something, in terms of something to write that I sort of get inspired by in the real world, I have a pretty sort of easy way, in my mind, at least, of understanding it from sort of an academic perspective. And then I can translate that into a sort of regular person speak so that it's really understandable and digestible, and so on. But I've got the good academic base. And so in a way, that's R&D. Very specifically, though, I have even more literally R&D, like my new book "Reach" that will talk about... much of the research in that book was research that I actually did personally, right. So there's some that's an absolute, like, direct translation of my research. And then there's somewhere I just kind of understand the field, understand a way of thinking, sort of an academic scholarly way of thinking, which I think is good in a way, because it really gives you, you know, precision and validity in some ways. But the bad thing about academics or the challenging thing about academics is oftentimes esoteric and jargon filled and kind of limited in scope. So if you can sort of leverage the positive parts of academics and combine them with sort of an eye in an orientation towards a real world, I think it's actually a benefit.

Scott Anthony Barlow 11:02
So before we hit the record button, a little bit behind the scenes here, I was describing to you that we have a lot of people that reach out, that either have books or whatever else along those lines or publicists reach out or anything along those lines. And originally, we became interested in you because of that book. And we're like, "Hey, we've got to have this guy on. We've got to have a conversation with Andy." Because part of the reason, as I read through the book, is because you do a phenomenal job of taking all of the research pieces, and combining that together with very palatable ways to understand and be relevant for nearly anybody. So I particularly appreciated that. And I think that's part of what you're saying as well.

Andy Molinsky 11:45
I appreciate that, because that's what I always try to do. I try to make things that are, you know, I'm a fairly simple guy. I like to understand things really clearly. And that, like if I pride myself on anything, it's the ability to take complex topics, and make them simple, not simplistic. You know what I mean?

Scott Anthony Barlow 12:01
Absolutely. Now, first of all, I want to dive back here, just because I'm way curious. What part of France were you at?

Andy Molinsky 12:08
I lived in Paris.

Scott Anthony Barlow 12:09
You did live in Paris, okay. My family and I, we just spent a month in Paris living over there just because we had never lived over there and really wanted to go. So what years were you there?

Andy Molinsky 12:19
I was there in the early 90s. So I mean, I've traveled back and forth quite a bit, less so now with kids. But early 90s was when I lived there.

Scott Anthony Barlow 12:29
Very cool. And you're right, going to another country or going someplace in overseas in any place else that is outside your comfort zone. It's kind of a different ballgame at this point. And we had Google Maps and we could find our ways around, and...

Andy Molinsky 12:41

Scott Anthony Barlow 12:42
Airbnb. It's a bit of a different ballgame in that way, certainly. But absolutely loved Paris. That's so interesting that you were over there, too. We were thrilled to pieces. And it was certainly outside our comfort zone as a family because we ended up taking our kids for that month long period of time, then we also spent some time in Portugal as well. But oh my goodness, talk about intentionally getting yourself outside of your comfort zone, which is what I hope to delve into here a little bit as well, which kind of brings us to our next topic. I love that you have, well, two pieces here. One, I think that there have been different points of your life, as observed, that you have been able to successfully get yourself well outside of your comfort zone, those comfortable areas for you. And clearly, those overseas trips are one of them. And then the other thing I really liked about that, too, is you've been intentional about looking back and observing whether that was the case. And then also combining a lot of those observations together with what you're seeing in terms of research. And then, again, going back to what we talked about earlier, making it palatable... that's what I'd love to do is be able to go into, first of all, why is it so flippin hard for most of us to get outside of our comfort zones?

Andy Molinsky 13:56
So I should say a word just quickly about who I talk with for this book, because I did combine research and my own insights and so on. But I also talked to people from all sorts of, you know, walks of life and professions, managers, executives, doctors, teachers, rabbis, priests, stay at home moms trying to get back into the workforce, a goat farmer, all sorts of people. I found that across all these stories, examples, people, it kind of boiled down to five... I call them psychological roadblocks. And, you know, you're not going to experience every one of these in every situation, but I kept hearing these time and time again and so I can just quickly tick them off, see if they resonate with the audience, our listeners. So... and I should also say that when we're talking about getting outside your comfort zone, I like to get super specific and kind of like zero in on specific situations, like, walking into that networking situation that you know you need to do to sort of enter a new job or career opportunity but it's terrifying for you, or making that cold call or participating at that meeting or speaking up in public or delivering bad news, whatever it might be, but I like to zone in on kind of specific moments. So the first challenge is what I call "authenticity", the idea that stepping outside my comfort zone in this situation, this doesn't feel like me, quite literally, it probably isn't because you're stepping outside your comfort zone. But that's really hard. Just example that comes to mind is, there many examples, but just pops in my head right now as I interviewed a bunch of young entrepreneurs who had product ideas. They wanted to start a business, but to do that they had to do lots of stuff outside their comfort zone, like pitch their idea to venture capitalists who are much older, much more experienced, sort of in a shark tank style situation. And they had to, like, put on their grown up voice or put on a suit and tie or whatever it might be. And they just felt like total posers and wannabes like standing up there completely inauthentic. I think in my own experience, stepping into a classroom for the first time. So I tell you a little bit about my story. You don't learn to teach, interestingly, when you get a PhD, like, I mean, you do a little bit. That's a slight exaggeration. But it's not enough, to be honest, it's much of an exaggeration.

Scott Anthony Barlow 16:05
Not that far off.

Andy Molinsky 16:06
You learn to do research. So I remember stepping into a classroom at the University of Southern California, the very first day, I remembered very, very well. And this was a long time ago. I remember I felt, like, I opened that door, I was like, "who am I to be doing this? Like, this is preposterous." And someone said, like, "Hello, professor." And I, like, look behind me, assuming that they were talking to someone else. Like, it's on me. So authenticity is a challenge. Another challenge is what I call "likeability". The worry that people won't like this version of me, maybe I won't like this version of me, but people won't like this version of me, might even hate this version of me if I'm doing that's outside my comfort zone, whether it's, you know, I don't know, being more assertive than I'm used to, or that I think they expect me to be or delivering bad news or whatever it might be. So, likeability challenge is the second one. You know, if I have to network people, got people think I'm such a sleazy jerk for trying to kind of like beg and ask them a favor or something. "Competence" is a third challenge. You got authenticity, likeability, competence, you know, the fear that you'll look like a fool if you give that public speech and not only look like a fool, but feel like a fool, that you're actually not that good at this, and you really feel it. Sometimes I'd like to think about the authenticity challenge and the competence challenge kind of combo to create what some people call the "imposter syndrome". Feeling like an imposter. A fourth one is "resentment". And logically, you know, you need to adapt, perhaps, but psychologically, you're resentful, you're annoyed, you're frustrated. Like, why can't my qualifications count? Why do I have to schmooze and make small talk and go play golf with these people? Why can't I just do good work? You know, a lot of introverts, actually, who I've spoken to around this book have sort of resonated with that idea that sort of deep resentment of having to kind of accommodate to the extroverted world of work in which we really live, but there are other examples too. And then the final one is "morality". And, you know, there's not as many examples of this, but I certainly found a bunch. The idea that when acting outside my comfort zone in this situation just feels wrong. It feels wrong to me, for whatever reason, but it's sort of like, it bumps up against my own moral compass. So again, you don't necessarily feel authenticity, likeability, competence, resentment and morality challenges every time you do something, or consider doing something, but frankly, any one of these can make it hard to step outside your comfort zone.

Scott Anthony Barlow 18:30
So here's the question I had in reading through and thinking about that piece, because many people might hear some of those things. And I think there's a couple of different ways that you can take it. But I'm curious how you reconcile or tease apart what is going to be very good growth that is simply uncomfortable for you. Or I guess the opposite side of that is potentially those things that are not ever going to be authentic to you, or that probably don't sit around any of your more natural strengths or whatever else that aren't going to fall into your competence areas ever, because of the way that you're wired. How do you tease those pieces out and think about that in that way?

Andy Molinsky 19:12
So in terms of the first piece, what I often suggest people do, and I do this myself, too, is I imagine to myself in a situation, if I could erase with my magic wand, the anxiety and fear I face in a situation that I'm considering outside of my comfort zone, if I could just temporarily, as a thought exercise, would this be something that I would like to be able to do? It's an interesting thought exercise actually, I've encouraged people to try it. If you can do that exercise, and if you come to the conclusion that "You know what, starting a small company is something I really want to do. I've always wanted to do that and it terrifies the heck out of me, but I have to admit, I've always wanted to do it." Then I think it's very valuable and worth it to try to apply some of the tools that I talked about in the book to try to step outside your comfort zone, in sort of like, and I think there are some really solid tools you can use to try to give yourself a leg up. If the answer to that question is "No, not really, you know, even if I could erase the anxiety and fear, man, it's not really something I care so much about, or it's not my thing, particularly, anyways.” like, let's say you're afraid of sales. If you say... if you could erase the anxiety, raise the worry and say, "You know what, I'm just not that interested in doing it, frankly. What I prefer to... I just don't want to do it." Then that's a fine conclusion. But I don't think that should be a rationalization for not starting a business, let's say, I think that should then bring you to the point that you need to partner with someone who's good at sales, right? I mean, you can outsource that piece. So you don't want to use it as a justification for not doing something. But it might legitimately be something that you really actually don't care about improving at. So that's what I recommend for that piece.

Scott Anthony Barlow 20:50
Really interested in helping people think about how to dovetail or maybe a better way to say it would be, how to separate out which are going to be good directions for me that are uncomfortable, and I need to experience growth in versus those that are also uncomfortable, that really don't align with either who I actually am or the direction that I want to go or anything else, I'd really like your suggestion of, hey, I'm going to call it the outcome that you're wanting. And if that's something you're really actually, legitimately, interested in doing, and you're thinking about, if you have that, or if you're without that, and you come to the conclusion that it's something that you want, then it is worth it to go down the path through that discomfort.

Andy Molinsky 21:34
And I should also say, that's sort of well stated, I like that. The other piece here is that I don't think everyone should be, like, stretching outside their comfort zone, in every situation at every point in their life. It's not like, you know, full throttle, let's go, you know, I think that's unrealistic, and unwise, and so on. I like to think about in terms of like, you know, portfolios, like, stock portfolios, or something as an analogy, like, we all have portfolios of situations in our lives, somewhere outside our comfort zones, some are inside our comfort zones, some are outside our comfort zones, but we'd like to actually work on or whatever, like, there's a portfolio of various sort of places that situations are for us. And maybe we'd like to be able to move a few, you know, we'd like to actually be able to try some stuff outside our comfort zone, those portfolios change over time, right, in terms of our life experience, in terms of our maturity, whatever, I think my life has changed after having kids, big time as being a parent, and so on. But I don't think it's unrealistic to think that there will be some situations right in your comfort zone, and that's where you want them to be, you know what I mean? I think the problem is where you have certain ambitions, legitimate ambitions, something that you would really like to be able to do, but your fear and anxiety is holding you back. That's where I think this stuff is super relevant.

Scott Anthony Barlow 22:49
I feel like that is a great opportunity for I don't know, some kind of basic graph or something. I don't recall, maybe you already had one in your book, and I just missed it. But I feel like there's a very simple graph, in terms of this is the areas you focus on for intentional discomfort. These are the areas that you don't even worry about, because it's outside of what you want.

Andy Molinsky 23:07
No, I don't think I had that graph. But you know, I should mock it up.

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:10
We can do that. We'll make it happen. Very good. I love it. I love frameworks to think about making decisions. So that's ultimately what I'm hoping people will take away as they listen to this is I think you just described a framework for being able to say, okay, going out there and just experiencing tons and tons of discomfort, that's probably not necessarily the right way to go. You're gonna experience some growth that way, but a much better way to look at it would be to do exactly what you just described, where I interpreted that as, hey, evaluate, what is the outcome? And, is discomfort holding you back from those areas? And then if so, those are the places where you may intentionally want to experience it.

Andy Molinsky 23:50

Scott Anthony Barlow 23:51
So on that note, here's some areas where I know that I need to get better at public speaking, or I need to be able to move through the discomfort of sales, or I need to be able to, I don't know, insert your thing here. But how then do I actually do that? What are some ways that I can use to be able to do that? And you love to talk in terms of specifics, and I very much appreciate that. So maybe we can give us some examples that we have pop up all the time, or some people that you've talked to over the time, how can I actually do those things?

Andy Molinsky 24:20
Sure. Yeah, no, absolutely. I think it'd be like, it was like an awful book, and an awful sort of set of ideas if I stopped at the problem. But frankly, like a lot of books that you read, they don't literally stop at the problem, but they're heavy on the problem late on the solutions. I did not want to do that. So here's what I found in terms of people who were able to step successfully outside their comfort zone, sort of, what do they all have in common? The first thing they had in common was conviction. That sort of like a deep sense of purpose, sort of, like, what's in it for you? Why is it worth fighting through discomfort, addressing discomfort, stepping into this situation that is actually really hard for you? You know, it's deserted by drive or sense of purpose to take action despite discomfort. I found that people's sources of conviction tended to be in one of two buckets. One was professional, you know, that I've always wanted to be a small business owner. And yes, there are aspects of it that are really hard. But this is something I've always wanted to do, or I've always wanted to be that manager, I've always wanted to be a leader, insert whatever you've always wanted to be, or what you really deeply care about wanting to do, and that would be a professional source of conviction. Sometimes it's very personal, you know, sometimes it's about making a difference in the world or helping certain people, or, frankly, for me, I have to say, one of my biggest sources of conviction is my role as a dad, as a parent, like I have a 10 and 12 year old, and I'm often trying to sort of smartly, hopefully, coax them outside their comfort zones, if I'm asking them to be brave, and then I, myself, am afraid to do certain things, and I'm not able to get the courage to do it, I don't know, it's not the kind of dad or role model that I want to be. So, you know, wherever your source of conviction comes from, I think it's important to identify it and embrace it. So that's the first tool.

Scott Anthony Barlow 26:09
I want to ask you about that for just a second, I find myself using as a crutch very regularly. So first of all, my oldest is nine. And you can let me know what's coming over the next couple of years. But one of them, we've got this set of family rules, and one of which is trying new things and the real heart of essentially getting outside your comfort zone on a regular basis. And I find myself taking actions in some cases that I probably wouldn't have taken otherwise, except to fulfill what I want to be as a role model for my kids like, otherwise, I probably would, I just wouldn't. So I'm curious, how much you saw those types of things, not necessarily for kids, but those types of things where you're stepping into, where you want to be that role, or you've got that conviction behind, I'm curious, how else that showed up besides just parenting too?

Andy Molinsky 26:58
I think the parenting piece is sort of like a complementary piece, I think that there's got to be something, it's not sort of like, "Oh, I'm gonna go jump off that cliff, even though I really don't want to" just to show it to your kids. For some people that's actually meaningful. It depends. If your kids is struggling, in certain ways, take... stepping into situations, whatever, it gets complicated. But the family side, let's say, that would sort of be an extra added boost. I found it really had to do in these, you know, again, I interviewed people about professional situations, mostly. So it really had to do with some form of, like, professional slash personal ambition. This is just something that I have always wanted to do. I know this will make me feel good about myself. This will enable me to help others. This is my calling. I mean, that's rare. But that happens for sure. I heard some examples that this is my calling, but some source of conviction. I mean, because if you don't have that source of conviction, it is very hard to fight through your comfort zone, because you don't really have much of a sense of purpose.

Scott Anthony Barlow 27:54
Did you see people intentionally using those sources of conviction to create stakes for themselves?

Andy Molinsky 28:00
Like to pressure themselves, you mean?

Scott Anthony Barlow 28:02
Yeah, and I must think about, like, going back to the parent example, I find myself in some cases, intentionally setting myself up to... how do I describe it, won't be good if a recent example. Okay, so this might sound a little bit odd. But I take my kids every Saturday, and we go down to a place I work out at, and it's very much strength training plus parkour, which sounds like an odd combination to probably the average person. But there are some things that parkour can be fairly acrobatic, I guess. So there are some things that I'm scared to death to do, quite frankly. So if I have my kids as an audience, to some degree, then I feel that extra pressure and that extra motivation to do some of those things and to try some of those things with them watching. And I guess that's your example. But...

Andy Molinsky 28:50
No, it's an interesting example. A crutch almost implies that there's a pejorative sense to that. I don't see that as a bad thing, necessarily, as long as it's not like exposing them to something they shouldn't be, like, but it doesn't seem that way. It seems to me like it could be part of your source of conviction, or about to talk about next, which is customization.

Scott Anthony Barlow 29:10
Oh, let's go down that road.

Andy Molinsky 29:11
So customization... I have to tell you, this was the most surprising, interesting, impactful, powerful aspect of what I found, this idea of customization. The idea here is that time and time again, it was one of those things where once you start to see it, you see it everywhere. And the idea basically is that, you know, it's sort of like buying a pair of pants, very few people or some people do, I guess, buy a pair of pants off the shelf and just kind of wear them in, they're good to go. Usually, many of us have to have them sort of shortened here or lengthen there or tweaked here, whatever it is, in a minor way, but so that it fits us better. So that's an analogy to say that you can take a situation even one that you're uncomfortable with, no matter what it is really, and you can find a way to put your own personal spin or twist on it to make it just a little bit more comfortable, a little bit more authentic even. And there were so many interesting ways that I found people customize their situations through all sorts of things, body language, timing, literal actual language, staging a context, bringing props. So for example, you know, let's talk about an example. And we can sort of think about it spontaneously. What's an example some of your listeners might be afraid of doing?

Scott Anthony Barlow 30:23
Well, I think that, two things pop into mind: one, the story of... was it Jane.. it might have been Jane. That is relevant, I think in one way. But a lot of people do mention sales, they have some sales aspect of their role, and I start to talk to them more and more, our team talks to them, then we start to tease out like, what is actually the sales piece of it? And what are some of the value subsets and what are some of the other things? But ultimately, they're focused on the sales and the discomfort and pressures that go along with that thing. So...

Andy Molinsky 30:53
Yeah, so sales and sales could be about selling a product, it could also be about selling yourself in a networking context, you know, you hear a lot of people uncomfortable with that. So, you know, there are lots of things that you can do, to try to sort of tweak it to make it your own. In a literal sales context, you know, it might be that there's certain language that feels right for you, it's really critical for you to not only believe in the product or service that you're selling, but actually be a client yourself and to legitimately use it and love it. And maybe there's certain language that you end up using that are touchstones for you that sort of reminds you of how this is actually something that you love, or doing or that you respect or whatever it is that there's some sort of personal connection to it. It may be sales, maybe it's important for you to bring someone with you, maybe you feel more relaxed when you're with someone, or maybe that other person is able to do a piece of the sale and you do another piece of the sale, maybe a good cop, bad cop, maybe you're the opener and they're the closer, maybe there's a prop that you'd like to bring. For years, I was afraid of public speaking for years. Now, not so much anymore, actually, really liked public speaking, but been at it for about 20 years. And early on, it was terrifying for me. I used to bring a prop, like a prop in theater, and my prop was a ring. And that ring was a special ring with a stone in it that my great uncle had found in the beaches of the South Pacific in World War Two. And it is a tiger's eye stone, and he had made that stone into a ring when he came back from the war. And he wore it for many, many, many years. I always admired it. And I ultimately inherited it in a sense. And I used to wear it and it used to represent courage to me, because that's what he had to do to get that stone in the ring. And I think to myself, like I'm stepping into this situation where I need courage. And, you know, it wasn't like a magical one. But it actually gave me a little boost. It was secret, it was private. Now, of course, all of you now know about it. But I used to wear that. This is not in the sales realm. But I had heard a great example of this the other day from a woman who's very uncomfortable in social situations. She wants to make small talk, she wants to schmooze, she wants to get to know people. And she goes to these sort of social gatherings and she sits in the corner, doesn't say anything. And turns out that she's actually very interested in photography, and just as a side, and she had this epiphany to bring a selfie stick to social get togethers. And so she takes it out of her purse, and she starts to put her iPhone or whatever on the selfie stick and then all of a sudden people come over, like, "Oh, what's that?" "That's cool." "That's awesome. Oh, can we try that?" And then all of a sudden, she's gone from wallflower to someone who's like, absolutely engaged in the conversation, meeting people, taking photos, getting their emails, so that you can send them the photos, having a purpose in the situation, and so on. All through that single prop. We could go on and on and on, but the point is that there are a myriad of ways that you can sort of thoughtfully and consciously tweak a situation to make it just that little bit more comfortable for you, which makes it easier to step outside your comfort zone.

Scott Anthony Barlow 34:00
That's fantastic for a couple different reasons. But I see so many people, and I've fallen into this trap, too, that we think that we have to do something that is outside our comfort zone in a particular way. And very often, I mean, we do lots of coaching with clients and helping them move past their comfort zone or move into their discomfort zones. And intentionally so, and a lot of times, I didn't realize it, but what we are doing is helping them customize and move past that barrier of having to thinking we have to do it in a certain particular way.

Andy Molinsky 34:33
I find the exact same thing. And that's what's so interesting. It's almost as if, like, again, I guess, I think in terms of images a lot. And the image that pops in my head is the image of an archery target. And it's as if, like, there's this idea that you have to hit the dead on bullseye. But the reality is that actually that ring and the ring outside of it and maybe even the ring outside of it is the zone of acceptability in some way, right? And you just need to find a spot in there that fits for you.

Scott Anthony Barlow 34:58
I love it. That is fantastic. But one last question, something that I wanted to ask you too. So we talked about authenticity a little bit earlier. And I think people really struggle particularly with that, and at least the people that are listening to this show, because often their work or pieces about their work, feel very, very inauthentic. And I'm super curious as to... what advice do you have for them, whether or not, they should... how they should think about keeping going in that environment, or maybe taking some of these pieces and customizing it, versus getting out and moving to a new thing?

Andy Molinsky 35:35
You know, I think I get what you're saying. And it's a real question a lot of people have, in fact, before we're on today, you were mentioning something about your audience. And I said, "Oh, my gosh, I had a conversation with someone last night about this." Like, I'm often talking to people about this exact issue, changing careers, it's a really hard question, I think, to answer in the abstract. I think, however, sometimes there are mistakes people make in thinking about it. In terms of authenticity, for example, like, do you have more power and control than you think you do? Are there ways that you can tweak or adjust or craft your role, either sort of on your own, or by asking, if you have a supervisor, to perhaps introduce other elements into your role that might fit better, and be more authentic and so on? Sometimes people desperately want to be able to express a part of themselves, they feel that they need to suppress at work. And sometimes, having an outlet for that outside of work is often quite useful in two ways. You know, number one, it could sort of fulfill that need in a way, and maybe it sort of reduces the anger that you might have around your work, and you might potentially discover aspects of your work, they don't mind or that you actually like, once you're able to express that sort of previously unexpressed piece of yourself outside of work. You know, nowadays, and sort of the gig economy, I think a lot of people are having these like side hustle type of things, where they can do something that's more authentic to themselves. And if they do it outside of work, maybe it's a bridge to potentially switching careers, but starting small, but then you know, potentially bridging out. So that's another possible thing. But it's really hard to like, you know, there are some environments that are just plain toxic, right, or just not a good fit. And I wouldn't want to give the advice to people to tell them that your mistake, you're not figuring out a way to customize right, or you're not figuring out a way to make it work, and they're... or you're justifying it, you know, and so on and so forth, when in fact, it's truly a toxic environment. I think one hint about that, though, is that remember, from a statistical standpoint, you're and of one, right? Any individual person and of one person. If you're trying to make judgments about the toxicity of a culture, it's probably useful to get some other perspectives. If you're starting to see that lots of other people agree with you, in terms of what you're talking about, about how it's stifling, about how it's sort of making me feel inauthentic, and so on and so forth, then you're starting to get a pretty valid view, sort of, of that unbiased or less biased view of the culture that might give you more motivation to say to yourself, "You know what, this isn't for me." So I guess those are some sort of general, sort of, I guess, touch points in terms of thinking about it. But again, it's a very, very sort of personal situation and story, I think, that everyone has.

Scott Anthony Barlow 38:28
It is. And there's not one size fits all progression to be able to move through that problem that many people face. I love the couple of approaches that you had just mentioned, particularly the last one in pulling in more data points, too, so that you can get start to gather, "Hey, is this a me thing? Or is this what I'm perceiving it to be that it's a… everybody thing?"

Andy Molinsky 38:50

Scott Anthony Barlow 38:51
Yeah. Well, hey, this is absolutely fantastic. And by the way, I would highly recommend the book, we haven't even talked about the name necessarily, but it's called "Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge , and Build Confidence", but would absolutely recommend it. I enjoyed it. And it's the reason we wanted to have you on the show in the first place. But I very much appreciate you taking the time and making the time. And by the way, how can people that want to get the book or want to learn more about you and your work, how can they do those things?

Andy Molinsky 39:21
Sure. And I love to hear from people. So I really encourage you to connect, I think the very best way is via my website, which is www.andymolinsky.com, which is spelled andymolinsky.com. And there are all sorts of links to my social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, I've got tons of articles that I've written in resources and quizzes and all sorts of fun stuff to kind of dig into. So I'd love to connect with you. So please visit me there.

Scott Anthony Barlow 39:57
Most of our episodes on Happen To Your Career often showcase stories of people that have identified and found and taken the steps to get to work that they are absolutely enamored with, that matches their strengths, and is really what they want in their lives. And if that's something that you're ready to begin taking steps towards, that is awesome, you can actually get on the phone with us and our team and we can have a conversation to find the very best way that we can help. It's super informal. And we try to understand what your goals are, where you want to go, and what specifically you need our help with. And then we figure out the very best type of help for you, whatever that looks like, and sometimes even customize that type of help. And then we make it happen. The really easy way to schedule a conversation with our team is just go to scheduleaconversation.com, that scheduleaconversation.com, and find a time that works best for you. We'll ask you a few questions, as well. And then we'll get you on the phone to figure out how we can get you going to work that you really want to be doing that fits your strengths, that you love, and you're enamored with, Hey, I can't wait to hear from you.

Scott Anthony Barlow 41:17
Every year, my wife Alyssa and I sat down to pencil out our goals for the following year. But this year, we sat in the hot tub in Austin, Texas instead. Okay, let me explain. We've done goal setting for over 13 years now. But funny thing, we've hit almost all of our goals. Now I know that sounds like a good thing, right? Well, it felt like a good thing until very recently. We started realizing that maybe we were thinking way too small, maybe we could be making a much larger impact for ourselves, our clients, our team members, our family or friends, for the last few years in a row, we've actually shared on the podcast exactly what we've learned from setting goals as a couple for well over a decade, and you can check out episode 386 if you're interested in seeing the progression and last year's learnings. This year, though, we decided we wanted some outside help to break through our own mental limitations that we suspected we were placing on ourselves. Now, I don't really consider myself as someone who thinks small. And I definitely acknowledge that we have done many things that our friends tell us seem impossible. But I had no idea just how small I was thinking. Alyssa and I come on the podcast next week to be able to share exactly what we learned for setting and achieving big, audacious goals.

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