Professional development

Personal growth is never comfortable: How to feel the fear but do it anyway

- May 18, 2022 5 MIN READ
Rowena Millward inset on background

Rowena Millward is an accomplished personal growth expert and author who helps top business leaders reframe their fears into a more positive mindset so they can thrive in work and life. She joined editor Cec Busby on the Flying Solo podcast to share how we can turn our challenges and fears into opportunities for growth.

As an expert in personal growth and with a background in psychology and neuroscience, Rowena Millward has turned her expertise into a new book, Uncomfortable Growth: Own Your Reinvention, aimed at helping us face our fears and turn them into a catalyst for positive change in our lives and our businesses.

Rowena Millward, personal growth expert

Rowena Millward, personal growth expert

“Growth can be many things for many people,” says Rowena, “but for me, the definition of growth is expanding to become more. It’s important to recognise that while growth is a wonderful outcome, getting there isn’t easy. One of the things that are essential to personal growth is being able to know yourself to grow yourself.”

While in the business world, we think of growth in terms of KPIs such as sales or the number of customers, when it comes to personal growth, Rowena says expanding to become more means recognising and challenging the fears that are inherent in all of our lives.

“I don’t think people can get rid of fear; it’s part of who we are,” Rowena admits. “We are wired for that fear response – it’s part of being human. So it’s not a matter of stopping fear because that’s not possible. What you can do is become better at recognising and managing it.”

Challenging your fears

Rowena says that one way to diminish the fears holding you back is to remember all the challenges you have already faced and overcome.

“It’s so easy for fear to grow in our heads, but we don’t often step back and reflect on what we’ve already experienced and what we already know,” Rowena says. “There’s so much insight that comes from looking back at both the positives and the challenges; all of those things translate into understanding the person we are today. That’s the foundation of finding the courage and conviction to continue growing and own our growth.

“You can look back and see other situations or times when things were challenging or difficult, and by looking back, you see that it wasn’t the end of the world. Yes, it was tough, but you got through it. You thought it was the worst thing in the world, but you actually learned a lot.

“It’s really important to recognise that this new challenge is not going to result in you not having a positive life. It’s a challenge, and you will get through these challenges as you have in the past. That’s why it’s really important to provide that context.”

Listen to Rowena Millward on the Flying Solo podcast:

Feel the fear and do it anyway

So, how do we start to push through fears or challenges that may be holding us back? Rowena says it’s about breaking down those fears to gain a clearer perspective. As the old saying goes – we need to feel the fear but do it anyway.

“Often we have an emotional response, and a million different thoughts and fears start to run through our heads – our brains race. But by confronting that fear with a few key questions like ‘what, specifically, is my fear? What parts can I control versus what I can’t control?’ you break down those fears. You also can ask yourself, ‘How real is this fear? How likely is it to happen?’ That helps you keep the fear in a more reasonable perspective so that it doesn’t become overwhelming.

“Then you can take action, which gives you back that sense of control. Ask yourself, ‘How could I reduce the likelihood of the thing I’m fearing from happening? And what are the benefits if I move through this fear, if I take action?’

“It’s really getting that balance between stopping the fear from growing in your head and focusing on the potential benefits of beating it. Fear is part of being human, but it can lead to growth and good things in life. The more you know yourself, the better you can manage it.”

The four zones of personal growth

Rowena outlines four clear ‘zones’ on the personal growth scale and that the key to moving forward through fears and uncertainty is finding your ‘uncomfortable growth zone’.

“Growth is not one-size-fits-all. It’s really about the level of growth that works for you,” says Rowena.

“I talk about there being four zones. There’s the stuck zone, where we feel like we’re not happy, don’t know how to get out of it, and are not in a good place. There’s the comfort zone, where we’re becoming a bit bored or stale, a bit over it – we’re looking for growth. There’s the learning zone, where we’re still enjoying learning, but it may not be as high growth as when we’re at our best and thriving. So we are learning more than thriving.

“And then there’s the uncomfortable growth zone. I call the final zone the uncomfortable growth zone because it has that element of challenge; it’s where we have to put ourselves out there or challenge ourselves to do something that expands us to become more, which is why it’s uncomfortable. But it’s also where we experience our greatest growth. ”

Book cover: 'Uncomfortable Growth' by Rowena Millward

Get your copy of Rowena’s book here.

“Growth is about change and reinvention. It’s hard because we haven’t done it before. And reinvention does live in the uncomfortable growth zone. The uncomfortable growth zone is where we haven’t done it before, but we can push through that fear to create something that didn’t exist before. It could be a complete career change or taking up a hobby that you’ve never thought about. It could be travelling, moving countries, or living overseas; there are many different ways you can reinvent yourself.

“When you understand your growth zone, you start to understand how you can shape your reinvention when the timing is right.”

Listen to the latest episode of the Flying Solo podcast now:

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