I like it here, inside my comfort zone. It’s a warm, pleasant cocoon of gentle growth, as I muse and germinate, stretch and evolve, play to my strengths while I listen to my body, mind and soul. And suddenly, just like that, I know that this is meant to be.
This comfort zone is beautiful because I’ve always known it to represent exactly who I am.
It’s the comfort zone that taught me I could survive, nay thrive, without social media when I quit it for 60 whole days.
It was there when I decided to stop using hashtags on Instagram or consciously chose to step back from using Pinterest as a gateway to more blog traffic. It was also there when I looked at everyone else doing reels and a voice whispered, saying that I don’t need to follow the trend but stick to the messaging I felt most comfortable sharing.
This is such a gratifying shift away from where I was two years ago, struggling to keep up with the Joneses, trying to make money from my blog and not clicking with any of it.
Today, I realize it’s because most of the how-to-make-money proposals are designed for those who are more comfortable with mainstream marketing techniques. Me? I prefer the gentle, feminine approach to marketing and always will.
Growth happens at the end of your comfort zone
I’ve been guilty of both saying this out loud to people and believing it, for the longest time, as a sure-fire motivator.
That was until I learned to break down that statement and listen to the messaging.
Why doing the uncomfortable things feels out of step
When we tell people that growth or ‘success’ happens outside their comfort zone, we’re telling them that they should get out there, do the hard things, push and aim higher even if it feels uncomfortable and not like themselves.
I remember chatting with Shirani M. Pathak on a few occasions on the concept of supremacy culture and the macho mindset when it comes to growth. How it’s been ingrained in us to do the hard things if we want to succeed. Being told that to be quiet, introspective and compassionate wouldn’t lead to success in the traditional sense.
If you think about it, a lot of mainstream marketing pushes you towards these goals:
- Get more followers!
- Earn more money!
- Go from 0 to 5000 subscribers in 3 months!
But not all of us are built this way. Not all of us want to do the hard things at any cost possible.
For as long as I can remember, I have been an introvert. I stayed quiet, unless spoken to and felt more comfortable with my books than with being at parties. This doesn’t mean I had a fear of public speaking or performance; quite the opposite actually. In fact, in high school, I remember winning an award for the Best Speaker of the year in my graduating class. Similarly, when called upon to perform my music before a crowd, my voice would hit the high notes effortlessly and without quivering due to nervousness or anxiety.
And I was extremely fortunate to be brought up by parents who both supported my introversion and never pushed me to believe that it was something that I needed to change.
As Ashley Brooks says, “Introversion is part of your personality, not a weakness to overcome. Learning how to work with your personality instead of against it can help you find your place.”
Following a softer, more feminine approach has a far better outcome, in my experience. It is possible to grow while engaging with gentler principles in marketing.
Listening with Intention
For a very long time, growing up, I suffered from a very basic problem – the inability to listen, truly listen, to other people. I’d be very convinced that my solution was the best when it came to any problem. It was the classic ‘My way or the Highway’ approach to discussions.
My dad used to tell me all time, “Unless you learn to listen to people, you will never grow.”
A similar piece of feedback is the one I received from a client of mine who mentioned that I tend to rush through topics in an effort to complete the material. Instead, I ought to focus more on whether the client was actually receiving the information and learning from it.
This was so gently profound that I keep going back to it, any time I feel pulled to achieve things at any cost. This reminder, that I ought to listen more, has been key to helping me step back and stay in the moment.
Stillness & Allowing Ideas to Marinate
When I took my 60-day social media sabbatical earlier this year, a very beautiful stillness entered my life. After almost 14 years on Facebook and a decade on Twitter, it felt like I was coming up for air when I chose to stay off both these platforms plus Instagram and LinkedIn for two whole months.
The peace was so captivating that it was with some reluctance that I returned to social media (specifically Instagram and LinkedIn) in early August. When I did, it was to figure out if I actually needed social media in order to sustain my business.
The lesson that emerged from my sabbatical was multi-fold and you can read more about my findings here: I Quit Social Media for 60 Days and Here’s What I Learnt
It was also during this time that I chose to let go of a specific revenue stream for my business- display advertising on my website. At the same time, I had another epiphany. If I didn’t want to sell the attention of my audience via my website, I didn’t feel comfortable spending money on advertising to let people know about my business either. And so, I chose to let go of Instagram and Facebook ads as well.
Yes, there is an ethical way to do advertising and one of the few people whom I’d recommend in this space is my own coach, George Kao and his very useful Facebook ads course. However, a voice deep within my soul started to speak and it kept growing louder and louder until I could hear it reverberating in my ears.
Your work will find the right people when the time is right.
Create with Joy; Consume with Intention
In mid-May, I launched my podcast, but here’s what you don’t know. I’ve been sitting with the idea for over a year, ever since I casually asked my audience about it on Instagram, in fact. I shrugged it aside because I didn’t believe I was ready.
Then, the day I was ready, I woke up and there was this persistent, gentle message in my head — a higher power — that nudged me forward. It kept whispering:
It’s time. You can do this. Let me show you how.
Within 2 hours (I am not kidding), I created the podcast cover art, crafted the description, recorded the trailer and also uploaded my first episode. I had zero knowledge about how to do any of it and yet, the podcast manifested, if you can believe that. Special props to Anchor for making it so seamless
Then the next day, I worked on publishing a new interview on my blog. The art of putting it all together was so fulfilling that when it was finished I had this grin of a Cheshire cat. And it took me 2 hours again, from start to finish.
Here’s the common thread between both incidents:
I lost myself in the joy of creation. It was magical! I didn’t worry about how many people would listen to the podcast or read the published post. None of it. I just got into the flow and found inexplicable joy in creating something. Then, when it meant I could come to social media and talk about the podcast/the post, I could do it with intention.
When you create first, you are listening to your true self, the one that functions at a resonance far beyond what you see. When you consume later, you can do so with the knowledge that you’ve completed your art of creation for the day. There’s more peace in the process.
As creators, we all have a gift and the best thing we can do with that gift is to nurture it, water it and help it thrive.
But in an age of distraction, this feels fairly impossible. Even for those of us who remember a time before the internet and smartphones, why is it such a struggle to make time to do deep, incisive, creative work?
When you embrace the idea of time affluence, incredible things happen.
It is the idea that you have enough time to create, enough time to be with yourself and enough time to do deep work that is both meaningful and abundant.
Sustainable Growth With Heartfelt Connections
If someone tells you that you can’t grow a business or view success without stepping out of your comfort zone, please don’t believe them.
There is a space for growth and success and not necessarily in the traditional sense.
For instance, I’ve maintained a decent profit through the months of June, July and August 2021. What have I done differently?
I’ve learnt to focus on the right business tasks while working from a space of gentle productivity. Business is more than money, of course. It’s about connections, relationship building and research. Those are the parameters I’ve been looking at while working behind the scenes. Stepping back from the public eye, limiting my social media presence and making more time for health, reading, cooking and self-care have all helped me tremendously.
None of this would have been possible if I’d stopped listening to the introvert’s voice.
In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking Susan Cain explains this beautifully.
Stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way.
– Susan Cain