Have you ever felt so ‘out of the loop’ that it paralyzed you?
Sometimes the pace of change in our field (especially in the technology arena) makes me feel like an outsider. (Cue absurd thoughts as illustration: “Is that a Twitter he was holding?” … “Can you Voxer on that?” …”I need to try that SeeSawGridLet” quickly followed by thoughts of: “But I mean – I’m not thaaaaat old” … “How did the world move on so quickly?” “When did I get left behind?”
Today’s endless buffet of new learning tools, approaches, devices, and apps combined with intuitive and convenient ways to connect and share with others is certainly exciting. I worry, though, about the risk of paralysis that comes with being out of one’s comfort zone.
We certainly know the benefits of time spent outside of our comfort zones. It is said that this is where the true learning, or “the magic” happens. This, of course, makes sense – as the safety of our own comfort zones does little to push the limits of our learning.
Although I’m typically excited to leave my comfort zone, to try new things, and to explore how new ideas might fit into my current schemas and practices, I do sometimes feel so ‘out of the loop’ that it paralyzes me. Not to mention, that putting yourself out there while simultaneously trying something new can be very difficult. For me, too much new at once can cause Action Paralysis.
This was my first week participating in a large Voxer community (if people even call it that). The group I joined (EduMatch, created by Sarah Thomas & introduced to me by #DitchSummit) is made up of educators from all over the country (and maybe the world) who share stories and resources, ask questions, debate and discuss, and connect with one another.
Although nothing about the group is all that scary in reality, the unknown of public Voxer etiquette combined with the task of sharing my unrehearsed ideas with a large group of strangers, paralyzed me. I actually sat for a full 3 minutes with my thumb hovering above the ‘talk’ button before my first Vox.
If, like me, the idea of many unknowns is causing you to feel overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, or even paralyzed, consider these strategies for breaking free:
Select Tools Intentionally. Not every new tool or app is for you. Know your personal learning targets and thoughtfully choose the tools that help you reach specific goals. Just as we thoughtfully integrate tech based on, not what is new and shiny, but what will truly amplify our teaching (@HollyClarkEdu), we must choose the learning tools that will truly enhance our professional growth. Reduce overwhelming thoughts by selecting tools because they amplify your personal learning, not because you feel you should try something new.
Explore in Safety. Give yourself the time and space to explore new apps and tools in a risk free zone. Ask a friend to ‘figure it out with you’ or create a mock or test account before going live. Before joining a larger Voxer community, I began using the tool with a colleague. This allowed me to get comfortable with its features and learn the nuances of the app. Next, we began using a Voxer group to connect our staff in a in between face to face meetings. While these baby steps didn’t take away all of my anxiety around contributing to a larger public group, they did allow me the confidence to eventually do so.
Set a Time Goal. Set time goals for yourself when it comes to exploring a new tool. Just like children must try a new food hundreds of times before determining an accurate opinion of it, you too must allow yourself the time to gain comfort and skill with a new tool. Increase the likelihood of providing yourself that time by setting parameters around your learning. Commit to “10 minutes a day on Twitter for three weeks” or “blogging once a week for three months” before making a determination about whether or not the tool is a good fit.
Allow Yourself GRACE. Shift your goals from pursuing perfection to garnering growth. Perfection is a myth that hinders risk taking and stalls authentic growth. Rather, it is the process of making mistakes – trying and retrying that feeds our creativity, determination, and inspiration.
Allowing ourselves the grace to grow gives us permission to play in the unknown and sets us up for contributing what only we can where it is needed most.