Don’t be afraid to step up

By Michelle Gibbings.

The world is constantly changing. Blink and you can feel you’ve missed something.

Do you keep in step with change, get left behind, or stride ahead and step up to the plate? If you want to get the life you desire, you have to step up. There’s an old adage: success breeds success. But success never happens overnight.

Most success is borne out of a restless urge to do better, a desire not to settle for almost good enough. There’s a willingness – no, an eagerness – to push the boundaries. As the founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad, said: “The most dangerous poison is the feeling of achievement. The antidote is, every evening, to think, what can be done better tomorrow?”

So, what can you do better tomorrow?

Ditch the complacency 

It’s easy to get complacent, to get comfortable doing what we’ve always done before.

Complacency feels cosy, while stepping up feels harder. We get held back by fear: fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of hard work. And yet complacency is one step closer to irrelevance. That sounds harsh, but in a world that’s constantly changing, we need to live on the edge and outside our comfort zone to expand our horizons and learning.

Embrace the uncertainty

Stepping up involves a constant quest for knowledge and a yearning to discover. This is about accepting that we don’t have all the answers and being OK with the discomfort of not always knowing the outcome.

When I set up my business, I walked away from the certainty of a large salary to do something I loved. Was I uncertain? Yes. Was I excited? Yes. I didn’t know where it would take me, but I knew I had to give it a go.

Uncertainty can be the trigger to propel you to seek out new ideas and be naturally curious and excited about how the situation may play out. In this way, uncertainty becomes a challenge to investigate, rather than a barrier to your progress.

Know what you stand for

Research shows that when a person stops being their ‘authentic self’, it causes psychological distress, which can have ongoing emotional and physical ramifications. It also affects how the people around them perceive and relate to them.

For example, colleagues will notice the disconnect between what the person says and does, then question the person’s integrity. Knowing what you stand for is the starting point, but it’s only useful if you’re then prepared to back yourself and your opinions when you face scrutiny and challenge.

Get intentional 

Life’s busy and it’s easy to get distracted by things that can be interesting, but which divert you from your goals. Of course, it’s easier to focus when you know where you want to get to and the steps you need to take to get there.

This clarity of purpose makes it easier to know what you should say ‘no’ to. Saying ‘no’ helps you concentrate on what really matters, so you can achieve what you set out to achieve. Success is never a straight line of constant progress. Having a ‘bounce-back’ mindset, with the resilience and optimism to work through the inevitable challenges and setbacks, is critical.

We all face challenges, and how we approach these challenges affects whether they define, confine or liberate us.

Michelle Gibbings is a change-and-leadership expert and founder of Change Meridian. She works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress in complex environments. She is the author of Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work. For more information, go to or email [email protected]