Danielle Banner's life was comfortable. Then, a new opportunity challenged her to take a step into the unknown. Read some of her tips for how to welcome new opportunities.
Life was not perfect, but I was at peace. I was healthy. I was joyful. What more could I ask for?
Picture it. New Year’s Eve 2021. As someone who loves a new beginning, looking ahead to the new year always fills me with hope. Looking back, 2020 was an incredible year and despite the global pandemic and socio-political issues, it became clear that I was content. I say content because I think of happiness as a state of emotional highs and contentment as a state of emotional balance. My life was peaceful and calm, which prevented me from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. I had space to enjoy the moments I was in.
My career was thriving. I worked my way up to Executive Vice President after 20 years. Socially, I am blessed to have an extended network of close friends. (Not to brag, but I am talking Oprah-Gayle level friendships.) My partner and I celebrated our 8th anniversary together, and the pandemic gave us an opportunity to spend a lot of time together. Ours was filled with laughter and caring for the elders of our families—something which only deepened our connection. Oh, then there’s our fur-baby, Chuck Norris, 3lb 3oz of yorkie cuteness. What more could I ask for?
Fast forward to late January 2022.
A former colleague and friend invited me to host a workshop for Women in Consumer Finance with a group of three other women. I had never done anything like it before, and I was apprehensive. I knew that, at best, this would be an opportunity to challenge myself and expand my network. At worst, it would mean industry-wide humiliation.
Growing up, my parents encouraged my siblings and I to try new things. They made it clear that mistakes happen and the only real failure is not trying. To this day my mom still reminds us, “A mistake is a beautiful thing as long as something is learned.” That lesson is ingrained in me. So, of course, I said yes to the workshop.
I took a step out of my comfort zone.
The workshop was A LOT of work. I had to make adjustments to my routines and fight my inner voice of doubt during the preparation process. It was a real challenge, but I found a more confident, driven version of myself on the other side of it.
Here are some of the lessons I learned by taking a step out of my comfort zone:
1. Overcoming the “I don’t have time” mentality is essential for growth.
Like many, I have a lot of responsibilities. I was initially concerned that I didn’t have enough time for the work that I knew would be required to make this workshop great. And it did require a considerable amount of time, but I soon found a deep level of satisfaction in the process. Instead of obsessing over the time commitment, my mentality shifted when I realized this wasn’t a chore—it served me. I was more aware of how I spent my time. As a result, I became more intentional about the ways I used my non-working hours.
Instead of working a full day and then researching workshop content well into the evening—my time was best spent identifying key themes and exploring those topics in a way that fit my life, through podcasts, TED Talks and audio books. Each day I looked forward to popping in my airpods to listen to 15-30 minutes of content. Generally, I would do this each morning before checking my email. This was my time to learn, uninterrupted.
2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
When I think of comfort, I am referring to having our basic needs met and feeling secure in our lives. During a time of absolute uncertainty, I had a safe and stable home, fulfilling relationships, financial security, and access to healthcare and other resources to support my well-being.
During this time, I realized that not all limiting beliefs are negative. In my case, comfort and contentment, not fear or self-doubt, prevented me from identifying new goals or finding new passions. Armed with this awareness, I knew I could either remain in my comfort bubble or embrace the unknown. I chose the latter.
3. We don’t achieve goals; we grow into them.
Unlike KPIs we use in our daily roles, there are no KPIs for growth. No SOP. No predetermined starting point. No destination. It’s more of a choose-your-own-adventure series. As I did research for my workshop and learned more about the topic, I confronted difficult emotions and experiences. Taking time to reflect on those gave me the chance to learn more about myself. The more I learned and discovered, the more I grew. I realized that we don’t achieve goals; we grow into them.
Too often we want to go from 0 to 60 when we think about goals, but self-discovery is a journey and growth cannot be rushed or quantified. So, don’t pressure yourself to achieve. You’ll probably miss some great lessons if you do.
4. Doing your best does not mean over-extending yourself.
Finding a balance between working, preparing for the workshop, and my life was difficult. I sometimes found myself in a loop—frustrated because I wasn’t working effectively and not working effectively because of my frustration. Like many, when faced with that kind of feeling, I am inclined to bury my head in my work until the problem is solved.
Despite this inclination, I am a firm believer that exhaustion is not a badge of honor. When I found myself in moments of fatigue and frustration, I took breaks and did something enjoyable to clear my mind. This practice gave me space to reframe my thinking. When I returned to work, I had a fresh perspective and the clarity needed to move forward.
I set aside comfort and found my voice and purpose.
On the day of the workshop, my team and I were ready to go, and it was a huge success. Through that success, I discovered a new sense of confidence and purpose that I wouldn’t have been able to find had I not broken out of the comfort zone I was in. That sense of newfound confidence propelled me to challenge myself more in other areas of my life too.
At the end of 2022, I found myself once again reflecting on my year. It was a year of self-discovery, profound growth, and new opportunities. None of which would have occurred had I stayed firmly planted in the contentment I felt in 2021. I had to face my fears and try something new to discover even more happiness.
All of my growth culminated on December 30th, when I was accepted as an Advisory Board Member for the Women in Leadership Program at Ashland University. I am honored to have been invited to partner with the program with the goal of bridging industry with academia.