New Year’s Resolution #7 for Introverts: Embrace Stretch Assignments

by | Feb 28, 2024

Greetings, fellow introverted professionals, and welcome back to our exploration of 10 New Year’s resolutions for a powerful and triumphant 2024. Today, I’m thrilled to delve into Resolution #7: Embrace Stretch Assignments. As a professional coach specializing in empowering introverts, I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of challenging ourselves to reach new heights. In this blog post, I’ll draw from my own experiences and insights to guide you on the path to embracing stretch assignments, unlocking your full potential, and surpassing your professional goals in the year ahead.

First, what is a stretch assignment? Put simply, it is a task or project that pushes a person beyond her comfort zone, challenging her to develop new skills, expand her knowledge, and grow professionally. It typically requires us to go beyond our usual scope of work or level of expertise and serves to encourage learning, creativity, and innovation, ultimately fostering both personal and professional growth. They also offer the opportunity to take on new challenges, demonstrate previously unseen capabilities, and showcase our potential for advancement within our organization. In essence, stretch assignments serve as a catalyst for development, enabling us to reach new professional heights. 

Why should introverts take on stretch assignments?

Embracing stretch assignments is not just about taking on more work—it’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to grow in ways you never thought possible. As introverts, we may naturally gravitate towards tasks and projects that align with our strengths and preferences – for example, those that allow us to work in solitude, are based in thoughtful analysis, or call for deep level of expertise. While there’s nothing wrong with playing to our strengths (and we absolutely SHOULD), there’s immense value in challenging ourselves to expand our skill set.

One of the biggest benefits of embracing – and being successful at completing stretch assignments – is building confidence in our abilities. Each new challenge presents an opportunity to learn, grow, and prove to ourselves – even more importantly that to others – that we are capable of far more than imagined.

For sure, embracing stretch assignments is generally not easy, especially for introverts who may prefer familiar environments and routines. It requires courage, resilience, and a willingness to embrace discomfort. As the saying goes, however, to the victor go the spoils. When we push ourselves outside of our comfort zones, we can reach very unexpected levels of fulfillment and success.

How can introverts take on stretch assignments?

So, how can you begin to embrace stretch assignments so that “the spoils” go to you? Here are a few strategies to consider:

  1. Assess your goals: Start by clarifying your professional goals and identifying areas where you’d like to grow. What skills do you want to develop? What experiences do you want to gain? By setting clear goals, you can better understand what stretch assignments align with your aspirations.
  2. Seek opportunities: Keep an eye out for stretch assignments within your organization or industry. This could involve volunteering for a new project, taking on a leadership role, or pursuing additional training or certifications. Don’t be afraid to step forward and express your interest in challenging yourself.
  3. Embrace discomfort: Recognize that growth often occurs outside of our comfort zones. Embrace discomfort as a sign that you’re pushing yourself to grow and evolve. Remember, it’s okay to feel nervous or uncertain—it’s a natural part of the learning process. (I’d even argue that if you’re not feeling uncomfortable in at least one area of your work, you need to shake things up a bit).
  4. Break it down: When faced with a daunting challenge, break it down into smaller, manageable tasks. Focus on taking one step at a time, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the magnitude of the assignment. By breaking it down, you’ll make the challenge more approachable and achievable.
  5. Seek support: Don’t be afraid to seek support from mentors, colleagues, or professional networks amid “the stretch.” Reach out for guidance, advice, and encouragement as you navigate your stretch assignments. Having a support system can provide invaluable insights and reassurance along the way.
  6. Reflect and learn: Throughout the process of embracing stretch assignments, take time to reflect on your experiences and learn from them. This could include journaling, talking with a trusted friend or colleague, or even just reflecting mentally during times you carve out for yourself. Consider: What worked well? What could you improve upon next time? By continually evaluating your progress, you’ll continue to grow and refine your skills.
  7. Celebrate your achievements: Be sure to celebrate your achievements and milestones along the way. Recognize when you’ve stretched and acknowledge the benefits that ensued. Whether it’s completing a challenging project, mastering a new skill, or overcoming a fear, take time to acknowledge and celebrate your progress. Recognize the value of your efforts and the growth you’ve achieved.
  8. Recognize the value of “failures”: I’ve put that word in quotations because even when you fall short of achieving traditionally or objectively defined success on a stretch assignment, the lessons you gain from the experience are wins. Acknowledge those, don’t beat yourself up over “falling short,” and use the wisdom you’ve gained to take on the next stretch assignment from an even stronger place.

As you embark on your journey to embrace stretch assignments, don’t forget that “the magic happens” when we step outside of our comfort zones. Each challenge you take on is an opportunity to expand your skills, deepen your knowledge, and elevate your career trajectory. By undertaking stretch assignments, you invest in your own professional development, while demonstrating to your colleagues – including those who make decisions about promotions and compensation – that you are a high-growth and committed member of your organization. So, seize the opportunity to challenge yourself, push your boundaries, and unlock your full potential as an introverted professional. Here’s to embracing the stretch and reaching new heights in your career journey! 

Join me next time as we explore “Resolution #8: Develop a Personal Brand.” Until then, my fellow introverts, may you continue to embrace growth and thrive in your professional endeavors.