uncomfortable times. Companies are struggling, the economy is in the doldrums,
jobs are scarce and politics are scary. Curling into the foetal position seems
create a safe space amid the tumult is a normal human reaction. When outside
risk increases, we inevitably attempt to make our own environment as secure as
possible. We play it safe, stick to only doing work we feel confident about,
approach everything in the same way that has guaranteed success in the past. We
repeat behaviours and don’t stick our necks out, choosing routine and comfort
instead of taking risks. We end up in a comfortable routine where we don’t face
failure and we avoid stress.
is that a comfort zone can be a very dangerous place. Life is growth. When you
don’t challenge yourself, you become stunted. If you don’t adapt to a changing
business environment, you will be sleepwalking into an almighty crisis. If you
stick only to the tried and tested, you will stifle your own creativity. If you
don’t risk failure, you won’t innovate and put yourself and your company on a
higher plane. If you stick to only routine work, a robot will eventually grab
breathing the air inside your comfortable bubble for too long can be toxic.
While you avoid the stress and anxiety of failure, you will start falling
behind. Eventually you will feel boredom, envy and stagnation.
life outside your comfort zone is stressful. It comes with anxiety and failure.
But to perform at your peak you need a bit of stress to spur you on.
Psychologists talk about “optimal anxiety”, which is based on the Yerkes-Dodson
law. More than a century ago, two psychologists found that performance
increases as stress levels rise – up to a point. When the pressure becomes
overwhelming, you won’t be able to cope and your ability to achieve will
suffer. But without some anxiety and fear, you won’t ever step up and reach
your full potential.
“One way to
jolt yourself out of a lethargic state is to imagine yourself on your deathbed,
looking back at your life,” says Jonathan Hoch, founder of and executive coach
at Hoch Partners Executive Coaching in Johannesburg. With this perspective in
mind, are you happy about how well you are living up to your potential? Are you
living a meaningful life that won’t lead to regrets? Now imagine what would
constitute a successful life.
chances are that your successful life will not be attained by watching daytime
TV and sticking to routine behaviour. You will need to embrace some risk and
stress, and escape your comfort zone.
changes in your daily routine can open your mind to new ways of thinking.
Change your breakfast. Change your hair. Install a different browser. Try jazz.
Take a new route to work. Then move on to doing things differently at the
office. Start with small changes in your approach that could result in failures
that you can easily stomach. Move on to more difficult challenges, with higher
these obstacles will build your self-esteem and give you the confidence to get
ahead. Heed Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous advice: do one thing every day that
scares you. Dare yourself to do something difficult. The more you challenge
yourself, the more resilient you will become and the further you will progress.
Change your perspective
conference that has nothing to do with your current work. Befriend someone who
has a different outlook on life, preferably an argumentative loudmouth with
strong opinions. Look at different news sources. Learn another language or
different computer program. Do a short online course about something that is
not necessarily work-related. This will help you look at the world in a
different way and open yourself up to new opportunities.
Find your flow
not the marker of a good life,” says Hoch. A more useful indicator is whether
you are involved in activities that you find richly satisfying. “The optimal
balance between stress and relaxation is when you are fully engrossed in an
activity,” says Hoch. When are you feeling this flow? Focus on challenging
yourself in these areas that give you most satisfaction.
Take a step back
isn’t necessarily a boring place. Many people who are completely caught up in a
comfort zone have hectic lives. You may be extremely busy, rushing from one
thing to the next. But if you take a closer look, for all the activity you may
not be extending and evolving yourself at all. Ditch the things that do not
amount to much, making time in your life to challenge yourself.
barrier to getting out of a comfort zone is the fear of failure. Unfortunately,
this fear is not unfounded. There is a chance that you will fail when you try
something new or stick your neck out. Don’t wait until you have all the
information at hand before you start, says Hoch. Information is never complete.
Start when you have a viable working prototype of what you want to do. Then
fail: Test and eliminate all the ways the prototype won’t work. Improve by
continuous improvement and natural selection. If you do fail outright, cut your
losses and move on to the next challenge.
This article originally appeared in the 9
March edition of finweek. Buy
and download the magazine here.