When was the last time you did something that truly took you outside your comfort zone?
It feels good to be comfortable. We feel relaxed, unpressured and more certain.
But getting comfortable can be dangerous. When we’re too comfortable we stop learning and growing. Once this happens we’re one step closer to being left behind and becoming dated or worse, obsolete.
That may sound tough. The reality is that in a world that’s constantly changing, being open to learning and embracing challenge is a critical part of leading a healthy and fulfilling life.
It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said: “Do one thing every day that scares you”.
It’s a great quote as it’s a reminder that we grow when we do things that are different, challenging, or new.
If you feel comfortable when you’re doing something the chances are you aren’t learning.
This is because discomfort is a sign that our brain is doing something new. Each time we do something new our brain fires up and creates a new neural pathway. The more frequently we do the activity the more familiar it becomes, and so the neural pathway deepens and the feeling of discomfort goes away.
This means that discomfort is a good thing – not a bad thing – for you.
It can help to set yourself a number of comfort zone stretching goals each year. These goals can be professionally or personally focused.
The goals may be: writing your first article on linkedin, learning a new language, taking dancing classes, completing a marathon or spending time at a silent retreat. It’s anything you haven’t done before, which you feel nervous about doing.
One of my goals this year was to trek the six-day overland track from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair in Tasmania. I like bushwalking – so that wasn’t the challenge. The challenge was the length and carrying a big backpack for six days. This is how I spent my Easter break, and clearly I survived as I’m writing this article!
The benefits from completing these types of goals are numerous. Of course, there’s the elation when you conquer the goal, but it goes deeper than that. You will typically:
- Learn something about yourself
- Learn something about other people who are either participating in the same goal or involved in some way
- Better understand your pressure points, where and when you need to ask for support, and how you cope under pressure
- Recalibrate your appetite for risk as things that seem hard to begin with, become easier over time
- Have a clearer mind and renewed sense of focus
You may have already set your challenge for the year – and even have completed it. Or it may still be a goal in formation. Whatever the position – hope it’s a good one.
Change happens. Make it work for you.
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’. For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact email@example.com.