A friend of mine sent me this picture and said it reminded him of me. His exact words were, “While most of us would like to live our lives outside our comfort zone, I think we all become creatures of habit. You are one person I always think of who is never satisfied in the status quo”.
I’ve thought much about this topic since Jim sent this picture. I’ve thought about why I’m always seeking something that challenges standard practice and how that all began.
So pretty quickly I understood my “why”. I still remember at fourteen my dad informing me he entered me in the 4-H Forestry essay contest. “Really dad, you want me to write and speak about trees? But I don’t know anything about trees”. Remember, this was long before I could just “google it” to find out more.
His comment set the tone for what I think would be the direction of my life. “Yes, trees…but not only are you going to learn, but you’re going to win”. So with my Britannica Encyclopedia in hand, I studied up on trees and yes, I won. I am after all, my father’s daughter and was going to make him proud. To this day, 26 years after his death, I am reminded by my mother how I am “just like my dad”. I think that’s a good thing. Even as a farmer, he was always the one who farmed different than any other. He had the first automated milking machine in the state.
So what is it that holds us back from taking the big leap, a risk….knowing that you probably can’t achieve extraordinary results without it?
1). Fear of Failure
I’m sure you’ve all read the quote, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail”? Probably somewhere in that answer is your magic. Problem is we know failure is a real possibility. I tend to use the “worst case scenario” approach when evaluating a risk. I think about what is the worst thing that can happen and if I can deal with that I do it, if I can’t I don’t.
2). Fear of Embarrassment
I get this one because this is probably my biggest fear. Especially depending on the individuals involved and what type of impression I hope to make. Over time, I’ve learned that communicating early and often about my lack of experience in this area helps to stifle embarrassment if something doesn’t go well. At least it helps explain away my golf game.
3). You don’t want it bad enough or you’re doing it for others
Inner fortitude and passion need to exist to put yourself outside and keep yourself focused if outside your comfort zone. If I’m not passionate about the project, learning a new skill, etc. because I’m really not into it, I find my failure rate is much higher. You need to evaluate your “why” and if it’s not something you really want, try something else.
4) Old dogs don’t always want to learn new tricks
I’ve watched this in my own organization as well as experienced this myself….business, technology etc. are changing at warp speed. Rather than continue to put ourselves in constant learning mode we find what works for us and get comfortable in that knowledge and process. It’s not all bad…sometimes the tried and true is the best way to go. But if the lack of willingness to learn new tricks is holding back the company from being competitive or maybe an innovation leader, then time to get outside your comfort zone.
5) What if it’s a bad idea – no one else is doing it!
Sometimes we have tremendous brainstorms and would love to implement but don’t because our name is on it. We know if it is successful it’s a true win for us but if it fails…well, our name is on it.
We recently did this with our talent strategies division. We’ve done the work for a long time but needed a new and innovative way to get the word out. So we flew to Miami and for a week, we taped cinematic commercials. I flew in a helicopter, stood tall on the edge of a skyscraper (no comfort zone there) and walked miles in high heels in an attempt to deliver our message in a unique way. So far I think the effort has paid off…people are curious and watching.
Bottom line…if you want to stay with the masses that’s a choice. My favorite quote is one I heard was when I was 22 years old. It’s a Zig Ziglar quote and it states, “When I do the things I ought to do when I ought to do them, the day will come when I can do the things I want to do, when I want to do them”. What I know for sure is some of the “ought too’s” are outside the comfort zone.
We’ve all been blessed with the power to choose. Thank you God and thank you Dad for pointing me in the right direction to understand that.