By Linda Fisher Thornton
In the 200th Leading in Context Blog Post, I wrote about Learning at the Speed of Life. To celebrate the 250th post, I want to reflect on what it’s been like to work every day in the stretch beyond the comfort zone.
In the past year, I finished writing my first book 7 Lenses, editing and publishing it in paperback and three different digital formats (Kindle, iTunes and Nook). Many times during that period, I felt like I had ended up in the middle of nowhere without a map.
Embracing the Stretch
Although I knew where I wanted to end up, I had no idea how to get there. Have you felt that way as you took on new challenges? Here are some of the questions I wrestled with:
- How do you know when a book is good enough and ready to be edited?
- How do you choose a good book title?
- What cover design will best catch people’s attention and convey the book’s message?
- Which is the more responsible paper choice, recycled or sustainable forestry initiative?
- How do you spread the word in responsible ways so people who can benefit from the book will find out about it?
I have “learned through” finding answers to hundreds of questions like these in the past year. To stay motivated, I posted this saying on the bulletin board beside my desk:
“Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone”
Neale Donald Walsch
It reminded me that growth is good… Wouldn’t it be easy if growth happened without the need to stretch outside of our comfort zones? These song lyrics describe the simpler way we yearn for:
“Wake me up when it’s all over. When I’m older and I’m wiser.”
Song Lyrics, “Wake Me Up” by Avicii
If only it were that easy.
The Good Stuff Doesn’t Happen on Autopilot
When we live and work on autopilot, we tend to “stick to the known,” repeating what we did last year that worked and making incremental progress. This dooms us to only achieving what we have already imagined and set into motion. There’s so much more that we’re missing. While we’re waiting to be “older and wiser”, we miss big opportunities to learn right now.
Growth doesn’t happen by itself. It takes an effort.
Because growth can be uncomfortable, it is often tempting to stick to the known path, the usual way, the “regular things” we do. But when we do that, we get into a routine and may end up going through the day on autopilot.
Instead of being easy and comfortable, real growth requires stretching outside of our comfort zones, believing we can grow and accomplish more, and continually working to get better.
Pushing the Boundaries
Once we stretch into new capabilities, we have to keep practicing them until they become comfortable. In the process, we are expanding our comfort zone to make room for these new abilities.
When We Are Learning and Growing, Our Comfort Zone is Expanding
Instead of avoiding the stretch and getting through the day on pre-programmed autopilot, we have expanded our comfort zones to include new abilities and roles, and new possibilities.
As you read about my journey, reflect on how stretching outside of your comfort zone might be transformational for you.
What has taken me outside of my comfort zone in the past year?
- Finishing, editing and publishing an ethical leadership book (that recently won Bronze in the Axiom Business Book Awards!).
- Author book signings.
- Doing virtual booktalks, guest lectures, videos and keynotes based on 7 Lenses.
- Keeping up with a growing and highly engaged global audience on social media.
This growth process has happened in waves, sometimes extremely difficult and other times exhilarating. That’s how growth is, like riding a roller coaster in the dark and not seeing the road ahead clearly. It’s exciting and unpredictable. I am grateful that pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone was easier with the help of a strategy coach who urged me on and asked me to continually reach higher.
When we embrace the roller coaster ride of growth, as unpredictable as it may be, we tap into our human potential and we grow into our better selves. We make a positive difference in our lives and the lives of others.
What meaningful work have you been wanting to do? Go ahead – step outside the zone and enjoy the ride. That’s where your best work is waiting to be done.
2014 Bronze Axiom Business Book Award Winner About 7 Lenses Info@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt @7Lenses
© 2014 Leading in Context LLC