How hard are you willing to push yourself? Are you willing to push yourself outside of your comfort zone into a position where you know you can reach more than ever before? Let’s explore how you can expand yourself by moving yourself outside your comfort zone and into your learning zone.
Now you might be wondering what I mean by learning zone.
I’m talking about that place where you’re not just gliding along doing the things you already know how to do, spinning the wheels per se. Here you are in a position where you’re being challenged. You are “putting a sweat on” because you don’t know whether you’re going to be able to achieve the expected result.
We see examples of this sort of challenge all the time in athletics – where people keep pushing their limits. They keep going, driving for one extra weight, that one extra step. They keep looking to shave that one extra second off their best time. This same approach can be used by you every single day. We all have this ability to take an uncomfortable challenge which is outside our comfort zone and do something that is not normal for us.
And eventually, over time, we are able to expand our comfort one, overcome new challenges and achieve something that’s very good. Moreover, small changes can amalgamate overtime to make more significant changes, which means the anticipated results are also achieved.
Undeniably you know a lot more than you did five or ten years ago, and certainly a lot more than when you were born. Because you have this ability to learn, to take on new skills to overcome new challenges. All this means that you are pushing your learning zone all the time. This is a great thing. The worst thing you can do, in my opinion, is to stay where you are. that means languishing in a position where you’re always “just spinning the wheels”. Here you are in a situation where you are doing the same thing day in day out as the world – and your life – goes by.
Inevitably at some point in time, the normal way you do things is going to change. When that happens you won’t have the skills to be able to take on that change. Which means you could potentially be a redundant part in that system. And we all know what happens when organisations restructures. The redundant processes, and people are removed!
I don’t want that for you so I would like you to explore your learning zone. It’s time to push yourself and your capabilities. It’s time to find other things that you can learn and develop that will complement what you’re doing today. Thus, making sure, as Stephen Covey once said, “you keep sharpening the saw”. You have to keep learning that little bit more with continuous learning improvement. So, when change does arrive, you already have the skills that will be needed. Thus reducing your worry about what that future may bring.
Now some people worry when they leave their comfort zone. They worry they may freeze, they worry about becoming a problem. However, your comfort zone is an area that is unique to you. Some people’s comfort zones are quite extensive. Some people’s comfort zones are smaller. And all this is perfectly normal.
Now here’s the thing, beyond the comfort zone, we go into the learning zone, which is the key area we need to be in. Watch out though – if you do push yourself too much, or too quickly, you can end up in the panic zone.
Now the panic zone isn’t a good place to be. This is where you are literally in your fight-or-flight response mode, and you don’t always know how your body’s going to react to this situation. Also, when you are in the panic zone, you may not be able to think or absorb critical information as you have too much external stimulus going around you. Therefore, your autonomic nervous systems kick in. The chimp brain lurking at the back your head inevitably and unconsciously decides which direction you’re going to go. And this may not always be the best direction for you.
So, when you are looking to expand yourself make sure you understand what level of learning you can happily accomplish. Feel out where the edge of your learning zone is before you enter your panic zone. It’s inside this area, between the end of the comfort zone and the start of the panic zone where you will have the greatest and most rewarding fun in your life. Here is where you’re going to be able to push yourself and achieve so many things you never thought you could.
I am going to leave you with a thought. Are you going to go out and test the limits of your comfort zone, are you going to be brave enough to move beyond this zone and find out where the barrier of your panic zone is? Alternatively, are you going to live in your comfort zone and then realise at some point you are entirely redundant?