Be­yond your com­fort zone

Turns out that cheesy mo­ti­va­tional poster in your neigh­bour’s cu­bi­cle was right af­ter all: Life be­gins at the end of your com­fort zone. Here’s how to break free from your fears.

Finweek English Edition - - ON THE MONEY - By He­lena Wasser­man

the­seare un­com­fort­able times. Com­pa­nies are strug­gling, the econ­omy is in the dol­drums, jobs are scarce and pol­i­tics are scary. Curl­ing into the foetal po­si­tion seems ap­pro­pri­ate. Try­ing to 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.

The prob­lem 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 your job.

Also, 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.

In truth, 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. Un­for­tu­nately, 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.

A com­fort zone can be a very dan­ger­ous place. Life is growth. When you don’t chal­lenge your­self, you be­come stunted.

Start small

Even mi­nor changes in your daily rou­tine can open your mind to new ways of thinking. Change your break­fast. Change your hair. In­stall a dif­fer­ent Founder of and ex­ec­u­tive coach at Hoch Part­ners Ex­ec­u­tive Coach­ing

Jonathan Hoch

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