“In order to grow you have to get outside your comfort zone.” I’ve heard that said many times and in many ways. The words are sometimes different but the message is the same. One of the best was Jim Rohn, who addressed this issue in many seminars. He once said,
“Most people are seduced by the lure of the comfort zone. This can be likened to going out of a warm house on a cold, windy morning. The average person, when he feels the storm swirling outside his comfort zone, rushes back inside where it’s nice and warm. But not the true leader. The true leader has the courage to step away from the familiar and comfortable and to face the unknown with no guarantees of success. It is this ability to ‘boldly go where no man has gone before’ that distinguishes you as a leader from the average person. This is the example that you must set if you are to rise above the average. It is this example that inspires and motivates other people to rise above their previous levels of accomplishment as well.”
Each of us has a comfort zone. It’s that place or that activity or that situation in which we feel safe. Very little can shake our confidence when we’re there. We become comfortable. We become complacent. Only when we go outside and into that swirling storm does our mettle become truly tested, does adversity threaten us. Only when our resources become less meaningful do we have to draw deeper for resources we may have forgotten we had or seek out new ones. Only when we are uncomfortable do we learn how much we can truly endure. And in that enduring we can find new strength.
Not long ago I was in a “dream” position at my job. I had been there for five years and actually helped create the position. I cherished my office partners and I thrived in the position. I was challenged almost daily and was able to expand my knowledge on topics that I found quite interesting. I was engaged. I had value. And for a time I was appreciated.
The last year or so I felt less valued. I was less engaged. The job was quite as thrilling as it once was. I was getting comfortable. But I found new challenges in that position. I found new ways to stay busy, specialty topics to learn about. I was content. I was comfortable.
I decided to take a healthy vacation with my family, something I hadn’t done in years. I had a wonderful time. I visited places of natural beauty, reconnected with family we hadn’t seen in years. I was refreshed. Recharged. I came back to work and things felt all right. I had a new goals and new aspirations that were reinforced by my change in perspective from that vacation.
Then one day I was told that my position was being cut. I was to move out of the office I’d occupied for years and return to an old assignment I had. The reason for the decision is unimportant. The decision was made and I had to igure out what I was going to do. I was certainly outside my comfort zone. I felt confused and upset at first, but only for a short time. When I looked at my situation and realized I couldn’t change it I started looking for benefits. How could I benefit from the change? What opportunities lay ahead of me now that I’d moved out into the swirling storm?
One thing was for certain; I decided not to waste any time dwelling on the past, on what was and why things happened the way they did. I likened that to walking through life backwards, always looking at what had already passed. I realized that if I did that I would miss every single opportunity that came along, seeing it only as it went by me. I realized I needed to look ahead, to be open to new possibilities, new opportunities as they approached me so that I could recognize them and take advantage of them before they slipped by me.
What’s happening in your life that has put you outside of your comfort zone? How do you react when it happens? Do you start walking backwards, bemoaning your loss and wondering how to get it back? Or do you walk forward, acknowledging what happened but look toward the future, keeping your eyes open for new opportunities?
Look ahead. Have faith that yesterday’s negative events don’t determine your future unless you walk backward. Learn from your mistakes and from things that happen to you so that you can avoid them in the future. Walk facing forward. It’s the only way you can steer your life toward success.
Originally published in JoinMeForSuccess.com, November 14, 2012.