Breaking out of your comfort zone is an overused term thrown around by some of the best and worst personal development coaches, success gurus and any number of self-styled experts on the web.
I believe it should be called our “zone of familiarity”, I wrote about it in this post about the barn trap door . We can be very uncomfortable in a particular zone, but find it difficult to break out of it because it is familiar, we would rather settle for uncomfortable familiarity than fearful uncertainty – even if the probability of success and the potential rewards are high.
Hearing a few people I have been working with saying that they could not imagine doing xxxx, a challenging action, but they did believe that they could do yyyy, something that was a stretch but believable caused me to give this some more thought. Some people find talking to strangers intimidating, speaking in public, a fate worse than death. Others can handle those challenges but are terrified by the idea of publishing their thoughts in print or on the web.
Which means that while we all have zones of familiarity that hold us back, the barriers are different in both form and strength. Suppose that these barriers are not made of a solid wall like concrete that we have to smash through with a huge bang, but instead are made of a tough fabric. A fabric that varies in the density of its weave, varying spacing and tension of weft and warp threads.
So a leap to a new level for something that is not very frightening only needs a small push to get us through a barrier of loosely woven threads, but a more daunting challenge needs a much bigger effort to force us through part of the barrier that is woven more tightly. An effort made up of single-minded focus, determination and perseverance. Ignoring all distractions.
Perhaps the threads that block our biggest challenges are made of an elastic material so that even though we are determined to force our way through the tightly woven threads, we get bounced back on the first attempt, like jumping on a trampoline. We might get deflected several times until we eventually get through. Sometimes the barrier can seem so tightly woven that we need several attempts to first open a small tear and then make it big enough to soar through on our final victorious assault.
In my case, I have got used to speaking to audiences, I no longer find it scary, I can comfortably talk to strangers in most environments, but I am uncomfortable walking into a business without a referral or prior contact, to promote my services. I also have to push myself to make cold calls on the phone. Those are two areas where the barriers to my zone of familiarity are woven tightly,
Conversely, in areas where others have a hard to penetrate barrier, like writing, publishing controversial ideas, or resisting heavy-handed treatment by big government or unfair businesses, I have almost no barriers and happily dive into the fray, not giving much thought to the consequences.
As a member of Toastmasters, I have seen people with such impenetrable barriers to public speaking that they struggled to introduce themselves for 30 seconds, transformed into competent and successful speakers. Some crashed through their barriers quickly, others took longer to find the looser weave, others did not do it on the first attempt, but kept trying until they broke through.
How tightly are your barriers woven? Do you easily get deflected or do you continue until you break through?
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