Do you get tired of hearing the “Get out of your comfort zone” cliché?
I know I do, that’s why I prefer to think about moving outside our zone of familiarity (which is not always comfortable) to expand and define a new, larger zone we can become familiar with and comfortable in. Then do it again, setting new boundaries to be tested. That’s how we achieve our goals.
This morning when Sue and I were getting the horses hay from the barn, I saw a good practical lesson of expanding a zone of familiarity.
When hay was cheap, at about 5c a lb, we just put a large round bale in the feeder and let the horses eat as much as they wanted. They wasted some, but it was much easier for us than carrying a morning and evening ration out to the feeder by hand.
We get our hay in large square or round bales weighing between 300 and 350 kg (660 to 780lbs). Previously, we stored the bales outside under a tarpaulin and picked up a bale with the tractor to carry it to the feeder. Now that the price of hay is close to 20c lb, it is too expensive to be wasted, we ration it.
The problem is that as soon as we cut the string or netting holding the bale together, we can no longer pick it up with the tractor. Now we store the bales on the upper level of the old bank barn, both to keep it dry and so that it is closer to the feeder.
Fortunately, the barn was built over 100 years ago, before tractors with hydraulic front end loaders or balers were invented. To make life easier, a trapdoor was built into the upper floor of the barn so that hay or grain stored there could easily be dropped down to the animals below.
Although the hay feeder is outside in the yard, it is much easier to drop the hay through the trapdoor onto a tarpaulin and carry it a short distance out of the lower door than it would be to lug it down the stairs or out the top door and around the side of the barn. Especially with all the alternating, snow, ice and mud we have had this winter.
I have a varying degree of tolerance for heights. I have scaled rock faces and cliffs without getting nervous, sitting on a bench in a military helicopter with only a small handle between me, the open door and a drop of a few hundred feet did not scare me. However, when it comes to buildings, it is a different matter. I found it nerve-wracking to walk across the glass floor at the top of the CN tower in Toronto.
When we first started using the trapdoor, I planted my feet carefully several inches away from the edge before lifting the door. I was always cautious when I was moving hay towards the hole and pushing it through. A typical hesitancy when confronted with a new challenge.
The photo above shows how blasé I have become with the routine of being close to the open door after several months of doing the task twice a day. Now I can stand there with my feet over the edge to take a photograph without worrying about it at all.
It is not the same as being on the edge of a tall building, the drop to the chute is only a couple of feet, not that it would support any weight. The drop to the lower floor is only 3m (10ft.) but still enough to break a leg or a neck in an awkward fall.
The point is that through successful repetition, being close to the opening has become a habit, it has expanded my zone of familiarity, I am completely comfortable with it. So much so, that I find it hard to believe I was ever nervous about it.
Exactly the same as contemplating any new activity or situation, it always seems frightening until we take that first step. Then it get easier with every subsequent repetition.
Taking that next step in our lives or our businesses is just like stepping closer to the trapdoor. Be bold, do it today and know that from tomorrow it will get easier every day.
How do you throw off the limitations that restrain you from taking the first step in a new direction?
Wishing you success.