A New Way to Think About Growing Your Comfort Zone
The other day I was reflecting upon a conversation I had with a colleague of mine. We were talking about an upcoming leadership training, and ideas for iterating portions of the training. And, what, prey, do you think happened? Yes, I, rather we, went straight to the whiteboard.
I ended up drawing an x and y axis, and though it was, in that moment, unclear exactly what I was trying to convey, upon reflection, it became much more clear. Hence, this post about growing your awareness and attention by getting outside of your comfort zone.
Here’s what we’ll cover.
Ready? Good. Here we go.
Attention and Awareness
We all have differing levels of attention and awareness. These levels also shift, dependent on our experience, which we will discuss more in a minute.
There are three basic levels of attention and the awareness; what we know we know, what we know we don’t know, and what we don’t know we don’t know. The last of which is also called a blind spot. We all have them. Phew. Still with me. Good.
Basically, it is those blind spots that we are addressing in this article. What we don’t know we don’t know. Because, in fact, the only way to understand what we don’t know we don’t know, is to have someone or something point to it.
Of course, we must be open to new experiences, learning, and paying attention. If we are, our awareness about ourselves as human beings will increase, and our blind spot, in this area at least, will decrease.
When we choose to have the same experiences every day, sticking to our normal routine, or habits, we miss out on the opportunity to grow our attention and awareness. Why?
Because, when we stay in our normal routine, we don’t pay as close attention to our environments, as we do when we are in a new experience. Think about the last time you did something new. Did you pay closer attention to the experience? The sights, sounds, smells, or information you were receiving? Yep.
We pay more attention in a context that is new to us, because we don’t know what to expect, and, most likely, are a little unsure and hesitant. That is getting outside of our comfort zone. That feeling of unease.
Yet, when we get outside of our comfort zone, our capacity to pay attention increases, as does our awareness. And, when our attention and awareness increase by way of the new context we’ve exposed ourselves to, our attention and awareness increase in others as well.
As we grow our attention and awareness in new contexts, we discover new things about ourselves, and about the world. Of course, discovery is hard. We must be vulnerable, willing to take risks.
Humans have a tendency to stay inside of their comfort zones; inside of their habits, where they feel safe. However, inside of our comfort zone, discovery is not possible. Why? Because we know about these experiences. We’ve been doing them for, well, in some instances, all of our lives.
However, when we are open to new experiences, we get to discover, and we get to create new possibilities. As we learn and grow, we also get to create. It’s inside of this creative space, where new possibilities exist for our lives. It is quite beautiful.
Here is what growing your comfort zone, as we’ve discussed it here, looks like to me visually.
As you can see in this simple diagram, the space in between our normal experiences, and new experiences, is where we can grow our attention and awareness.
Our attention to the new experience, which will spill over into all of our experiences, and our awareness of who we are as human beings. The latter also translates into understanding all human beings. It’s how it works.
Alright, that is a new way to think about growing our attention and awareness by getting outside of our comfort zone.
And, as my colleague would say and I’ve written before, the size of the step we take outside of our comfort zone is entirely up to us. And, once outside, we always get to return to our comfort zone.
The important thing to remember is that when we choose new experiences that challenge us, we are growing. And, well, growth is a beautiful thing to be a part of, and to watch.
3 Reasons Why Vulnerability is A Key Ingredient to Creating Movement and Traction for Ourselves and the World
I’ve written about vulnerability often this past year. Why? Well, I do believe that vulnerability is one of the most important gateways to our own development. Pretty simple really.
Vulnerability conceptually is simple, as most things conceptually are. However, practicing vulnerability, well, that’s a whole different experience.
We can talk about concepts often and at length, however, when we put those concepts, like vulnerability, into practice in our lives, they can often feel very uncomfortable. And, vulnerability is no exception.
Yet, it is so important for each of us to find new ways, which are safe, to put vulnerability into practice in our lives. Safe? Meaning, where we are with people we trust and can rely upon. Important, as when we are vulnerable, we are bearing a side of ourselves that is, for lack of a better way to explain it, raw.
Raw, meaning, that these sides of ourselves have not been exposed to, what can sometimes be harsh conditions in the world, so we must take care when we practice our vulnerability.
Now, when we find those spaces and places where we can be the vulnerable-selves we know ourselves to be, so that we can grow and learn, there are many things we will get back from our environments, and ourselves, which makes practicing vulnerability quite the exquisite experience. What, prey are those things?
Right. Well, in this article we will explore three of them. Three reasons, as I think about it, why it is important for us to practice vulnerability regularly, so that we may grow into the next iteration of ourselves.
Ready? Good. Here we go.
Wow, how important is learning? Pretty important, right? Yep, I agree. Well, to learn more about the world, and the people in it, we must first, learn about ourselves. And, being actively vulnerable is key. Why?
Because we get to learn about aspects of ourselves that were previously unavailable. For instance, if you are nervous about public speaking, as I once was, and you always resist public speaking, well, you will never learn about the experience of public speaking. And?
That’s perfectly okay. However, if you are interested in tapping into a reservoir of untapped potential, then being vulnerable in the area of public speaking will be a gateway to your learning more about yourself as a public speaker.
The only way to become a public speaker is to do public speaking. You can read every book that was ever written on the topic, and still never become a public speaker. Whereas book knowledge is helpful, it is in the vulnerable practice of public speaking, for example, where we create the possibility of becoming a public speaker.
Now, as we practice vulnerability, and venture into environments that we previously resisted, we learn more about the experience of, staying with the previous example, being a public speaker. And?
Then, we get the experience of knowing what it is like to be a public speaker. Again, the only way to know what it’s like to be a public speaker is to become one. Meaning, to take one step, or one action, toward the realization of your goal to become a public speaker.
And, guess what? You get to control how big those steps are. When we actively participate in being vulnerable, we set the pace. It’s iterative. It takes time.
There was a time when I was terrified of public speaking. And, I mean terrified. Then when I was about 28, I wanted to become a leader in the company I was working for at the time. Well, there is lots of public speaking in leadership. Lots of it. And? I took one small step at a time. One step, led to the next, and so on.
And, the steps I just wrote about? That is growth. That’s what it looks like. You set a goal outside of your comfort zone, knowing you will have to be vulnerable to get there, and you take a step each day, or every other day, or once a week, or month.
Again, you control the pace.
Growth is an experience. It happens in the world by taking actions that we’ve not taken before. And, to take actions we’ve not taken before, especially when we are fearful or anxious, requires courage, yes, and it requires vulnerability.
Courage and vulnerability go hand-in-hand. In fact, there is a super cool quote I’ve drawn upon a few times from Brené Brown that speaks to this truth. Here it is.
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” -Brené Brown
Powerful. And, it’s been my experience that vulnerability and courage are linked. In fact, I believe they are one and the same. You cannot be courageous without being vulnerable, and you cannot be vulnerable without being courageous. They are one.
Movement and Traction
Now, as you learn more about yourself, and begin to tap into your vulnerable areas, you also begin to know more and grow more. These three, learning, knowing, and growing are also linked. And, the concept that lies behind them? Yep. It is an experience.
When we are in action, and experiencing life, living our life in vulnerable ways, we are creating movement. Movement for ourselves, yes, and for those around us. Meaning, when we move our own development forward, we move the development forward of the people around us.
It’s the way it works.
And, when we continue this pattern? Well, traction will inevitably follow. Meaning, that as we continue to grow, and those around us grow, we create contexts never seen before. Seriously. It’s not possible that they’ve been seen, because you are doing things you’ve never done before. Beautiful.
It’s inside of this movement and traction, and these new contexts, where the possibility to change the world lives. And, I mean this literally. The world is always moved forward from contexts that contain both courage and vulnerability.
And, remember you do have the power to change the world. We all do. What does it take?
Learning more, knowing more, and growing more in contexts that were previously unavailable to us. And, creating these contexts takes courage, yes, and vulnerability. So?
Be courageous, embrace your vulnerability, and change the world for the better. One action at a time.