Having just wrapped up my first decade as a CEO and reflecting on what I want the next decade to look like, I was struck by how much I’ve grown and matured as a leader. The 2010s were filled with many ups and downs, achievements and setbacks, laughter and tears…just like any good decade should be! I took a few moments to jot down what I learned in my first decade as a CEO and this is what I came up with, along with some suggestions for you to consider.
Happy New Year and thanks for reading. I hope this was useful to you as you think about your own leadership journey over the next decade. And, as always, I appreciate comments, likes and shares.
Human nature drives us to avoid situations that feel scary; fear and anxiety overwhelm and we hunker down, looking for relief from uncomfortable feelings. Yet, to reach our full potential, we must overcome the instinctual urge to fight or flight and challenge ourselves to do new and bigger things. We must get outside our comfort zones.
What does getting outside your comfort zone mean?
Your comfort zone is defined as a place or situation where you feel safe or at ease and without stress. It’s a cozy place, but if you stay too long, you’ll miss out on valuable opportunities to grow. You have to take some risks, try new things, and push your boundaries. You must embrace discomfort and shove fear aside.
Why is getting outside of your comfort zone good?
Let’s say you want a promotion but you are worried about failing. You have two choices: 1) take on a high profile project that, if successful, could catapult your career but is risky because it’s outside your area of expertise and failure is a possibility; or 2) play it safe, put your head down, and do your daily tasks in hopes that someone will see your potential and give you a shot. The first option creates an opportunity; the second option leaves that opportunity in another’s hand. Being willing to get outside your comfort zone allows you to create a better life. You won’t get a promotion, leave a bad job, gain a new skill, develop a meaningful relationship, or build your confidence if you always avoid discomfort.
What holds people back from doing it more often?
Fear of failure causes us to doubt our ability to take on a challenge and succeed. We create stories of doom and gloom that make us want to retreat to the warm cocoon of predictability and ignorant bliss. It’s scary being out on a limb. But if you are honest with yourself, how many times did the doom and gloom turn out to be as horrible as you anticipated? How often did you rise to the challenge when you pushed yourself to do something new? When you failed, was it really that bad? Didn’t you learn something incredibly valuable? Don’t let a false narrative hold you back.
How do you get outside your comfort zone?
The only way to get out of your comfort zone is to, well, get out of your comfort zone. Yes, it’s obvious and yes, it’s the only way. Stop listening to the voice telling you dreadful stories of failure and humiliation. Ask yourself these questions: if I take this risk, what’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best that can happen? What’s most likely to happen? This process helps you see a ‘middle of the road’ outcome that is not total failure but also doesn’t leave you disappointed if you don’t achieve your highest expectations. Another way is to be vulnerable and share your fears with someone else. You’ll find courage by connecting with others and hearing how they overcame self-doubt. Other ideas? Change your morning routine, sign up for a class to learn a new skill, read inspiring books, hang out with people more successful than you, take on a new project at work, or give someone candid feedback. There are a million ways to push yourself; you just have to do it.
What happens if you are always outside of your comfort zone?
Many of us have been living perpetually outside of our comfort zones for some time now; I know I’ve been. The chaos of fast moving change, increased demands on time, and the pressure to deliver results and perform can be overwhelming. While it’s good to push yourself, doing so for too long can lead to burn out. “When demands become too great for us to handle, when the pressure overwhelms us, too much to do with too little time or support, we enter the zone of bad stress,” author Daniel Goleman writes in Psychology Today. “Just beyond the optimal zone at the top or the performance arc, there is a tipping point where the brain secretes too many stress hormones, and they start to interfere with our ability to work well, to learn, to innovate, to listen, and to plan effectively.” If you find yourself in this state, step back, ask for help, and take a few days off. It may seem impossible, but you’ll find that you will feel refreshed and able to take on more after some down time.
While staying in your comfort zone may feel predictable and consistent, in the long run you’ll lose out. Taking on challenges and being open to new experiences create opportunities that can take your success to the next level. Think about the last time you did something you were proud of? Were you pushing yourself or on autopilot? Don’t be afraid of getting to close to the edge of your perceived limitations. If you walk right up and look over, you’ll see all kinds of paths that lead you to a more enriched and engaged life.
Thanks for reading! As always, I am grateful for your shares, likes, and/or comments so please do so if you feel inclined!
Falling into the trap of complacency is so easy to do. And it’s no wonder. Humans are homeostatic beings. Just as our bodies work to maintain equilibrium, our brains work to keep our external environment stable, too. We are driven to resist change. We like things just the way they are….even if we actually hate the way things are.
The thing about complacency is that it sneaks up on you ever so quietly. It happens slowly over time, going almost unnoticed. It might be disguised as contentment. It becomes invisible in the wake of success. It conceals itself behind relationships you take for granted. It hides beneath the surface of self-justifying statements like, “I had no control over the outcome” and “I’ve paid my dues and now it’s someone else’s turn” or the worst, “I’m just easily bored.” But make no mistake, it’s always there waiting, luring you into believing that you can sit back and take a well-deserved hiatus from the hard work that’s required (almost constantly) to grow as a person, employee, leader, and organization.
The next thing you know, complacency has led you to mediocrity. Mediocrity results in uninspired, undistinguished, unexceptional, lackluster, and forgettable performance. Whew, that’s a tough place to pull yourself out of. Mediocrity is like thick, sticky mud that sucks you back into the swamp. Unless you are ready to break a serious sweat and painstakingly claw your way out by making major changes to your life, team, or organization, you are stuck.
You must guard against complacency at all costs. The best way to do that is to ALWAYS shake things up. Turn off the TV and put down your phone. Get off the couch and go for a jog. Do something you’ve never done before. Change your routine so you meet new people. Hire a coach. Go see a marriage counselor. Ask for feedback and then do something with it. Admit your weaknesses and work fervently to minimize them. Pitch an idea to your boss. Ask to lead a major project at work. Pay careful attention to your competitors. Stay current on what’s happening in your industry and anticipate how changes in it will affect your business. Pick apart your business model and then reconstruct it. Move people into new positions within your company. Help your employees and coworkers solve problems. Set goals and make a plan to achieve them.
And make sure that you (and your team) are crystal clear on the WHY of what you are trying to achieve. Wandering around aimlessly without a well-defined (and shared) purpose is a surefire way to cultivate complacency. Doing something for the sake of just doing it is about as uninspiring as it gets.
Most importantly, never ignore the little things that start to tear at the fabric of your family/team/organization. Don’t sweep problems under the rug. Act swiftly and with care because if left alone, you are setting the stage for acceptance of complacency and mediocrity.
As always, thank you for reading and sharing (please click the Like buttons below to share…if you are so inclined).
A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.