THE AGONY OF BEING OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
I’ve just returned from a 7-day training. I’ve known about this training for years. Some people have been trying to get me to this training for over 10 years. Everyone that I talked to who attended this training, however, said that it was the toughest thing they had ever done. People drop out of this training every year, even though they’ve paid thousands of dollars for it. Two or three people dropped out of my training before the week was ½ over.
Now, I am not talking about anything physical, like marathon training or a civilian version of Seal Training. There was nothing physical at all. I am talking about something some people fear more than death – Presenting in front of people. This was a presenter's training.
Here’s the thing, though, this was not a beginner's training. No, this was a training modeled after some of the most influential speakers in the world. Most everyone there were already speakers and trainers of some sort. I, myself, have been training for over 30 years.
This was an NLP Trainer's Training. NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which is a system of techniques, strategies, and concepts that was originally created on the idea of modeling excellence in others. This training was a 7-day, in-depth training to not only teach but to ‘install’ the behavior of the best presenters and trainers on the planet. You start standing up in front of people on the 1st day.
Yes, this does push your envelope and your buttons. If you've ever been to Toastmasters, you know that they give feedback each time you speak. Same here, and you will be up, speaking several times a day and the feedback, though not meant to be critical, will point out all the things you need to work on for the next time you get up in front of people, which could be in another hour.
This whole week was living outside your comfort zone, and that is ok. I subscribe to the idea that you cannot learn and grow within your comfort zone. People who rarely step outside of their comfort zone, rarely grow and learn or try new things. It is too uncomfortable to do so.
Neuroscientists say that when you try new things you put your brain into unique situations that force it to really think, and it stimulates creativity …  Through research with mice and humans, scientists have found that brain activities stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new cells, developing neurological “plasticity” and building up a functional reserve that provides a hedge against future cell loss.
You see, going outside of your comfort zone not only helps you grow personally or professionally, but it is also healthy for your brain. It creates new synapses (or connections). It stimulates your creativity. I read somewhere that for older people, going out and having new experiences (driving around new places, seeing new things, …) may stave off dementia. At a minimum, it will, in some form, be healthier than not experiencing new things.
So, how come we don’t like to do things outside of our comfort zone? That is almost self-explanatory. We are creatures of comfort, be it physical, mental, or spiritual. This does not mean that we are lazy beings that don’t want to over-extend ourselves. Our comfort zone is comfortable because we know it. Outside the comfort zone is the unknown. For the most part, the unknown is scary.
If I’m going to try something new, something I’ve never done before, or something I’ve done but in a way I’ve never done before, there is a chance I may fail. For many people, this is a problem. They don’t want to fail. In her book Mindset The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck describes someone with a fixed mindset as someone who may be great at some things but will not try new things, because if they fail, it will impact how they think of themselves. People with a growth mindset will try new things and look for feedback as to how they could do better if it does not work out. There is that word again – Growth.
Fixed Mindset – First, let’s look at some of the self-talk and thoughts of someone with a fixed mindset.
“Failure is the limit of my abilities,” “Feedback and criticism are personal,” “I stick to what I know,” “I don’t like to be challenged” and “I’m either good at it or I am not. "
Growth Mindset – Now, let us look at some of the self-talk and thoughts of someone who has a growth mindset.
“Failure is an opportunity to grow,” “Feedback is constructive,” “I like to try new things,” “Challenges help me grow,” “I can learn to do anything I want. "
If someone with a fixed mindset enrolls in a challenging course that offers constant feedback and is likely to point out flaws that need correction, it is expected that they will be pushed to their limit and likely experience a breakdown. If someone has the growth mindset, the challenges and feedback will be welcomed, and that person will most likely thrive.
“I have not failed, I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
Yes, if you don’t have the right mindset, pushing your comfort zone can be hurtful to your self-image or your pride. "How can I get the right mindset?", you may ask. I’m happy you did. You just must approach these experiences that ‘push the envelope’ as learning experiences. Not a win-or-lose, pass-or-fail experience, but an experience where you have a chance to learn something, one way or another.
In my case, I approached this course like that. I said, there is something here for me to learn that will help me become better at what I do. Did I do well on all the exercises? No, and I acquired some great feedback to help me do much better. The final presentation was a pass/no pass event. (Notice where 'fail' was not used.) I made one little mistake in a section where no mistakes were allowed. I knew about this well ahead of time and still made it. I did not pass and will correct this before moving on to the next phase for the full certification. This did not bother me. Other than the one single mistake, the rest was fantastic. The learning I acquired was incredible. That is how you look at things.
Yes, on a “pass/fail” where passing is critical for your future, it can hurt. You must go through the process over again, as I will. And, you will, however, learn from your mistakes for not only the next time you do this, but probably for many times in the future.
Keep your mind open. Open to new ideas, new challenges, and to the fact that you are always learning.
 “A Look at the Incredible Benefits of Trying New Things” Huffington Post, May 15, 2017
 “12 ways to keep your brain young” Harvard Health Publishing, Jan 29, 2020
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