Earlier this year, Gail and I attended Tony Robbins’ Life & Wealth Mastery event in Fiji. On the very first morning, with less than an hour of instruction, we were asked to climb a thirty-foot pole and then stand on top of it.
This was no surprise, of course. I had known for several months this was going to happen. But it was still frightening to consider.
I’ve heard the only two fears you are born with are the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. Every other fear is acquired.
I don’t know if that’s true, but I can attest to the fact that climbing the pole was terrifying.
Even though I was strapped into a harness and couldn’t really get hurt, the sensation of being so high off the ground on a swaying pole felt ridiculously dangerous.
Nevertheless, I made it to the top and was able to step onto the top of the pole. I stood there for a few moments, just taking it all in. I felt incredibly alive—and triumphant.
Then I remembered I was supposed to leap to a trapeze ten feet away. No sweat, I thought. I took a deep breath, focused on the target, and jumped.
Unfortunately, I missed.
The spotters lowered me to the ground as Gail and my new friends cheered wildly from the ground. It was exhilarating.
Of course, the whole point of the exercise was to cement in my subconscious the value of getting outside my comfort zone. It has had exactly this impact.
You’ve probably experienced something similar. Maybe it was learning a new skill, meeting a new person, or taking on a challenge you’d never done. We don’t often enjoy these things when they are happening, but, looking back, we have to admit:
- This is where the growth happens.
- This is where the solutions are.
- This is where fulfillment resides.
In short, the really important stuff happens outside your comfort zone.
If that’s true—and I believe that it is—how can you maximize these trips outside your comfort zone? Let me suggest seven ways:
- Acknowledge the value. Reality is that we move toward what we esteem. The first step is simply to confess that getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing. Say it out loud if you need to: “Getting out of my comfort zone is good for me!” Remember, unless you do so, you won’t experience the growth you want, the solution you need, or the fulfillment you desire.
- Lean into the experience. So many people shrink back whenever they experience pain. The problem is that this can become a habit—or worse—a way of life. Instead, embrace the discomfort. Move toward it. This is an important step in accomplishing anything significant. You have to go through the realm of discomfort to get what you want in life.
- Notice your fear. If you feel anxiety or fear, that’s normal. But—and this is critical—you don’t have to be controlled by it. Yes, it can be an indication of danger. It can also be an indication that you are on the right path and about to experience a break-through. Just notice the anxiety or fear but keep moving forward. Often, the ability to push through fear is the only thing that separates those who succeed from those who fail.
- Don’t over-think it. This is my biggest temptation. I want to know the entire path. I want a map to the destination. Alas, I rarely get one. But that’s okay. All you really need is clarity for the next step. When you get it, take the next step in faith, believing you will be given the light you need to take the next one.
- Play full out. It’s easy to get timid when you move outside your comfort zone. You think maybe you can just ease into it, kind of like sliding into a cold swimming pool. Not so much. Better to jump in with both feet. It’s not usually as bad as you think. You have a better chance of success if you give it your all.
- Celebrate the victory. Historically, I have not been very good at this. As soon as I accomplish something, I check it off and move on. But I am learning the importance of marking the moment, recognizing the achievement, and expressing my appreciation to those who helped make it happen. It’s important for you and for them.
- Pause to reflect. It’s also important to take a little time to process your experience. What did you do well? What would you do differently next time? What life principles can you distill from the experience that will help you in your next challenge? It’s worth jotting a few notes in your journal or, if this was a team effort, scheduling a time to debrief.
If you are out to accomplish significant things in your life, you are going to be spending a lot of time outside your comfort zone. You might as well get the most out of it.