How to escape your comfort zone

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/AscentXmedia
Dec 30, 2021

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from the blog of Dave Wendland, VP, strategic relations at Hamacher Resource Group and Forbes Council Member. The article first appeared on Forbes.com.

One of my favorite quotes is usually credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” The same can be said for a business.

A primary way to accelerate decision-making, rethink strategies and drive transformation is to move out of your comfort zones.

The comfort zone is the known, the familiar. It’s our default and what we can do automatically, without too much thought or difficulty. It feels comfortable, sheltered, reliable and pleasant, while keeping us out of danger. It’s also where we seldom need to try especially hard or expend much energy.

Extending beyond one’s comfort zone is not for the faint of heart. It takes intentional effort. Here are four ways to think differently.

  1. Take a new route. I like to think of it similarly to Robert Frost’s famous words: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” The discovery along this new pathway can open your imagination, provide new points of reference and free your mind up to invite new knowledge in.
  2. Read voraciously. It doesn’t have to be a book about your industry or leadership or any other business topic. Simply expanding your thinking with fresh words and different circumstances allows you to stretch beyond your comfort zone.
  3. Meditate. I have found that sitting quietly and granting myself permission to just be still is not only refreshing but also enlightening. Breaking away, in any way you can, opens your ability to invite invigorating thoughts in.
  4. Build your network. Learning from others and broadening your network can certainly pave the way to creativity.

My last piece of advice is to solicit ideas from your staff members. They likely have more firsthand knowledge about what changes will actually improve their jobs or enhance your deliverables. Don’t dismiss ideas that don’t come from the top. Gathering ideas from all levels of your organization can further push it outside of its comfort zone and inspire you to accelerate growth.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What tips would you have for moving beyond your comfort zone to embrace new ideas? Which suggestions offered in the article make the most sense?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Escaping our comfort zone is empowering and intimidating, so I’d add: Be gentle with yourself, especially when the learning curve is steep."
"Get a “coach.” Seek out and embrace some kind of external accountability that will always be able to challenge your internal rationalizations and procrastination."
"Stretching outside your comfort zone while being true to yourself can be scary, but incredibly rewarding. I suggest giving it a try."

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11 Comments on "How to escape your comfort zone"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

These are all really good suggestions. Change is hard, and inertia can become a real barrier to change and discovery. The last piece of advice noted about engaging all staff for ideas is really powerful. Leadership does not mean that your ideas are the best. It takes humility and an open mind to be willing to engage all levels of staff for input and ideas.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Thank you for weighing in on this, Mark. Being open to new ideas has been a long-standing trademark of our company. Innovation is born from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and input. For organizations close-minded about inviting staff ideas, opportunities for growth will be limited.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Embracing change is difficult for most people, whether in their personal or professional lives. Speaking about retail in particular, it’s too easy to function along the lines of “we’ve always done it this way” or “we’re up against these sales from last year.” That sort of mindset leads retailers down the road of complacency, stagnation or worse.

Is there a tool that imposes the sort of self-discipline necessary for retailers to avoid these traps? The “product life cycle” concept provides an objective way to track businesses as they trend downward from their peak. It takes some of the emotion out of the change management process.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

Bravo Dave, Bravo!

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Escaping our comfort zone is empowering and intimidating, so I’d add: Be gentle with yourself, especially when the learning curve is steep.

Totally agree with expanding our networks. To accelerate growth, we can seek out and learn from people whose talents fill the gaps created by our blind spots.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Great comment, Lisa. Selfcare is vitally important in this trail to discovery. And, don’t forget to remind yourself that you have permission to investigate new things … knowing full well you will fall along the path to breakthrough innovation.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Get a “coach.” Seek out and embrace some kind of external accountability that will always be able to challenge your internal rationalizations and procrastination. The best athletes in the world have a coach. They might have some insight worth paying attention to.

Dion Kenney
BrainTrust
6 months 3 days ago

One cannot underestimate the impact of environment on creative thinking, or even just plain thinking in general. As a leader, one has a responsibility for the culture and risk-aversion of your group. It is not sufficient to gather ideas, strategies, and feedback from your group, from which you will make enlightened decisions. You must create an environment that values and encourages creative ideation, and constantly ask “if we were starting X today, how would you build it now?”

Allison McGuire
BrainTrust

During 2020, it felt necessary to connect with my team on a more personal level. We were all going through a lot and needed each other’s support. I’ve always been wary of opening up at work, I never wanted to seem unprofessional. But I must say it has paid off in ways I never expected. The team is closer and we’re having a lot more fun together. Suggesting more team events and activities has been welcomed with open arms and everyone has become closer. Stretching outside your comfort zone while being true to yourself can be scary, but incredibly rewarding. I suggest giving it a try.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Excellent Allison. I have no doubt that the humanity you displayed with your team members will deepen their loyalty and commitment to you, your company and the customers you serve.

Oliver Guy
BrainTrust
Oliver Guy
Global Industry Architect, Microsoft Retail
5 months 29 days ago

This is a great piece — thank you for including. A great reminder and prompt for all of us as we enter 2022. One of my good friends and former colleagues has a lock-screen image on his iPhone that reads “Life begins when you leave your comfort zone.” A great reminder every day.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Escaping our comfort zone is empowering and intimidating, so I’d add: Be gentle with yourself, especially when the learning curve is steep."
"Get a “coach.” Seek out and embrace some kind of external accountability that will always be able to challenge your internal rationalizations and procrastination."
"Stretching outside your comfort zone while being true to yourself can be scary, but incredibly rewarding. I suggest giving it a try."

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