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Should you be operating within your comfort zone or strive to grow and act outside of it?
When is it better to operate strictly within your comfort zone and when is it better to push your self beyond what is comfortable? The argument for each side is compelling. On the one hand you can argue that staying within your comfort zone is optimal because your “comfort zone” is the epicenter of your strengths. On the other hand it can be said that these same strengths that form your comfort zone can actually act as barrier that will prevent you from branching out and growing your experience.
To suggest that you should seek to outgrow your comfort zone and strive for something bigger is very intriguing. So intriguing, in fact, that this question of “Should I seek to get out of my comfort zone?” nearly captivated my entire thought life for the last couple hours. The premise of getting out there and meeting new people and seeking new opportunities truly intrigues me and it very much appeals to my personality style. But as I started traveling down this rabbit trail of thought I started to wonder if the entire premise of comfort zones is framed wrong, because it assumes that everyone has a similar comfort zone and that expanding beyond your comfort zone, in any direction, is beneficial. Basically we are assuming that, first of all, everyone has a strong understanding of themselves (which obviously is not the case) and that everyone has the exact same goals and convictions (also clearly not true, because not everyones goal in life is to be successful in business and strive for achievement) and lastly that their is no “wrong” direction outside of our comfort zones.
The idea of expanding your comfort zone is almost always presented by extremely extroverted “sales professionals” on how to create an uber-successful career. This message is generally geared towards less extroverted or heaven forbid ‘introverted’ individuals whom these “super extroverts” wish to compel to step-up to a better life. In the context of simply becoming a better communicator and possibly a little less shy then YES, forcing yourself to grow beyond what is comfortable is very beneficial. But what about a very out-going and personable salesman that wants to “expand his comfort zone” to do something he feels might be borderline morally wrong?
That’s outside the comfort zone so lets expand it baby! Who cares if it feels a little unethical, after a while your comfort zone will be so expanded that you won’t even think twice about it!
EX: It’s like working out, there is a good “pain” (burn) from exercising muscles properly and there is bad “pain” that comes from improper form (like jacking up a rotator cuff or tweaking your lower back). The bad pain is your body telling you to STOP because it is not beneficial.
The key is to strip everything down to the core, the core of your motives, goals, ambitions, convictions and get to your purpose. Only after you have this core-level understanding will you be able to determine which direction and how far outside of your comfort zone you should try to pursue. Remember that your comfort zone can act as your “conviction” meter letting you know that what you are about to do may conflict with your core beliefs and values.
Focusing on and improving upon your natural strengths as apposed to striving to round off weaknesses is, in my opinion, a much more effective strategy in the pursuit of being the best you can be. There is a fine line though, between staying “in the zone” to focus on being effective and apathetically sitting back while opportunities are within your grasp and letting the fear of the unknown decide your future for you!
Ultimately it comes down to understanding your core. With this understanding you will be able to identify those situations where your comfort zone is providing you with a healthy “governor” and those times when you are just being a big passive baby! Do not be pressured to go a direction that does not line up with what you believe. Know your values and be aware when others are pushing their values upon you, so you can differentiate between “healthy” uncomfortable and “un-healthy” uncomfortable.
Build upon your natural strengths but do not let your comfort zone hold you back from the future you want!
I hear it all the time, “You gotta be passionate about what you are doing if you want to be successful.”… Do you? Is passion the magic formula for success?
I know plenty of people who are, and have been, very passionate about what they do and aren’t successful. I also know many individual who are not passionate, at all, about what they do and are extremely successful. Having passion for a business without a sustainable financial model doesn’t miraculously change the economics of it. If we are using business metrics to measure “success” it is pretty black and white (or should I say black and red). It comes down to one thing and that’s money, it either makes it or it doesn’t! And if a business is making money the next two measuring sticks are 1) profitability and 2) how much effort is required for that profitability? One could argue that passion has a very minimal correlation to success.
Our culture and society wants to have a tangible, preferably warm and fuzzy, thing to attribute to success. We want to identify one specific attribute that determines success or failure and we want it to be something anybody in the whole world can obtain so we feel like it’s possible for anyone to succeed. We hear all the time the same old recycled crap about the path to success; you need passion, persistence, to be a good communicator blah blah blah. While a large number of successful people claim to have these traits in common and attribute these to their success I would argue that it is purely in hindsight that they are trying give some concrete reason for their success. Passion, especially, is the one trait that everyone loves to identify because it just feels good to say and it provides this accessible and relatable concept that all people feel they can grasp.
“I too can be successful if I just have passion! Woo Hoo Now I just gotta find what I’m passionate about!”
I’m not picking on passion, I think passion is good because it can amplify the significance of success when the two do happen to coincide. If you love scarves, (I mean really love everything about them like how they look and feel, what they do for people, how they are made etc) and you have a scarf business that takes off and becomes an astronomical success the passion you have for scarves will amplify the significance of the success. But lets say you just wanna make a buck and you see a niche in the scarf market and create a scarf business that hits it big. Just because you weren’t passionate about scarves does the somehow disqualify your success?
The passionate person says “heck yes, I freaking love scarves and now the whole world is getting to enjoy them as much as I do!” The un-passionate (opportunist) says “sweet, I didn’t know jack about scarves and I made a bunch of money selling them.”
There was no difference in the outcome of the passionate and non-passionate person the only difference was their perception of the “feeling” of success.
So what is the point of this rant on passion you ask? That “purpose” should be our pursuit because without purpose passion will fade. This beautiful revelation came courtesy of a pastor I recently heard speak named Paul Chase who is an american missionary living with his family in the Philippines for the last 20+ years. When I heard him say this I instantly put it in the context of business (which is just how my brain is wired). It hit me like a ton of bricks and made perfect sense. If you don’t have a firm grasp of your purpose you will just run from “passion” to “passion” seeking fulfillment from business ideas/ventures that can’t possibly satisfy you.
Success and passion are not interdependent of each other. Passion can act as a motivator or building block for purpose but independently will not sustain you and, in my opinion, it is not a predictor of success.
I liken passion to wind in regards to starting a fire.
Starting a fire doesn’t require wind it just takes a spark of fire, but wind fans the flame and strengthens the fire.
In other words:
Creating a successful business venture doesn’t require passion but passion can strengthen the purpose.