Are you feeling “stuck in a rut”? Does it seem like you just can’t get ahead? Do you tell yourself that you’re that you’re just not cut out to be a leader, but you truly desire to be one – or a better one? Or, do you wish you had the skills or the mindset that could help you take on bigger challenges?
You could be stuck in your comfort zone. After all, it can be scary to give up what’s familiar and feels safe. You may think it will take too much effort or that the changes that result may not be what you want.
Some say leadership is something the fortunate few are born with. But, we’re all leaders in some area of our life. Leadership is a learned ability that is developed as you experience new situations and acquire new skills.
The Three Zones of Leadership
There are three zones of leadership that impact our development as leaders.
The Comfort Zone. This is where we spend most of our time. It is the place of comfort, it is safe, easy and predictable.
Your comfort zone is a psychological place where you feel in control. You experience low-anxiety and you’re using a limited set of behaviors. This means you’re not growing or developing any new skills. Essentially you’re stuck on autopilot, you’re just going through the motions.
“You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.” – Will Rogers
The comfort zone is a place of habit. It’s easy to get locked into the “same ‘ole, same ‘ole.” You respond automatically to challenges, doing the same thing you’ve always done. It’s easy, comfortable and familiar. Your response may not take much physical or emotional energy.
While the comfort zone serves as a place to cement new learning and master new skills, it’s a dangerous place to stay for long periods of time. It leads to mediocrity, stagnation, and a lack of growth. Leaders who spend too much time in their comfort zone end up bored and unchallenged, and their businesses can stop growing because they are not meeting current demands.
Comfort Zones Limit Your Goals and Dreams
Our dreams demand we grow to make them happen. Our dreams demand courage, the courage to take risks. No one has ever reached their dreams from within their comfort zone.
Comfort Zones Limit Your Potential
You will never discover your full potential unless you step outside your comfort zone. To grow you must put yourself in a place where more is demanded of you.
Comfort Zones Encourage Mediocrity
Living in a comfort zone allows one to think that average is acceptable. You begin to fear the learning zone and you become psychologically stuck.
The Learning Zone. This zone is the most important. This is where you push the boundaries of your existing skills and experience. This is where real learning and growth takes place - where the magic happens. Your learning zone is the space just outside the comfort zone where leadership develops and grows, and where success is built and goals are attained.
If you’ve ever pushed yourself to get to the next level in sports, getting fit, or learning a new skill, you know what it’s like to step outside your comfort zone and into the learning zone. The exercises are difficult and you struggle. They take a lot of energy and concentration to complete.
However, each week you grow stronger, the exercises become easier, and they require less energy to complete. And, as the exercises become easier, you get less physical benefit. Soon, you find yourself becoming used to your exercise routine. You no longer have to think about your exercises, your heart rate no longer rises, and you’re not sore in the mornings. When this happens you’re no longer growing stronger. You’re in a new comfort zone. The solution? Change your exercise routine. You need to switch to a new set of exercises. The same principle holds for other areas in our lives.
History has shown that life rewards the risk-takers, such as Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford and many more. These leaders stepped out of their comfort zone by:
Daring to change things.
Daring to make a difference.
Daring to make an impact on the world.
Great leaders are those who make it a habit to step out their comfort zone and into the learning zone.
The Danger Zone. The danger zone is the place where you are over-stressed and unable to lead. You have pushed yourself too hard, too quickly. It’s the place where you start to lose focus, and performance declines. It’s similar to lifting a weight that is too heavy. You’re likely to damage tendons or tear a muscle. As a leader in the danger zone, you’re likely to experience burnout that results in lower performance, and even loss of income or your job.
Successful leaders keep themselves out of the danger zone by taking regular breaks. They balance the learning zone with the comfort zone to give themselves time to master new skills before pressing on to the next challenge.
Leadership is the ongoing process of choosing between safety and risk and making a deliberate effort to spend time in the learning zone. Which of these three zones of leadership do you find yourself in most often? Do you need to spend more time in your learning zone? Try something new each week. If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.
If you need help getting out of your comfort zone and making the most of your leadership role, contact Joy today!