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Are You in the Zone or Out of Your Comfort?

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Are You in the Zone or Out of Your Comfort?

Last week was Small Business week in Queensland.

For me, being involved in a committee for a local chamber of commerce made the week pretty full-on as there were endless events targeting Small Business owners. From networking to training, educational seminars to inspirational talks, you could be forgiven for not getting any actual work done and simply losing yourself in the myriad of events.

In the whirlwind of it all though, I did hear a couple of common ideas and themes repeated over and over, and I think they are worth sharing and considering. There were two persistent discussions with their underlying thread being around ‘getting out of your comfort zone’ and being in ‘the zone’.

I’m sure as a Small Business owner, you’ve probably heard about the importance of ‘stepping out of your comfort zone’ a million times before.

You’ve probably read it in business articles or blogs, heard it in inspirational seminars or podcasts, and even been encouraged by your colleagues or advisors to ‘take the leap’ from the comfortable to the uncomfortable. After all, they say, that’s where the magic happens.

But, does it really?

I was chatting with one of my clients about the concept this morning. She’s recently opened her second store in a brand-new shopping centre and had asked her apprentice to wander the crowds on the centre’s official opening day handing out balloons and vouchers for the store. She thought it presented a fantastic opportunity just to say, “Hello”, to welcome in the locals, and to provide a small taste of the sort of friendly service they’d receive at her store. Apparently, her apprentice said she couldn’t do it because the whole thing was too scary for her. Well, my client did what any good superior would do in that situation; she gave her the spiel about getting outside her comfort zone (remember, that’s where the magic is supposed to happen), and yet all that seemed to do was cause her apprentice’s anxiety to skyrocket. It was just never going to work. On the other hand, had my client asked me to wander a crowd with giveaways and say “G’day”, I would be totally in my element.

It seems to me, as business owners, we need to take a good hard look at the idea of ‘getting outside our comfort zone’. It’s an idiom that self-help gurus seem to throw around like glitter at a child’s birthday party, and instead, we need to ask ourselves whether or not it’s actually a productive thing to do. If ‘getting out of your comfort zone’ means going against who you are (i.e., asking an introvert to play the role of an extrovert), then the potential ramifications for your business, not to mention your psyche, could be significant and detrimental for that matter.

Going outside your comfort zone will inevitably cause you anxiety, which only reinforces a negative viewpoint on the whole thing, making it even more difficult for us to alter our perceptions. What I have noticed is that if we instead look for the things we actually enjoy doing within our business, the things we not only feel comfortable doing but the things that make us feel like we are totally and completely in our element, we start to operate from inside ‘the zone’. Instantly we find that we can focus for longer periods, achieve more, and it will actually make us feel happier and more fulfilled.

See, it’s not all about ‘getting out of your comfort zone’, it’s about identifying what your ‘zone’ is and rocking it.

There’s a great quote by Mr Albert Einstein himself (I’m sure you’ve probably heard it, but it’s worth repeating), “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that itis stupid.”

If my client judged her apprentice by her ability to hand out flyers and schmooze potential customers, then she probably wouldn’t see the value of employing her. But when she puts her apprentice to work within her store, when she lets her operate within her zone, that’s where she truly shines. And that’s the thing about operating from inside ‘the zone’ as opposed to living life ‘outside your comfort zone’; one allows you to draw in closer to something you value while the other incites a feeling of being coerced into doing something you really don’t enjoy.

Don’t get me wrong; I think that there are moments in everybody’s life, especially when you run a business, where we need to step out and take a leap of faith for something that we believe in. But if you are a fish, climbing a tree probably isn’t going to benefit you, even if it is really far out of your comfort zone.

Play to your strengths, get in the zone because that’s where the magic happens. When you operate in your element, doing what you love, the thing that inspires you, great things will happen.

So, from one ordinary human being to another, stuff getting out of your comfort zone, I say, “Get into it!” And while you’re there, get to work and do something amazing.

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