One of the themes I write about in both Die Empty and The Accidental Creative is the need to challenge yourself by learning new skills, taking small risks, and experimenting with your voice and self-expression.
However, this is one of the pieces of advice people say is most difficult for them to act upon. Why do we find it so difficult to step out of our comfort zone and take risks with our work?
I find that the most common reason is what I call the “season of incompetence.” Any time you are attempting to learn a new skill, or experiment with a new means of doing your work, you will inevitably go through a season in which you risk coming across as incapable of performing well. This is only natural when you’re trying something new, of course, but for many people the perception that they are falling short is unbearable. As such, they stay squarely in their comfort zone, and refuse to try anything that will expose them to such potential failure.
The obvious problem with this kind of behavior is that those who stay squarely in their comfort zone eventually find they are becoming less and less effective. To grow, you must be willing to take strategic risks, to learn new skills, and to push yourself outside of your area of familiarity.
The best way to continue to grow is to take small strategic risks, to build time into your life to experiment with ideas and skills outside of work hours, and to increase your tolerance for how others perceive you.
– Do you have time set aside to learn new skills?
– Do you regularly interact with new, mindset-challenging ideas and thoughts?
– Are you regularly challenging yourself by setting stretch goals that push you outside of your comfort zone?
The more successful you become, the more you are likely to feel the need to protect your ego, your reputation, and your turf. You must push through the season of incompetence and not allow it to paralyze you into inaction. Your growth depends on your ability to step out of your comfort zone and do what’s necessary.
The seeds of tomorrow’s brilliance are planted in the soil of today’s activity.