How many times have you read an article, book or magazine or heard a motivational speaker talk about getting outside of your comfort zone? Their advice usually stems from our unwillingness to do the uncomfortable things in life that are necessary to grow and succeed.
The problem is that this is a very complex area of our psyche. It is comfortable for a reason. This tends to be connected to the alarms inside our heads that tell us when something doesn’t feel right.
But most of us never explore this enough to fully grasp the advice to get outside our comfort zone.
When I was younger I never wanted to get outside of my comfort zone. I would find a reason to miss school on the day I had to give a big speech or shy away from any sort of confrontation.
As I got older I started to move into the areas outside of my comfort zone. While at times this helped me learn and explore new things, it often lead me into darker areas that, in hindsight, looked more like mistakes than exploration.
The reality is that you have to learn when to rely on the internal monitoring inside you to tell you to avoid something but you also have to be willing to try new things in order to grow. This balance, although subtle, is incredibly important in our lives if we are trying to achieve goals and realize our dreams.
Years ago I developed a method for dealing with stressful situations that required quick responses and this has helped me to determine whether or not to move forward when I start to get outside of my comfort zone. I realized that reacting without fully analyzing situations led to mistakes but that over-analysis led to paralysis.
I call it BEDA. It stands for Breathe, Evaluate, Decide, Act. The first thing to do, even if just for a split second is to take a breath. It is incredible how calming this can be and can immediately trigger a calmer, thought-out response.
Next is to Evaluate. If this is an intense car negotiation it may be several minutes of evaluation but if this is a quicker decision you need to be able to evaluate quickly and base the decision on core beliefs. In a past white water rafting trip that went bad, this evaluate step took seconds while I found myself trying to stay afloat in a class 5 rapid.
The you Decide. You decide on a path and commit to it. It may not be the best decision ever, but when time is of the essence it benefits us to make a decision and move forward with it. Second guessing will likely be done long after the situation ends so let your mind be free to act once a decision is made.
The last step is to Act. This strategy is the opposite of the ready, fire, aim mentality and helps us to make quicker decisions and make them better than if we are taken back by the situation and let our emotions continue to rise up and overwhelm us.
For me I have worked on this process to make it habitual. In times of stress, whether at work, in hearing about the loss of a loved one, in the heat of competition etc. it has become ingrained in the way I approach the situation.
Often at work when detailing the steps of a project, I will decide to take a step back and do a quick analysis. This has saved me over and over again from going down the wrong path and finding a better way to proceed.
The subtleties around our feeling of comfort cause us to behave in certain ways. If we are terrified of change then we will never realize our potential. But if we spend too much time outside of our comfort zone we will likely make bad decisions that don’t embody our beliefs. In order to best proceed, develop a simple system like BEDA and rely on it to help guide you. If you do you can better adjust to changes and continue to move towards your goals.