T.S. Eliot was clearly onto something when he asked, “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” The very act of stepping outside of your comfort zone is critical to your success and well-being.
Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some stress and discomfort. In fact, performance peaks when we’re well out of our comfort zone. If you’re too comfortable your performance suffers from inaction, and if you move too far outside of your comfort zone you melt down from stress.
Peak performance and discomfort go hand in hand. Stepping outside of your comfort zone makes you better, and it doesn’t have to be something as extreme as climbing Mount Everest. It’s the everyday challenges that push your boundaries the most, none of which require a flight to Nepal. Step out of your comfort zone and embrace these challenges.
1Get up early
Unless you’re a morning person, getting up earlier than usual can take you way out of your comfort zone. However, if you get up well before you have to start getting ready for work, it’s worth it. It gives you an opportunity to collect your thoughts and mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead, rather than just dashing from one activity to another. It also gives you the opportunity to eat a good breakfast and exercise, both of which have well-known health benefits.
2Accomplish an “impossible” goal
Few things compare to the exhilaration of accomplishing something that you didn’t think you were capable of. These achievements fall so far outside of your comfort zone that they seem impossible. Maybe it’s running a marathon or giving a keynote speech at a convention.
These accomplishments are worth every bit of suffering you endure to achieve them because once you finally do it, you feel invincible and carry that triumph with you forever.
It’s easy to get stuck in your comfort zone when you’re so busy that you don’t slow down enough to really think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Meditation is a great way to break this cycle and also happens to be very good for your brain.
Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar found that meditation creates important physical changes in your brain. It increases brain density in areas responsible for self-control, focus, problem-solving, flexibility and resilience. Best of all, these changes are lasting.
4Focus on one thing at a time
Focusing completely on a single task is a big risk – the risk of failing at something to which you’ve given your all. That’s why it’s so uncomfortable. The alternative –multitasking – is a real productivity killer. Research conducted at Stanford confirms that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time.
The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.
When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully. When you spread yourself too thin and chase after every bright, shiny thing that catches your eye, you’re missing out on an important opportunity for personal growth.
Related: 4 Time Killers You Need To Eliminate
It would be great if everyone volunteered for purely altruistic reasons, but we all have demands on our time and have to set priorities. The problem is that after a long workday, volunteering can get pushed down somewhere below watching “epic fail” videos on YouTube.
Volunteering is a powerful experience that feels good and expands your network at the same time. Have you ever met anyone who made volunteering a priority and wasn’t changed for the better by the experience? Neither have I.
6Practice public speaking
You’ve likely heard that the majority of people fear public speaking more than death. In fact, 74 percent of Americans have glossophobia (the fancy word for a fear of public speaking). So, yes, it’s a challenge. It’s also worth it. Whether you’re addressing five people around a table or an audience of five thousand, becoming a better public speaker can be a huge boon to your career.
7Talk to someone you don’t know
Unless you’re an extreme extrovert – or a politician – talking to new people probably makes you at least somewhat uncomfortable. Do it anyway. Social interaction is good for your mood (even when you don’t like it), expands your network, exposes you to new ideas and boosts your self-confidence.
8Bite your tongue
Sure, it can feel so good to unload on somebody and let them know what you really think, but that good feeling is temporary. What happens the next day, the next week or the next year? It’s human nature to want to prove that you’re right, but it’s rarely effective.
In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you and the relationship severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right. The vast majority of the time, that means biting your tongue.
Related: How To Be A Political Optimist
Research conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, showed that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout and even depression. Saying no is indeed a major challenge for many people.
No is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, avoid phrases such as I don’t think I can or I’m not certain.
Saying no to a new commitment honours your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them. When you learn to say no, you free yourself from unnecessary constraints and free up your time and energy for the important things in life.
10Quit putting things off
Change is hard. Self-improvement is hard. Scrounging up the guts to go for what you want is hard, and so is the work to make it happen. When things are hard, it’s always easier to decide to tackle them tomorrow. The problem is that tomorrow never comes. Saying you’ll do it tomorrow is just an excuse, and it means that either you don’t really want to do it or that you want the results without the hard work that comes along with it.
Bringing It All Together
Staying in your comfort zone means stagnation. Just as an oyster only makes a pearl when it’s irritated by a grain of sand, no one has ever accomplished anything remarkable when comfortable.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
20 Quotes On Coping With Change From Successful Entrepreneurs And Leaders
Change is up to you.
Change is a hard concept to grasp – and can be even harder to cope with it. Whether you’re switching careers, leaving a company or ending a relationship, change comes in all sizes – big and small. And while some change can be exciting, other times it can be difficult.
Having your own approach to change, whether it’s in how you view it or how you handle it, is important in moving forward and being successful.
To learn how others do it, here are 20 quotes about change from today’s most successful leaders and entrepreneurs.
1. Elon Musk
“Some people don’t like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is disaster.” – Elon Musk
2. Oprah Winfrey
“You don’t have to hold yourself hostage to who you used to be.” – Oprah Winfrey
3. Barack Obama
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” – Barack Obama
4. Larry Page
“If you’re not doing some things that are crazy, then you’re doing the wrong things.” – Larry Page
5. Steve Jobs
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs
6. Andy Warhol
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol
7. Steve Case
“Revolutions happen in evolutionary ways.” – Steve Case
8. Coco Chanel
“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” – Coco Chanel
9. Warren Buffett
“The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.” – Warren Buffett
10. Steven Spielberg
“All of us, every single year, we’re a different person. I don’t think we’re the same person all our lives.” – Steven Spielberg
11. Mark Zuckerberg
“Entrepreneurship is about creating change, not just companies.” – Mark Zuckerberg
12. Richard Branson
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over.” – Richard Branson
13. Joan Rivers
“Life is very tough. If you don’t laugh, it’s tough.” – Joan Rivers
Related: 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Change
14. Lady Gaga
“In order to build strength, you have to usually come from a lot of weakness.” – Lady Gaga
15. Thomas Jefferson
“Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.” – Thomas Jefferson
16. Thomas Edison
“Good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.” – Thomas Edison
17. Sheryl Sandberg
“I learned that, in the face of a void or in the face of any challenge, you can choose joy and meaning.” – Sheryl Sandberg
18. Tony Robbins
“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” – Tony Robbins
19. Martha Stewart
“The more you adapt, the more interesting you are.” – Martha Stewart
20. Albert Einstein
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
You’re Probably Biased At Work. Here’s How To Stop It
New research looked at hard data to find solutions.
Everyone suffers from bias, despite their best intentions. And that bias can manifest itself in ways we don’t always intend – including how opportunities are and aren’t doled out in the workplace.
Recently, a trio of researchers used sensors to see if they could distinguish any differences in day-to-day behavior between male and female employees. Their goal was to eliminate the type of bias that can occur in self-reported polls about behaviour.
To study this, the researchers looked at a company where women made up just under 40 percent of entry-level employees and 20 percent of employees at the second-highest level of seniority. For four months, 500 male and female employees at this company wore badges with sensors in them that recorded their movement, speech patterns and proximity to one another.
The researchers then monitored who the subjects communicated with and who led conversations. Though the data was anonymous, the research team collected information about a given person’s gender, role and how long they had worked for the company.
Although they approached the investigation with the hypotheses that perhaps the female employees had less access to mentors or did not advocate for themselves with management as much as their male counterparts, the researchers found that this was not the case.
“We found almost no perceptible differences in the behavior of men and women. Women had the same number of contacts as men, they spent as much time with senior leadership and they allocated their time similarly to men in the same role,” the researchers wrote in a summary of their findings in Harvard Business Review.
“We found that men and women had indistinguishable work patterns in the amount of time they spent online, in concentrated work, and in face-to-face conversation. And in performance evaluations men and women received statistically identical scores. This held true for women at each level of seniority. Yet women weren’t advancing and men were.”
They concluded that differences in men and women’s behaviour aren’t what leads to gender inequality in the workplace – entrenched bias is the culprit.
So what can you do in your own company to make sure that bias doesn’t impact your hiring and promoting decisions? The researchers recommend instituting training programmes to reduce bias among management and people in the position to bring on new team members. You also might want to consider making a policy that, for all new open jobs, you interview and recruit people from a variety of backgrounds.
Also, look at the responsibilities your employees have outside the office. Think about ways to make it easier for both women and men to have flexible schedules, especially given that women often have social pressures to take on more family and household obligations.
Finally, determine where the pipeline to managerial and executive positions begins to trend more towards men. Collect data on exactly when these shifts happen in order to identify their specific causes (e.g. higher-ranking positions and their responsibilities require more late nights), then come up with pointed solutions (e.g. flexible morning schedules to accommodate childcare).
From there, measure the effectiveness any solution you implement. (“Since we implemented this policy, have those who have taken advantage of it advanced?”) This way, mitigating inequality is a science, not a guessing game.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com
Better Thinking For A Better World
How to think more critically and strategically in a world filled with complexity and rapid change.
We take the act of thinking for granted. It is often seen as a skill one is born with and not one that should be cultivated over time.
As the world becomes more complex and more busy, strategic and critical thinking becomes more valuable. Strategic thinking points to the ability to decide how and when to deploy resources to achieve a certain end state.
Below are four areas of focus that will improve your strategic thinking:
1. Making Time For Reflection
Life is busy. Juggling work, friends and family, and the recurring notifications from your phone has become quite a feat. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to create space for reflection.
Time spent in solitude allows you to reflect and connect the dots. It temporarily takes you out of a world in which you must be reactive to survive and keep up.
My suggestion is to create a SOS (space of solitude) for at least 30 minutes every day. In this time, reflect on what has been working and what has not been working. Meditate on your goals for the future and plan for the actions that will help you get there.
2. Asking Better Questions
Many of us fall into the trap of sequential problem solving. This happens when leaders or organisations simply move from one challenge to the next and the only question they ask is “how do we overcome this challenge?”.
What about the questions like “how did we arrive here?” or “what assumptions are we making here?” or “what does better look like?”
I am not trying to give you a template of questions to ask. Merely prodding you to go beyond challenging the problem but to also challenge the thinking about the problem.
As we deepen our questions, we elevate our thinking.
Do not simply ask more questions. Ask better questions.
3. Seek More Input
Teams are great and often underutilized. How can you use your team’s knowledge, experience, and opinions in a more constructive way?
Well, how about allowing them sufficient time for reflection in solitude but also as a group. How about prompting them to look for the patterns in their environment? How about, as a leader, asking them questions that allow them to really stretch their cognitive abilities?
Even better, empower them to ask those questions themselves.
Related: Disruptive Thinking: A Winning Edge
4. Thinking rules
We often make the same mistakes over and over. Not because we have not learned the lesson but because the context changes. Or excitement gets the better of us.
During your reflection time (hopefully you have noticed the importance of this by now) you can reflect on your past decisions and figure out how you could have made better decision.
Once you have done this start jotting down a few personal rules that will help guide your decision making in the future. A personal guideline I established was that I will wait 24 hours before making any big purchase. Gadgets and golf gear often get the best of me. But simple rules like these help to guide my decision making and prevents me from making mistakes irrespective of context or emotional state.
What is next?
Starting today schedule a daily SOS. Yes, schedule it. Do not leave it to chance.
Think of it as training for your brain. A space where you get to think. Free of distraction and noise. You will be amazed at the clarity that comes from these sessions and how your productivity and effectiveness soars.
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