How often do you have a really big idea for something you want to do?
Now, how often do you actually follow through with it?
If you’re like me, the answer to the the first question is, “all the time”. And the answer to the second question is, “hardly ever”.
I often wonder why I seem to have so many good, big ideas (at least they seem good to me), but rarely have the ability to actually pursue them. Take this blog for instance. I thought about making it a reality for most of 5 years before I finally pulled the trigger earlier this year.
I have good ideas all the time at work for ways we could improve processes, save time, make a certain employee more productive, etc. I rarely voice these ideas to my superiors. Is it because I am not confident in the idea? I don’t think so. Is it because I am afraid it might create more work for me to implement my proposed ideas? It could be.
I think we all have to fight a natural tendency to be lazy. Perhaps lazy is not the correct terminology here. What I am trying to say is that it takes a great deal of mental strength for us to voluntarily put ourselves in a situation that gets us out of our normal routine, or our comfort zone.
You’ve probably always heard that humans are creatures of habit. We get up at the same time every day. We typically stick to the same routine each morning. For me it is shower, eat breakfast, catch up on some blogs, get dressed, go to work. I rarely (never) break this morning routine during the week. In general, within a broad array of duties, my work days tend to follow specific patterns as well. And for the most part, my routine in the evenings is very similar also. But, should we really believe the old saying and assume that being a “creature of habit” is the best thing for us?
When I think about some of my favorite days from the past couple weeks (that is as far back as I can remember), they have certain things in common. Surprisingly, my most favorite days were the ones that got me out of my normal routine the most. Here’s a couple examples:
- A few weeks back I spent the better part of a day taking a road trip with a prospect from work who was looking to make an asset acquisition. He spent the day driving me around to different locations looking at the assets he was wanting to purchase. We spent time discussing his business in detail.
- Just last evening, we had some rather ominous thunderstorms roll through the area just around the time I got home from work. This made for an exciting hour or so right after work where I spent time outside watching the skies, wondering if I’d be blown away (I’m still here and in one piece).
- Some of my favorite days at work are when we have meetings scheduled that are out of the norm. Perhaps we are all getting together to analyze a certain process, or talk about high level goals for the year. Routine meetings get boring, but these higher level, un-routine meetings are really fun to me.
For someone who is supposed to be a “creature of habit”, I sure do seem to thrive on having my routine shaken up. I’ve even reached the point of actively trying to fit things into my day that are way out of my normal routine, and therefore out of my typical comfort zone. I work hard at scheduling meetings with people whom I really don’t know, but who are good prospects for me at work. I actively strike up conversations with people on the elevator or in line at a restaurant, and I make it a point to talk about something other than the weather or the fact that it’s Friday, or almost Friday (this routine, worthless conversation really drives me nuts).
Since around the time I was graduating from college, and over the 4 years since that time, I’ve often wondered if I limited the opportunities and experiences I will have in my life because of my unwillingness to get outside of my larger comfort zone. When I say larger comfort zone, here is what I mean:
- I still live in the same state where I was born, and where I have lived for my entire life. Most all of my family still lives here.
- I work for someone else as an employee, at a normal 8-5 job. I work in a very traditional career field.
- I live in a house in the suburbs with my wife, we drive normal vehicles, we have a dog, etc.
Essentially, my comfort zone has always been to turn myself into my idea of the “all american male” – always living up to what everyone expects from me.
I often wonder what my life might be like if I had the willingness to move across the country to Florida, New York City, San Francisco, etc. What if moved to a hole in the wall apartment, and took a low level job that let me just get by, but that I didn’t have to work very hard at? What if I just quit my day job, and jumped into the deep end working for myself?
Perhaps it’s just my nature as a fairly conservative person to always have a solid plan in place (with multiple backup plans, of course). But I often wonder if I might be better off putting my conservative nature aside and just letting life take me wherever.
I do know that doing this on a very small scale has brought some excitement to my life. For example, as a banker working primarily with businesses, almost all the leads I get come from referrals from existing customers or from other people I know. Commercial banking is not the type of career where you just start knocking on doors trying to sell money. But, I have to admit, some of the most exciting days in my career – both good and bad – happened doing exactly this. I’ve walked into businesses and been turned away immediately. But I’ve also walked into businesses and made a friend for life with the owner following a 2 hour conversation.
To me, the moral of the story is, you just never know what will be behind the next door you open, or around the next corner. The hard part is knowing which doors to attempt to open, then convincing yourself to actually do it.
A way I have been able to convince myself to do more things outside of my comfort zone here lately is to tell myself one or both of the following:
- What’s the worst that could happen. Most times, what I am trying to talk myself into doing won’t kill me, or harm my reputation. Why not go for it?
- 100 years from now, I’ll be dead and this really won’t matter. Why not go for it? It sounds morbid, but a lot of times I’ll get a ton of confidence from telling myself this. It always brings a big smile to my face.
Sometimes I am able to convince myself to do things our of my comfort zone, and a lot of times I fail. But I am actively trying to expand my horizon of opportunities. I am still a work in progress.
In your day to day life, do you prefer to stick to a routine, or do you enjoy just seeing where the day will take you?
Are there big things that you would like to do in life that you have a hard time convincing yourself to try?
What are some strategies you use to get yourself out of your comfort zone?