Comfort Zone or Comfort Blanket? How Often Do You Think Outside The Box?

You know how it is when you get this really good idea for a talk, product or article and then within hours several emails ping into your inbox on the same or a similar theme? And you know how it would be easy to say ”oh well it wasn’t meant to be?”

how often do you think outside the box?

how often do you think outside the box?

That’s almost what happened to me a couple of weeks ago when preparing a talk for a breakfast network meeting but then I decided that if it was interesting enough for two people I greatly respect to write about in the same week then I would explore my own thoughts on the subject.

It was interesting to note that there were similarities but when I explored what “working in your comfort zone” meant for me there were some surprises and you know I didn’t know all of them until I was talking to the networking group. By then I was in full flow and the words were coming through me and not from me and I wasn’t consciously editing what I was saying – just speaking from the heart.

The more I spoke the more I realised that I too would benefit from what I was saying. As Paul Matthews from People Alchemy Ltd told me recently, he writes about the thing that he needs to learn that week and that’s exactly what was happening for me.

So what’s your comfort zone and what does it mean to you? For me it’s doing all the things that are easy, an element of soup making – or procrastination. Quick and easy wins or easy pickings – the lowest hanging fruit. However, what does that achieve? Well, things are done. Some things my clients have asked me to do and some that are directly for my own business. Thinking about it – and I don’t know if this resonates with you too – there’s an element of completing something but not necessarily achieving something isn’t there?

If it’s for a client I’ll have delivered and I will have been of service but there’s no sense of satisfaction, achievement and rarely a feeling of having gone that extra mile and added value – so have I truly been of service? Peter Thompson, product creation expert and author of TGI Mondays recently wrote “why oh why is it called the comfort zone when it’s the complete opposite of that?”

For us to take action we are either motivated by pain or pleasure. The pain – bad things – happen if we don’t do it (such as the wrath of HMRC) and the pleasure – for example, being of service to our clients and making a difference – becomes a successful income stream. So if we are in our comfort zone, I’d even go so far as to say if we are hiding under our comfort blanket, then what’s happening? Is it because we are hiding from the pain or denying ourselves the pleasure? People don’t want to do or have something (the pain) but by staying in their comfort zone they are also the “have nots” because they aren’t doing something to create the pleasure.

If straying outside of our comfort zone is to think outside of the box then by dint we must be in a box. We live, we operate, we work in, we think in a box. How often do you open the lid? How long do you dare to leave the lid open? Do you throw off the comfort blanket and stick your head out? Or even, dare to step outside and away from the box completely? As successful business people I’d suggest that we are prepared to do that on a fairly regular basis for some of the time but we still step back into the box and back under the comfort blanket again.

As Paul Matthews says “the stuff that’s in the box makes sense to us, we know how to do it; where as what’s outside the box is different”. Perhaps because we can’t quite make sense of it, it’s almost formless and so we can’t quite grasp it. It appears to be risky. To me that’s allowing our thinking to get in the way. Have you noticed how when we are doing a lot of thinking about something it acts as a blockage to getting clarity and understanding?

So what happens if we stay in that comfort zone, under our blanket, inside the box? Then we don’t try anything new! We are just doing the things that make sense. But does this give us what we want? Does it give us the results we want for ourselves, our business and our customers? Where others are succeeding, have they allowed their thinking about “being out of the box” to stop them working in that space? If they’ve stepped out of the box do bad things happen to them? Well yes – maybe sometimes – but actually all the anecdotal and business evidence points in completely the opposite direction.

Doing something different won’t always work the first time, or even every time, but on the other hand doing the same thing over and over again will give the same results over and over again. So if the results you have now are truly amazing, you have all the clients you need, and you have all the guaranteed revenue you could ever want then fantastic – keep doing what you are doing. Unfortunately experience tells me that this is unlikely. There are few business owners and leaders in that position. So do you dare to step out of the box and away from the box more often? It’s not throwing caution to the wind and its certainly not allowing caution to rule the day.

In part two well explore more about what can happen when working outside of the box but in the mean time, if you’d like to talk further about anything I’ve said here, call me on +44 (0) 1296 681 094, click here to ping me an email or leave a comment below. 

Until next time …

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