The Edges of Your Comfort Zone

Before leaving camp for the day we talked about habits, competence, style, and life outside of our comfort zone. There’s tremendous transference in these ideas. In the front-country or the back-country, good habits form the basis of things we do every day, almost without thinking. Whether it’s packing your pack, setting up the tent, or preparing dinner, going to the gym, riding a bike, or writing, by making time to practice these skills  – even just a little bit every day – with enough time, we gain mastery of them.

I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes – “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.”

In other words, get so good at something that, when you do it, you are in a state of flow. That’s a big part of doing – and enjoying – anything we do. It becomes fun once we get really good at it – once we can add our own flair – our own style – to an activity. And because we are all unique, we will all do the same task just a little bit differently. As a leader, the key is learning how best to take advantage of those differences. Harnessing them can make for a high-performing team.

“Life Begins Outside Your Comfort Zone”

Using three concentric circles, we learned how to steadily increase our tolerance for adversity. By staying within our comfort zone, we are deprived of the opportunity for growth. It is only by moving outside of our comfort zone that we learn to take on progressively more difficult challenges and risks. We don’t learn when everything is comfortable. However, we must be careful not to exceed our zone of discomfort and cross into the Terror Zone, as any frightening experience can quickly becomes mis-educational. We won’t learn anything but to be afraid.

Which leads me to another favorite quote – “Life begins outside your comfort zone.”

In a similar way, those three concentric circles can be used to illustrate what we can control, what we can influence, and what we need to accept. The inner-most circle represents things we have control over. The next circle represents things we can influence. And the outer-most circle represents things over which we have no control and must simply accept.

The Sounds of Silence

Hiking through the pines that day I felt a sense of serenity and the need to be quiet – to take in all that nature had to offer. So at one point I asked my hiking group to pause, close our eyes, and listen to the sounds of the forest – the sounds of our own silence. We stood that way for about a minute – just listening. It was a powerful, peaceful experience that, for me, drove home the transformational power of nature.

Different Learning Styles

At the end of the day we talked about our experience, and I was reminded of the importance to tell people what to expect. I find this is the case not only on an expedition, but that this advice serves me well anytime I’m teaching people a new skill, or leading people through a new experience. Adults, in particular, like to be able to mentally prepare for what’s coming next – to ‘align their chi’ as a good friend of mine once said. I’ve tried to take that message to heart anytime I’m teaching. I try to spell out the process so that people can prepare themselves for what to expect during our time together. And I find that it’s a skill that has served me well.

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