Our body has a great way of protecting us from the unknown outcomes that growth and change might produce. LISA RENN explores why we can want one thing but do another.
Have you ever asked yourself to go beyond your comfort zone? If so, you might know the feeling of utter resistance your whole body gives you. That feeling of ‘No, I don’t want to do this!’ or the subtler, ‘I’ll do that later, right now my desk needs cleaning.’
Our mind has a great way of protecting us from the unknown outcomes that growth and change might produce. Research shows us that people can want something but have trouble making it happen. Stepping up is hard. If growth, change and personal development were painless, we’d all be doing what we felt we were born to do. Growth requires risk and uncertainty as well as feeling vulnerable, therefore most people prefer to sit in their comfort zone even though they remain discontent.
The diagram shown explains what happens when you decide you need to change. There is a feeling of angst or discontent that you want to be ‘better’, so you decide to take action. Getting underway, you make some progress until you hit your fire wall; our internal mechanism that tries to protect us from failure. At this point you realise it’s going to be harder than you think, you second guess yourself: ‘Who am I to do this?’ ‘What if this doesn’t work?’ or ‘I’m not good enough?’ All these doubts are designed to have your scurrying back to your comfort zone.
It’s not until you create the belief that what you are trying to do is worth the discomfort that you then develop the conviction and confidence that will enable you to break through to the other side.
Whether you’re trying to become healthier, growing your business or a manager trying to bring out the best in your team, understanding why most people don’t step up to do the things they really want to is vital to helping them overcome their internal fire wall and grow in the direction they desire.
It starts with belief that fosters confidence, but these positive thoughts are often really hard to put in by yourself. Hence the saying, surround yourself with people you want to be like and who support you.
According to research, willpower and healthy actions are contagious, but it’s also true in reverse. If the people around you are not supportive, if they doubt you, are not encouraging or affirming then it’s hard to break out of your comfort zone and far safer to stick to what you know.
When you build confidence in your own ability, you feel more courageous to face the unknown and break through the fire wall with conviction.
Start the change process with these three simple strategies:
Acknowledge skills and experience – think of something you have achieved in your life that you are proud of. What skills did that take to achieve? Make a list. Are those skills relevant to your current challenge?
Express confidence – express confidence in yourself, remind yourself of your achievements. This is easier when it’s coming from someone else, but if there is no one else, keep the positive messages running through your head. You become your most prominent thoughts. Reread your testimonials.
Create an action list - when you focus on action you don’t have to get stuck in your own head as much and listen to the doubt. Plan out what you need to do and then focus on that, not the outcome.