"Nothing in the future is guaranteed, but what is a guarantee is if you don't turn yourself into the person you want to be, you zero your own chances."
~ Col Chris Hadfield, Astronaut
Staying within your comfort zone may give you the illusion that you are safe. Yet it is not a place where you grow and evolve and make yourself 'future ready', which simply means ready for the future you create or encounter
You live in a VUCA world - a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Staying in your comfort zone guarantees you zeroing your own chances. I liken this to 'self-imprisonment'. Is this a life worth living? I don't think so. Do you?
A few years ago I found myself in the Emergency Department waiting for emergency surgery. My blood pressure was very high, aggravated by severe agoninising pain from my fractured shoulder socket and arm ripped out of its socket. I had an identical injury a couple of months earlier on the opposite shoulder that had not fully healed. The nurse attending to me, blindly followed protocol of frequent blood pressure checks without making the connection between her action and my critically raising blood pressure. The pressure of the inflated blood pressure cuff escalated the pain in my injured shoulder and with it my blood pressure. I asked her to stop but she didn’t. She simply ignored my desperate pleas.
With telling me that I would not be going to the operating theatre till my blood pressure came down, the nurse further escalated my fear and frustration, and consequently my blood pressure. How on earth could the blood pressure come down when with every blood pressure check she drove the blood pressure higher and higher?
I felt like a trapped animal. I felt unsafe. I felt extremely vulnerable as my life was in the nurse’s hands. There was no one else around.
Suddenly I realised if I don’t stop her right now, I will not get out of this hospital alive. With an amazing confidence in my voice, which surprised me in hindsight, I ordered her not to touch me again, and I told her I would go to operating theatre no matter what. And I did. A few minutes later the operating theatre called for me to be to be taken to the theatre. The surgeon noted the high blood pressure and calmly said “Elisabeth we need to operate to bring your blood pressure down”.
I finally could relax. I felt relieved, safe and grateful all at the same time. I made it. I will live. The next morning my blood pressure was back to normal.
Now this is a traumatic example of being propelled out of the comfort zone. In terms of getting out of my comfort zone, nothing worse could ever happen than looking death in the face. Yet, it demonstrated to me the personal power we have when we put it to the test. By acting in the moment I have increased my chance to live by 100%.
The Point: You don’t have to, and certainly don’t ever want to, wait until your life is on the line. Become more aware of, and pay attention to, the subtle ways you zero your own chances by resisting to get out of your comfort zone.
You will have heard people talking about changing one’s mindset. Changing one’s mindset from what to what is the question. How can you change your mindset when you don’t have a reference point? And why would you want to change it? What’s in for you to change it?
Up till recently mindset has been a fairly loose concept for me. Having explored it in great detail recently, several light bulbs went off simultaneously and many things clicked into place for me. I have come to realise that knowing and understanding mindsets is fundamental for everyone because it determines our quality of life, relationships, our achievements and influential leadership.
Understanding mindsets is critical in making sense of the often senseless, and incomprehensible behaviours in people, especially of leaders in business (often referred to the CEO disease) and public life. It is especially critical for leaders who find themselves under enormous stress, exhibit behaviours that put them at a high risk of facing huge losses.
We all have basic qualities like intelligence, talents, aptitudes, personality and character, although our initial basic qualities may vary. Where we differ is in the belief we hold about these qualities that drive our actions. Our belief determines, frequently without our conscious awareness, whether we operate from a ‘fixed mindset’ or a ‘growth mindset’.
Mindset is a ground-breaking idea discovered by Carol Dweck in decades of research on achievement and success. Her research has shown her that whatever mindset people have in a particular area will guide them and determine radical different outcomes. It’s not about whether human qualities can or cannot be cultivated. It’s about the consequences of people's thinking, and the action they take that determines their outcomes.
In Essence: When you believe your intelligence or personality is a fixed, deep seated trait you will operate from a 'Fixed Mindset' because of your belief there is nothing you can do about what you haven't got. On the other hand, if you believe that your basic qualities are only a starting point that you can develop, you will be open to feedback and ongoing learning. You are cultivating a 'Growth Mindset'. Having said that, it is not as clear cut having one mindset or the other. Most likely we all lean more to one or the other, before we become consciously aware that our mindset works either for us or against us.
If you operate from a fixed mindset and hold an influential leadership position, the chances that you are being pushed out of your comfort zone, when you can't deliver what is demanded of you, are very high. So what do you do to save your credibility and reputation when you believe you have to be perfect and simply haven't got the qualities you need? You can open your heart and mind to the revealing truth of cultivating a Growth Mindset and transform your influential leadership. It may be challenging to make the shift to a Growth Mindset but I doubt that it will be as challenging as having to force yourself to lie, cheat and cover up trying to save your credibility and reputation.
I deeply appreciate the Mindset work of Carol Dweck for two reasons. Firstly, it restored the faith in leaders that I have lost trust in because of lying, cheating and cover up. In fact her work has given me an insight into the enormous stress these leaders may have been under to resort to these out of integrity tactics. I liken their experience to my looking death in the face - terrifying! Secondly, it provides me with invaluable tools for working with clients ready to embrace, cultivate and expand their 'Growth Mindset' to become the influential leaders they aspire to be, and live a life in integrity.
Elisabeth Gortschacher ©2017 All Rights Reserved