Success Lies Just Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

When was the last time you tried something completely new? Maybe it was something creative, like knitting or woodworking. It could have been something as complex as learning to write software code, or as simple as using a new cell phone. Okay, that last one isn’t always so simple. But you get the idea. We try new things all the time. And rarely are we as good at the outset as we’d like to be.

I remember learning to drive. It’s one of the simplest things we do – in fact, judging by some people on the road, it takes no brains at all. But in the beginning, it wasn’t so easy. And for those like me who had to learn in a car with a manual transmission, just getting the car to go uphill from a dead stop was nothing short of a miracle. But we learned. And all these years later, it’s second nature.

I talk a lot about goals and dreams. There’s a reason why. Unless you’ve already accomplished everything you want in life, you have goals. They may not be in writing, and they may not even be all that well defined. But to accomplish anything new means to set a goal and work toward it.

To have something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. Those of you who have been with me a while have heard that before. It’s one of my favorite quotes, originally attributed to Thomas Jefferson. And if you think about it, there are really no exceptions to that rule. You can’t move ahead without breaking new ground.

The problem with breaking new ground, much like learning how to drive a car with a manual transmission, is that the first few times out can pretty well suck. You dump the clutch and stall the engine. You let it out too slow and roll backward. You hit the brakes in a panic and stall the engine. You miss gears, grind gears, and at least once you accidentally try to shift into reverse.

It’s all part of the learning process. And getting the car rolling is the hardest part, because once you have momentum on your side, it’s easy to shift into the next gear. Eventually I got good. Good enough, in fact, that I learned to drive a 13-speed semi. I could even parallel park that rig between two other trucks. There’s another driving lesson we’d like to forget.

What stops us from moving toward our goals usually isn’t a reluctance to actually do the work. We know the reward is worth the effort. It’s the realization that we have to try something new. Maybe we’ve done something similar, but that hasn’t led us to our goal on its own. So, we have to do something we’ve never done before. And that can be scary.

Back in the 1980s, I wanted to learn woodworking. I picked up a little saw and a piece of pine and made a paper towel rack. That came out pretty decent, so I made a spice rack. That one was a little more complicated but came out a lot better. And with each successive attempt, I got better. Finally, I learned to build clocks and furniture. Was it worth the effort? Absolutely.

That’s not to say I didn’t have to throw some pieces in the trash and start over. And there’s nothing like finishing what you think is a masterpiece, only to watch the joints separate the first time the weather changes. You make mistakes, and you learn not to repeat them. Eventually, I got a job building furnishings for world-class yachts. It just took time, practice, and a lot of patience.

In any worthwhile pursuit, you’ll have to try new things. Because the fact is, if what you’ve been doing all along hasn’t led you to your goal, it’s never going to. We all know the old saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If we want things to change, we have to do something different. We have to be willing to learn. And we have to be willing to make a few mistakes.

Sometimes, that “something different” is so different you can’t even imagine yourself doing it. It’s never been your thing, and it would stretch your comfort zone beyond anything you’ve ever experienced. Good. That’s what it takes. Your comfort zone has led you right to where you are today, and it’ll never take you any further. But if you give it a little tug, it’ll stretch. Trust me.

Even Beethoven once struggled to play Chopsticks. If there’s something you want to accomplish, all that’s standing in your way is that comfort zone. Set it aside and be willing to fail. Each time you do, you’ll get better and better until success is simply a matter of making the decision to try.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

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