Last week I took my son to Orlando, Florida, to attend his second year in high school.
As I watched him unpack the car, I was amazed at how easily he adapted to a new home, a new family and a new school.
When I think about the impact this will have on his life as an adult; it got me thinking.
Getting outside our comfort zone can be quite a challenge for most of us. However, my son demonstrated the ability to take it in his stride, embrace the challenge and ease into it seemingly quickly. For some of us moving to a new job, taking on a new project or meeting new people can be nerve-racking never mind to a new country, new family and new school.
So how can we embrace our fears, open ourselves up to opportunities that will aid our growth and help us become fearless in the face of what may seem like our most significant challenges? And WHY should we? And what does the phrase “getting outside your comfort zone” mean anyway? And is this something that we should consider to add to a school curriculum versus algebra?
I started to assess my experience as a kid at his age. As a painfully shy kid, would I have taken on the challenge that my son so quickly did? And why was he able to?
At dinner a couple of weeks ago, he asked me a very profound question…MUM, Do you think that we are born with a talent or do we have the ability to learn anything? Mmmm… how and what should I say to this curious mind? And why was he asking me?
I decided to ask him what he thought the answer to this question was; he said:” I believe we can be taught anything because I have watched you work very hard, study and achieve great success in your life.” I agreed with him and added, “YES, I agree. However, I believe all of us have an inherent talent or gift that when activated along with learning how to express it will help us find our passion, develop as a top performer in that skill and live a successful life enjoying what we are doing, which allows us to contribute to the larger circle of life in a more meaningful way”.
Along with this conversation with my son, and other discussions I had with many different friends this week, it got me thinking about how to teach our kids this NOW and not make them fumble through life, school and their experiences of finding the path that will ultimately allow them to contribute to the planet they live in, in a meaningful way. How can we encourage these types of discussion and topics for them to learn what they are not learning at school? And teach them that agility is a core competency to be learned and embraced, faced with the future of careers evolving and industry changes.
I have always been an avid learner and curious, and am glad that my son is taking on the same trait of curiosity and belief in working for it. But what if we created a more curious mindset and space for our kids to develop what we all call life skills, that I call self-leadership skills and the things they don’t learn at school.
Back to my original thought… as leaders, we know that our teams learn from our example. So if this is true which it is, then how about we start leading by example and create space for these types of discussions to begin taking place continuously. And how about starting a little more to get outside our comfort zone, learn something new, push ourselves to grow and like my son demonstrated this past week the ability to embrace challenges in a positive way. It seems hard to get out of our habitual routines and open up ourselves to the possibility of growth. It takes a kind of inner strength, and not all of us want to put the effort in because it feels uncomfortable.
However, this week, I learned from a friend. It doesn’t have to be something that is so out of reach of our daily lives.
My friend shared this, “I make it a point to walk up to strangers and start a conversation” “This gets me over my fear of rejection, public speaking and better at building relationships. Which then allows me to grow professionally and personally.” He made me think. How many times have I walked up to a stranger and started a conversation just because I can? As a natural introvert its something I dread, believe it or not. However, over time, I have developed the art of asking questions to help me with this. Imagine if I had started his best practice earlier on in my life. Imagine if I taught my kids this instead of do not talk to strangers.
So getting outside of our comfort zone, doesn’t need to become a vast mountain. It could be something as small as reading a book, to jumping on a plane, to learning a new language or merely taking a financial course to assist in managing money. It could even be as simple as talking to someone in your office that you don’t know tomorrow. Or taking on a project at work that you have no experience in.
One thing is for sure; we must continue to fuel this in the next generation of leaders. We need to teach them the life skills that they don’t learn at school. It is important we share our knowledge and let them know that life does not always follow a straight path. Helping them understand that getting outside of their comfort zone is a skill that will help them lead, learn and grow. We should start to engage conversations about passion and purpose, along with looking at their grades and performance ratings.
I learn a lot when I travel, take the time to talk with strangers and allow the universe to educate me by getting outside my comfort zone! My desire for you reading this is to be inspired to grow. If you’re not growing, then your shrinking.
To grow, ask your self the following questions?
- Am I building my natural talent?
- Am I leading by example?
- Am I creating a space for my brain to wander and be creative?
- Am I seeking new information?
- Am I stagnant?
- Am I able to share what I have learned, overcame and challenged myself to do lately?
- Am I embracing new experiences that help me overcome my fears?
- Am I adding value to others in a more intentional way?
- And, am I challenging my professional and personal comforts to achieve my true desires?
My son’s dream is to be an NBA player; his vision is far more significant than living in his familiar home comforts.
He has inspired me to write this post, along with many amazing conversations with strangers I have met along the way!