How can you go outside your comfort zone this week?

“People tend to play in their comfort zone, so the best things are achieved in a state of surprise, actually.” ~ musician, songwriter and producer, Brian Eno

red flower

I did something out of my comfort zone this week.

I signed up for an account on Medium and wrote a post about spirituality and religion, something I rarely write, or even really talk about with people.

I was inspired by how Stephen Colbert has shared his beliefs on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and in interviews in The Daily Beast and GQ. Even though I felt nervous about sharing the post and trying a new writing platform, it was exhilarating to try something new and readers’ responses have been moving.

Last week I shared how reflecting, learning and acting can help you realize your Big Vision for your work in the world. When you’re taking action, it’s also important to stretch outside your comfort zone sometimes.

As the Henry Ford saying goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” When you think about how you’re moving towards your Big Vision, are there any ways you’re doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same result? What could you do differently?

As you make your to do list this week, include one action you can take towards your Big Vision that is outside your comfort zone and makes you feel a little bit nervous (but not terrified).

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

Life is a long experiment that includes successes and failures

No such thing as a failed experiment

At the beginning of this year, 47% of Americans made a New Year’s resolution. Only 8% of us will keep it. But maybe that isn’t a bad thing as long as we:

  1. Take the time to reflect on why we didn’t keep it.
  2. Look at it as one “experiment” in a long process.

Last weekend, I saw two movies, Birdman and Particle Fever, that portrayed very different attitudes towards success and failure. Without giving too much away about each movie, in Birdman, the former star of a comic book hero movie franchise tries desperately to regain his former success by writing, directing and starring in his adaptation of a Raymond Carver play.

He tells his daughter, “I’m trying to do something important,” to which she responds, “You’re doing this because you’re scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter.” Throughout the film, it feels like he is running from his failures in the past, and possible failures in the future.

Particle Fever is a documentary about the  launch of the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs Boson (aka the “god particle”), which some of the scientists interviewed have been working on for 20+ years!  I was struck by how different the attitude, as expressed by one of the physicists in the film, Savas Dimopoulos, was to failure:

“Jumping from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the big secret to success.”

Failure seemed to be an accepted part of the process, and a looooooooong process at that. As another physicist, Monica Dunford, says in a voice-over during footage of her going for a run:

“When you’re dealing with something that’s a long term project . . . you can’t think about the end. Ever. If you start off a marathon thinking ‘I can’t wait to get to the finish line. I’m going to have my data,’ or ‘I’m going to have my crispy french fries at the finish line’ or whatever motives you. If you start thinking that at mile one and it’s like ten minutes into the race and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Wow, I’m only at mile one, I’ve got 22.5 miles to go.’ If you’re thinking like that at the start, then you’re done. Mentally you are done. This is what doing discovery physics means. This is what discovery means.”

I’ve thought about both films a lot recently and wondered: As I make future plans in reaction to past failures, am I being more like the actor in Birdman, or like the scientists in Particle Fever?

I have to admit that I have been being more like the actor in Birdman, running from failures and taking desperate actions in the hopes that future success would bury the memory of my failures, rather than embracing life as a long experiment that includes successes and failures.

So, I’m hoping to spend some time at the end of this month reflecting on some of my most recent failures with a “scientific method” type of lense:

  • Question: What question about my life was I trying to answer?
  • Hypothesis: What did I think the solution would be?
  • Experiment: What actions did I take to try to make happen what I wanted to happen?
  • Data: What are the facts about what happened?
  • Observations: What other things did I notice and feel about what happened?
  • Conclusion: Did I achieve my hoped for solution? Why or why not? If I didn’t, what did I learn and what will I do differently next time?

As we wind down the first month of 2015:

  • What hasn’t turned out the way you expected?
  • What will be your next experiment?