Some discomfort can lead to victory in the 'learning zone'

  • Published
  • By Julie Primbs
  • Chief of Staff, Ogden Air Logistics Center
History is full of stories about people who have risen to great heights and accomplished great feats. Mother Theresa impacted the lives of the less fortunate people in the world; Thomas Edison invented hundreds of items; Martin Luther King Jr. rallied thousands of people to peacefully protest and advance the civil liberties of all people. Every person who has accomplished something big or small in their life has one thing in common: At some point in time -- perhaps on several occasions -- they stepped out of their comfort zone and took a risk. They chose to face discomfort and adversity. They put their neck on the line, they stumbled or fell, but pressed on. To accomplish anything, we must motivate ourselves (or be motivated) and take a few steps out into the unknown.

If you look around at the people in your life and workplace, it will be easy to identify those who are resting in their comfort zone and those who constantly step out of it. There is that co-worker who is always willing to try something new or take on a challenge, even if it means risking a hit to his or her ego. Then there are those co-workers who are quite happy with where they are, how they do things and are very comfortable with the boundaries they've set for themselves. Where are you on this spectrum? Do you spend more time inside or outside of your comfort zone?

When we exit our comfort zone, we often step into the "learning zone." It is here in the learning zone that we are often confronted with the possibility of failure. This potential for embarrassment and disappointment can lead us to frustration and anxiety. But the learning zone is also where we are presented with the opportunity to try something new and succeed greatly.

I'll admit, stepping outside of your comfort zone can be very difficult. But we can't let the difficulties of change and learning paralyze our lives with worry and trepidation. So much potential lies within each one of us, it is unfortunate when someone chooses to stop moving forward. Overcoming self-imposed limitations and realizing more of your potential will greatly enhance aspects of your life at home and work.

It is important to recognize that we, the military and civilians in the Air Force, comprise the greatest asset of our organization. Just as we want the capabilities of our airplanes and weapon systems to continue evolving, we must do the same with our human capital. Opportunities for expanding our personal capabilities abound. It is critical for each of us to broaden our unique skill set and enhance our organizations' expertise through personal growth.

Maybe you're in a rut -- at home or at work. Perhaps you feel stagnant. I encourage you to push yourself outside your comfort zone and out of that rut. When confronted with the new and uncomfortable, ask yourself, "What's the worst that can happen?" Then think about the likelihood of that "worst case scenario" actually coming to fruition. Chances are usually small that the worst case scenario will indeed happen. And, if you can accept that worst case scenario and see how you might mitigate and recover if it does happen -- you are well on your way to reducing worry in your life. Recognize that it is more likely something good will emerge from life's ventures and you will be freed up to move forward and enhance your life.

Sure, trying new things and learning new ways of doing business is bound to result in some disappointments. But it also carries with it the potential of discovering great and wonderful things. Step into that learning zone and explore new things around you. You might be surprised at what you discover and what you are able to accomplish.