Sunday, May 12, 2019

Zoning in on Change

The comfort zone is the great enemy to creativity; moving beyond it necessitates intuition, which in turn configures new perspectives and conquers fears. - Dan Stevens

There are many impediments to the change process. One of the biggest culprits is fear.  Many times, this either clouds our judgment or inhibits our motivation to take needed risks to both challenge and upend the status quo.  In other cases, we might be afraid of failure.  I often reflect upon how, throughout the course of history, many of society’s most celebrated success stories went through the heartache and letdown of not succeeding at first.  To put it bluntly, these famous failures have influenced our current lives in countless ways.  In their eyes, the act of failing was a catalyst to learn from mistakes and eventually implement ideas or create solutions that have fundamentally changed the world. Henry Ford said it best, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” 

Another factor that has a negative impact on change is contentment.  An aspect of human nature is that when we are in a state of comfort, there is no real urgency to do something differently or better.  These mental habits lead to the creation of comfort zones that we rarely step outside of. Why should we if everything is great, right?  Or so our mind has us believe in a false dichotomy. The result is that we often then reside in a zone that is most comfortable, resulting in risk-averse behavior that impedes personal and professional progress.  What typically morphs are fallbacks on some of the most dangerous phrases in any profession such as that’s the way we have always done it, or it’s always worked this way. 

Comfort and fear are intimately connected. Whether separate or together they represent zones that many of us fall into and have trouble at times finding a way out of no matter how hard we try.  They work as powerful forces to keep us in respective lanes that are perceived to provide benefits, either individually or at the organizational level.  The reality though is that these zones hold us, and those who we serve, back.  For change to become business as usual and something that is pursued when needed, it is crucial that we identify where we are currently. The image below provides not only a great visual but also some critical context as to how we can put more energy into zones that lead to changes in practice. 

The main idea here is to find comfort in growth. As you look at the elements depicted in the image above, where do you see yourself dedicating the most time and energy? Be careful not to look at this as black or white.  There is a great deal of gray in each of the zones above.  I for one have added many additional elements through reflection to help move the majority of my efforts to learning and growth.  Consider developing questions aligned to each, using stems such as why, how, when, and what.  Improvement and ultimate success in the endeavors we are engaged in rely on acknowledging the zone where we spend the most time and making consistent efforts to invest more in learning and growth. 


  1. Did you develop the graphic Comfort Zone/Fear Zone/Learning Zone/Growth Zone graphic?