Leaving a comfort zone

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When we’re kids we seem to be able to go off on tangents, new directions, very quickly. Often we also get bored very quickly. But we like to ask questions such as “why” a lot or we find out a fact and think it’s fantastic. We want new and different things – we always want to try something – usually when we see another kid with something new. “I want one” or “I want a turn” usually come to mind. Although this isn’t always positive or the exact traits we want to take into adulthood – that level of curiosity and exploration is. I realised a few months ago when I looked at my book shelves that I had a good amount of books on topics of interest or books that are directly applicable i.e. professional skills etc. But I realised I didn’t have a lot on things I don’t know much about, don’t use or apply regularly or topics that I’m a total beginner on. Ironically you would think we would need more resources on what we don’t know than what we do.

I bought on book on climate change recently by Bill Gates, a very good read. I bought it because I realised that although I may have a basic understanding of climate change in principle i.e. things are getting hotter and it’s on the news, media and mentioned in documentaries very regularly – I actually didn’t know much about it at all. My point here isn’t to sell everyone on a particular point of view or actions on climate change. Everyone is free for their own opinions. But I realised that I had a semi-formed opinion on something I didn’t really know too much about or understand the arguments or any potential solutions. It’s not just in science either but take politics, sports, arts and culture – we usually all have some sort of opinion – even if it’s “not sure” but that doesn’t mean we know much or have explored a topic before coming to an opinion or belief. I’ve come to the realisation that focusing too narrowly can often come at a detriment of wider thinking or more varied understanding. Professionally we stick to our area – people that work in sales read sales information, books on sales or marketing. People that work in finance, politics, management, engineering etc – we keep an eye on our “field.”A few years ago I read a design book. I know nothing about art or design outside of “that looks nice” or “ugh” to be honest. But I had a read of it because it was something different and I had saw it on a recommended list by an author I had read in a business book. Although it wasn’t all “up my alley” so to speak – I got one of the best lessons from this book. It was talking about the design of physical products and how if something is designed correctly, you shouldn’t need to explain how it works. In effect you design it with the user in mind and for the user to know how to use it. Take a door – if it’s designed correctly you shouldn’t need a push or pull sign. Well that made me think about processes in general, particularly in business or coaching settings. The design of a framework or process should be easy to use and created with the user in mind. Very simple and “common sense” in many ways but think about how often complexity or bureaucracy in organisations can make things more difficult, take more time or ends up snowballing over the years until people can’t even remember why they do it. I’m sure everyone has at least one task at work or even at home like that.

We need that curiosity and exploration – that childish thought of “I want to see how that works/I want to have a go/I want to know more about that or why something is the way it is.” It’s very easy to only look at things for necessity and ignore the innate urge to be curious. To try to understand new and different things and opinions. There’s always more to learn – more resources than at any other time in human history – the only thing stopping us is our fear of leaving our comfort zone – our fear of feeling stupid by tackling something new. Explore – be curious.

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