Posts Tagged ‘flow’

One of the most over used phrases in coaching today is “get out of your comfort zone”. The thing is, I believe almost no one knows exactly what a comfort zone is and that the idea of getting out of it is actually very dangerous for most people. It’s what kills countless wonderful goals dead in their tracks.

The concept of the comfort zone was first described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 1980s in his work on Flow. Flow is the state when your ability to do a task exactly matches the challenge of the task. His definition of the comfort zone is the area around flow where you are either expanding your abilities by stretching just beyond flow, or consolidating your learning by repeating what you have just learned until it becomes natural to you.

Outside the comfort zone are two danger areas – one, where you have gone too far beyond what you know and you are in danger of burning out or of stressing yourself to the point of breaking, either physically or mentally or both. This is called the Burn Out Zone. You can go here, but you can’t stay very long before the stress becomes too much and all learning stops. This is where people have heart attacks or strokes or nervous breakdowns! Why would anyone suggest you want to set your goals out here?

The other zone, which is arguably even more dangerous, is the Rust Out Zone. This is where you don’t take any risks, you don’t stretch beyond what you are absolutely certain of and all you do is repeat the same “safe” behaviour until you die of boredom! This is the zone of drop outs, alcoholics and drug addicts and depression and its often the place where people go after they’ve been hurt in the burn out zone!

So I think what people are really saying when they say get out of your comfort zone is “get out of the rust out zone”! The trouble is that’s not what people hear. So they set themselves tasks that are way out in the burn out zone and then beat themselves up when they don’t achieve them. Do this too often and they fall into the rust out zone where they feel safe but depressed. They feel like failures.

So your ideal state is actually right in the comfort zone! Its where your ability to learn is not compromised by stress or boredom. Surfing the wave between learning and consolidation you are at your most brilliant and most extraordinary!

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Here’s a great story about leadership:


By good fortune, I was able to raft down the Motu River in New Zealand twice during the last year. The magnificent four-day journey traverses one of the last wilderness areas in the North Island.

The first expedition was led by “Buzz”, an American guide with a great deal of rafting experience and many stories to tell of mighty rivers such as the Colorado. With a leader like Buzz, there was no reason to fear any of the great rapids on the Motu.

The first half day, in the gentle upper reaches, was spent developing teamwork and co-ordination. Strokes had to be mastered, and the discipline of following commands without question was essential. In the boiling fury of a rapid, there would be no room for any mistake. When Buzz bellowed above the roar of the water, an instant reaction was essential.

We mastered the Motu. In every rapid we fought against the river and we overcame it. The screamed commands of Buzz were matched only by the fury of our paddles, as we took the raft exactly where Buzz wanted it to go.

At the end of the journey, there was a great feeling of triumph. We had won. We proved that we were superior. We knew that we could do it. We felt powerful and good. The mystery and majesty of the Motu had been overcome.

The second time I went down the Motu. the experience I had gained should have been invaluable, but the guide on this journey was a very softly spoken Kiwi. It seemed that it would not even be possible to hear his voice above the noise of the rapids.

As we approached the first rapid, he never even raised his voice. He did not attempt to take command of us or the river. Gently and quietly he felt the mood of the river and watched every little whirlpool. There was no drama and no shouting. There was no contest to be won. He loved the river.

We sped through each rapid with grace and beauty and, after a day, the river had become our friend, not our enemy. The quiet Kiwi was not our leader, but only the person whose sensitivity was more developed than our own. Laughter replaced the tension of achievement.

Soon the quiet Kiwi was able to lean back and let all of us take turns as leader. A quiet nod was enough to draw attention to the things our lack of experience prevented us from seeing. If we made a mistake, then we laughed and it was the next person’s turn.

We began to penetrate the mystery of the Motu. Now, like the quiet Kiwi, we listened to the river and we looked carefully for all those things we had not even noticed the first time.

At the end of the journey, we had overcome nothing except ourselves. We did not want to leave behind our friend, the river. There was no contest, and so nothing had been won. Rather we had become one with the river.

It remains difficult to believe that the external circumstances of the two journeys were similar. The difference was in an attitude and a frame of mind. At the end of the journey, it seemed that there could be no other way. Given the opportunity to choose a leader, everyone would have chosen someone like Buzz. At the end of the second journey, we had glimpsed a very different vision and we felt humble – and intensely happy.

So here’s the question. Which of these instructors was the true leader?

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Its funny how much energy we use thinking of complicated strategies about how to approach clients when the reality is that the clients we want are looking just as hard for us!

Think about it, people buy things either because they need them, or even better because they want them. The only real sales strategy we need is to find the people who are looking for us. If you want a particular result the chances are someone else stands to benefit from your result – remember the purpose of all business – its about creating enrichment for everyone involved. So for example, if you are looking for someone to help you grow your business in a certain way, the perfect person for that project has skills which they are looking to use in exactly that way. To put it really simply, if you want to sell cakes, your perfect customer is someone who wants or needs cakes! And they are looking for you as hard as you are looking for them. When you complete this circle of fulfillment everyone wins, everyone is enriched and everyone grows, which creates even more business.

Thinking about your customer as someone who needs to be enriched is a powerful strategy. If you approach a potential customer with the idea that you are going to sell them something, you are immediately going to set up a resistence – remember that incredibly sensitive sixth sense we’ve talked about before? Your customer can read your mind and he or she knows instinctively that you want something from them. But if you approach them only with the genuine intention to enrich them who could possibly resist? Don’t waste any more time or energy on the hard sell – that is so last century! Focus on enrichment instead and watch your business flow.

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Wikpedia defines integrity as “a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness of one’s actions. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy, in that it regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs. The word “integrity” stems from the Latin adjective integer meaning whole, complete.”

Obviously to have true integrity first we must have awareness of what our values are, which was what yesterday’s exercise was all about. So now let’s look at what it means to always be acting from integrity.

Once you are aware of your values system, it makes decision making much easier because you can check every decision off against your list, much the same way as knowing what your true purpose is. Values are not the same as purpose – values refer to how you act. So two people could have very similar life purposes, but their value systems could be very different so the way they live their purpose will be very different, and their vision and goals will also likely be very different.

That’s why when you are creating a team its important not just to have a clear and powerful purpose, but to be aware of the values of the team as a whole and of the individual members. Having a common purpose is fantastic but if the team members have very differing values  (and they will!) their ideas of how to manifest that purpose may cause conflict. That’s not to say that having team members with different values is a bad thing, the more different your team members are the more powerful the mastermind is because there are more unique connections it can make. But team members have to be aware and not just tolerant of their differences but actually appreciative.

So integrity comes from always living and acting in accordance with your personal value system. When you are doing this life goes a lot more smoothly, you attract the people you need to help you, you are less stressed and you will have an ability to deal with challenges much more effectively. You will also be more confident in your decision making and less likely to second guess yourself.

I love the fact that integrity comes from the Latin for whole or complete. It also means strength. If you are coming from a place of integrity you are automatically stronger and the people you interact with will sense this and have confidence in you.

If you’ve ever tried to be someone you’re not you will know how hard it is to maintain that facade. Its hard work and its stressful and it is not susatainable. Well, living out of integrity is exactly like that, its really hard work.

So make life easier for yourself and your team by always working with integrity in congruence with your personal value system. That way you can stay in flow and thrive!

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