by Jackie S. Martin, CEO | Founder of A Matter of Motivation
Remember playing the kids paper game where you would connect the dots on a piece of paper to create an image? At first you couldn’t make out the image and were just following the number sequence step by step and dot by dot until the collection of connections brought about a picture. Viola! The action of moving from spot to spot, sometimes in blind faith, eventually would result in the discovery of something wonderful.
Life can feel like that. We look ahead and can’t see the future designed for us until we go about the sometimes painstaking task of connecting the dots. Life Coach Beth Montpas describes it this way, “When we step to the edge of our own personal circle, it’s no surprise that we can’t see what’s beyond it. It’s not until we stretch that circle outward that we are able to see the bigger picture.”
Walking to the edge of anything is scary and often difficult to do. My sister-in-law was like that when she visited the Grand Canyon. She couldn’t help it. Just approaching the edge of any cliff, large or small, made her legs turn to jelly and her knees ache.
3 steps to a bigger, more beautiful picture of your life:
1) Name the dots.
Determine what the dots represent in your life:
- The specific people in your sphere of influence (family, friends, community, etc.)?
- Your passions (cooking, travel, mission work, health, reading, etc.)?
- Your core values (peace, strength, health, etc.)?
Then arrange those dots together in a way that feels in balance to you. This way you can measure whether your financial, spiritual, physical, intellectual, family, social, and career areas of life are working in harmony or not.
Success expert and author Darren Hardy shares the tool he calls the “Wheel of Life” as a way to diagram the strength of each area of our life. Formed like spokes on a wheel, the areas relate to each other and keep us in balance. If any areas of life are out of balance with the others, it becomes like a wheel with a flat spot, thumping and bumping and causing a very uncomfortable ride.
Our goal in identifying our “dots” is threefold;
- Determine what’s most important to you—your “dots”
- Identify on where you are right now
- And form a very clear picture of where you want to go
2) The dots become clear at the edge of your comfort zone.
Now that you’ve identified your dots, it’s important to understand where they’ve brought you so far and how they can help you unveil the beautiful picture beyond. The problem is that the only dots you can see right now are the ones inside your current situation—or your comfort zone.
The view at the center of your comfort zone stinks because it’s cluttered with the “way you’ve always done it.” The only way you’ll ever see beyond that zone is to walk out on the edge. In fact, you might have been in your circle of comfort so long you don’t even recognize the edge so you’re going to have to challenge yourself and your current reaction to test yourself.
If you get that weird, uncomfortable feeling when someone asks you to try something new, you might be close to the edge of your zone. If you find yourself resisting when people suggest a change, then you’re getting to the edge of your comfort zone. Scary yes, but in order to grow it’s going to require that you continually seek and push on that edge. Hardy says that we should “get comfortable being uncomfortable,” because growth requires a constant state of discomfort.
What’s at risk if you don’t move to the edge? Stagnation, mediocrity, lost potential for you and the others depending on you. Stepping to the edge of your comfort zone is the only way to identify the next dots in your picture.
3) Push your zone out to reveal the picture.
Eleanor Roosevelt said to do one thing every day that scares you. What scares you? If it scares you, it’s probably the perfect challenge to help you stretch that circle of comfort. If it doesn’t scare you, then it’s not challenging enough.
Start by choosing one area of your life that are deeply inside your comfort zone and step out in that area. Push past those scary feelings and deliberately try something new. When you do, assess how you feel. If that makes you nervous or resistant, then you’re doing it right. Stick with it and soon the discomfort with subside.
We live in a culture of immediate results and that goes counter of reality. Growth takes time. Success takes time, effort, and lots and lots of hard work. Ultimately the goal with pushing past your comfort zone isn’t success—its failure. Failure represents the edge of your current capability and your greatest opportunity for growth. Only outside your comfort zone and in your “failure zone” do you begin to identify the next dots in your picture.
If just the thought of doing this alone is daunting, then find a partner to do it with you. Give them permission to challenge you to stretch yourself further than you would on your own. The more you step out of your circle of comfort and onto the next dot in your sequence, the more beautiful the image will be that you will uncover for yourself in the end. Those dots will reveal themselves as you push past, run over, grind down, and work through each moment of change and growth you create.
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