Comfort sounds like such a wonderful word, doesn’t it? I mean, who doesn’t want to sit in their favorite chair, wrapped in a down filled comforter, in front of a crackling fire while watching their favorite TV show? There is nothing wrong with comfort until comfort becomes a way of life. Sit in that chair for too long, and you’ve got a problem.
I want to see your leadership go to a completely different level and help you be a person of depth. So often, leadership is focused on what you are doing. Things like goal setting, vision statements, and productivity. The better question is what are you learning? How are you being stretched? What new experiences are you forcing yourself to engage in? In what ways are you breaking out of your comfort zone and engaging in learning a new skill, a new language, or visiting places you’ve never been with the people you care about? True leadership is about who you are and who are you becoming.
Living in complacency and comfort can leave us in a place where our creativity, adventure and vision are completely wiped out. Instead of helping us to feel rejuvenated, it often has the opposite effect and causes stagnation. If I’m not learning, I’m dying. According to Robert Quinn in his book, Deep Change, we are only moving in 1 of 2 directions. We are either in the process of deep change or slow death.
“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” — Abraham Maslow
The antidote to this is to create avenues in our lives where change is inevitable. In his book, Quinn says that, “one key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment. Empowered leaders are the only ones who can induce real change. They can forcefully communicate a level beyond telling. By having the courage to change themselves, they model the behavior they are asking of others.”
When our friends ask us when we are moving back to the U.S. from Spain, my answer seems to come back to the same theme, “We’re learning too much in Europe right now and we are here for the foreseeable future.” The process of deep change in our lives is just too valuable to give up.
When you live in a foreign country, you can’t help but to be stretched. Everything is out of the box. For the first few months the experience was extremely difficult on everyone. But whoever said breaking out of comfort zones would be easy? 10 months into this adventure our kids are fluent in Spanish, (some semi-fluent), and they’ve learned to grow in spite of the pain of uncertainty and discomfort. They are learning a ton about themselves because they are in positions that force them into the deep change process.
“In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance. In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not. And what you do not know is the only thing you know, And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.” ~ T.S. Eliot
In a recent research study from Cornell University, 96 participants were asked to recall either a significant experiential or material purchase. Then they asked the participants how much they had talked about the purchase and how much satisfaction they derived from it. Participants rated a higher satisfaction for experiences than for possessions, because they were more likely to talk about the experiences with others. 6 other studies were conducted with similar results.
The conclusion? Experience is more important than things. This is true because deep change occurs when we participate in experience, especially experiences filled with adventure. The trip you take with your son or daughter camping, or to Sea World, helps to create deep change and is way more significant than what you buy them. The researchers stated that experiences live on in our memories and in the stories we tell, while our material goods ‘disappear’ as we get used to them. A once-cherished CD player is now obsolete, but, as Humphrey Bogart once told Ingrid Bergman, ‘We’ll always have Paris.’
So, make a personal commitment to pursue new experiences in your life. Learn something new. Go to an art museum, get the Duolingo app and learn a new language, start a blog, see a part of the country you’ve never seen, take a crazy trip, engage people who are different than you, act out of your compassion, learn to dance, and your life will never be the same.