Get into your Discomfort Zone

I recently came across a compilation of parkour videos on YouTube. It’s on a channel brilliantly titled “People are Awesome”, and it got me thinking about comfort zones. Honestly, “awesome” does not do these people justice. Here’s the video:

Intrigued by what makes these guys risk breaking every bone in their body every time they go out, I started to do a little research. Parkour and Freerunning essentially involves jumping off, onto, over and around walls, buildings and pretty much everything else that makes up the average urban landscape. It’s extremely skilful, athletic, and downright dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.

I soon realised that Parkour isn’t just a leisure activity to its aficionados (albeit a high-octane one). It’s a way of life, a culture, a state of mind. It’s all about seeing every obstacle as an opportunity, and pushing yourself to conquer it in new and exciting ways. And the parallels in the workplace were irresistible.

I’m not for one moment suggesting we all go out and leap across the office rooftops, but consider this for a moment.

Most of us wake up in the morning and, from the way we take breakfast, to how we get to work, to our favourite chillout activities in the evening, we follow a pre-programmed routine for the day. Parkour breaks free from that idea of routine, or that there’s only one way of doing things. The parkour world is a world of possibilities. That thing that most of us see as a handrail? In parkour, that becomes, an object to balance on, vault over, slide under, swing around… Everything is a new opportunity.

Imagine if we thought that way in a work environment. Instead of the same, comfortable, daily routine way of doing things, what if we challenged ourselves to see our jobs differently, to take ourselves out of our comfort zone and find new ways to achieve our goals?

Sounding more like discomfort than comfort? Good. Because it’s only when you come out of your comfort zone, take a few risks, confront new challenges, that you truly start to see new possibilities and solve problems differently. Sure, it’s nerve wracking to be the first to try something new, but when it pays off, the rewards, both personal and professional, are high. And if it doesn’t pay off, you learn a valuable lesson that you take to your next challenge.

When you have a team of individuals who have faced an anxiety, overcome challenges and achieved something new and rewarding, you’ll see it pay off in increased confidence, a willingness to try more new things and a spike in motivation to perform and to excel. And when the team is performing well, that’s good for their personal development, good for business, and good for the customer.

It’s actually been scientifically proven that, in order to achieve maximum performance, we need a state of relative anxiety – a condition in which our stress levels are slightly higher than normal. It’s called Optimal Anxiety, and it’s a space just outside our comfort zone (too far outside your comfort zone though, with too much anxiety and we’re too stressed to be productive, and performance takes a nose dive. So be careful how you tread).

It’s our Discomfort Zone if you like. It might feel scary at first, but anyone who’s ever pushed themselves to get to the next level or to accomplish something, knows that when you really challenge yourself, the amazing can happen. People really are awesome when they put their minds to it.


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Joanne Taylor
Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation

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