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Leaders, Find Out How to Open New Doors of Opportunity

Everyone is familiar with the Comfort Zone, that place of safety and predictability that we like to inhabit, especially during difficult times. The Comfort Zone consists of our daily routines, opinions, assumptions, and accumulated knowledge that guides most of our behavior.

There are two other zones that I would like to introduce to you: the Learning Zone and the Panic Zone.

Imagine three concentric circles, like the rings around Saturn. The inner circle is the Comfort Zone. Moving outward, the next circle is the Learning Zone and the outermost circle is the Panic Zone.

The Learning Zone is exactly what it says: the place where learning occurs. It is often an uncomfortable place because it holds information, ideas and situations that are unfamiliar to us and that sometimes conflict with our Comfort Zone. For this reason, it is not unusual to resist the Learning Zone.

The last circle is the Panic Zone. Here, no learning occurs. Panic shuts down the brain, elevates the heart rate, and creates the famous fight-or-flight response. The Panic Zone is best avoided by all.

The challenge of effective learning, then, is to push yourself (or be pushed) out of the Comfort Zone into the Learning Zone, but not so far that you rocket into the Panic Zone. The speed and trajectory of the launch into learning is a trial-and-error process at the earliest stages of learning—think about walking, for example—but becomes more predictable as we understand our personal capacity for discovering and embracing formerly unknown information or experience.

The more we learn, the greater our Comfort Zone expands and in doing so, pushes the Learning Zone farther out. The effect of this expanded learning and comfort is to reduce the size of the Panic Zone. Theoretically, life-long learners eventually erase the Panic Zone entirely as they gain confidence in their ability to learn and thus effectively deal with any potential threat. This is the goal of education! To expand our Comfort Zone by making us more competent and confident and to eliminate the Panic Zone altogether.

The distressing economic conditions in our country have reversed this process for many. Financial loss, severed work relationships, and any number of other setbacks have shrunk the Comfort Zone and caused many people to fortify it, closing it more tightly to the threats of the Panic Zone. Dire news from around the globe seems to feed the Panic Zone, causing it to expand almost daily.

Meanwhile, the Learning Zone stands as a buffer between the two, offering the eternal promise of increased comfort and diminished panic.

How can you overcome the stress and fear of current difficulties? Learn! Help your children learn. Study the issues of the day. Read more broadly than you normally do. Reach out to people and communities that are unfamiliar to you. Seek better answers. Use your Learning Zone to enrich your Comfort Zone and invite others to share in the process.

Hunkering down in fear will close off your world and ensure greater difficulty. When you learn, you open new doors of opportunity at the same time you discover the amazing potential the resides within you. Learning creates energy and energy creates forward progress. Be bold today: Learn!

Categories: Business, Leadership

About Susan Marshall

Susan Marshall

Susan A. Marshall is author, speaker and founder, whose mission is to create a stronger, more confident future, one person or team at a time.  Through personal experience and hands-on work with executives from diverse industries at all levels, Susan has had the privilege of helping thousands of people do the difficult and exhilarating work of growth.