Staying in your comfort zone is an easy way to become complacent. While you sit comfortably, the world around you is changing, fast. We have a responsibility and an opportunity, now more than ever, to craft the world we want to live in. In order to create the bright, lovable future we desire, we need to remain curious, creative and adaptable. When it comes to solving problems, the comfort zone is where innovation and creativity go to die.
Comfort serves a purpose
We are creatures of habit. Not only do we love our familiar routines, but they are incredibly important and necessary. We are reliant on them. They allow us to conserve our mental energy for the things that matter most in the day and perform mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. It's therefore very natural to construct and retreat to our comfort zones frequently.
Many people seem to believe that comfort is the best way to limit growth, but I don't completely agree. Comfort is a necessary foundation upon which you can build. Forcing yourself to engage in radical change is the best way to prevent it from lasting. That's why I have tried over the years to encourage myself to step outside the comfort zone in small, meaningful ways.
Comfort is a necessary foundation upon which you can build. Forcing yourself to engage in radical change is the best way to prevent it from lasting.William Chaumeton, EGGS Design
Innovators must be comfortable outside the comfort zone
As innovators, we need to be prepared and able to push not only ourselves out of our comfort zones, but our clients and the businesses we work with. Things have changed a lot in the last decade. We've found ourselves living in an increasingly complex world with an increasingly uncertain future. A rise in corporate mistrust, political instability, environmental degradation, and understanding has shaped a new generation of like-minded consumers and markets demanding change. This has in-turn created a wealth of opportunity for creatives.
We are now leading the charge in creating a brighter, more lovable future. To be innovative, we need to be willing to step outside the comfort zone, ask difficult questions, chase difficult answers and challenge perceptions.
Five ways to boost creativity
These changes don’t come fast and easy. Just like stepping outside your comfort zone, the problems we tackle and the solutions we create need to work incrementally. That’s why I believe that stepping out of your comfort zone needs to in itself be a controlled, comfortable experience. Here are a few ways I’ve learned to boost my own sense of wonder and push myself outside of my comfort zone more frequently:
Leaving your comfort zone is understandably a difficult thing. It is often much easier when you have a specific goal or set of goals in mind. Grab some paper, open a document in your computer or phone and get started by writing down what you need/want to achieve.
Do everyday things differently
Turn off your auto-pilot. At school, I was taught to sketch and paint using my non-dominant hand. This resulted in me being less focused on perfection and more focused on creation which resulted in more interesting compositions. I have tried to apply this ‘do it differently’ principle wherever possible. Recently, I moved from London to Oslo to challenge myself with a new culture, lifestyle, and language. To get to know the city better, I began walking home different ways each day, and as a result, I got to know my new home much faster.
Try making coffee with one hand, go vegetarian for a week, try a new operating system. Recalibrate your reality and don’t be put off when things don’t work the way you plan or take a little longer than normal.
Create something useless just for fun
I know this may seem like a waste of time, but it has really helped me motivate myself to use new software, try new tools and re-connect with my love of sketching and CAD. When you create something useless, there is no pressure, no expectations, and no limits. Allow yourself space to make mistakes and explore wild ideas.
Be interested in others
The best thing I ever did was learn to listen. This comes much easier when you've lived in foreign countries because communication is incredibly important, especially when dealing with clients. Be friendly and compassionate always, speak to others, involve them, question them, listen to them. If you can change something for that one person, then you are making a difference, no matter how small.
Just go for it! But don’t leap off the proverbial cliff without looking…
Be ambitious but take it slow. Be willing to push yourself but make sure that you know your limits. It takes a lot of courage to break out of your comfort zone. You get the same benefits whether you jump in headfirst or start slow, so don't be afraid to take it at your own pace.
Get out there
As comfortable as you may feel right now, your comfort zone is not the place to be if you want to innovate. The world is changing rapidly, and there is more need for creative thinking than ever before. Creativity is a skill that can be learned, practiced and developed but it shouldn’t be rushed. The more often you do things differently, the more you will learn, the better you will become at taking calculated risks, challenging yourself and trying new things. This will in-turn affect the things you do and the people around you.
So next time you are sitting down to do something mundane, think ‘how can I do this differently?’, what are my goals? Listen to people, experiment and get stuck in. The only way to innovate and solve the complex problems we now face is to walk boldly into the unknown and bask in it.
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