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  • Writer's pictureAmy Woolf

"A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there" Gina Milicia

Updated: May 22

This week I had the great pleasure of listening to Sandy Lindsay MBE speak. Sandy, the founder and Managing Director of Tangerine PR, shared her wisdom and wit by taking us on her journey to build this incredible, award winning agency. She also shared her quotes to live by, one of which is the above.

This quote has stayed with me.

As a self professed adrenaline junkie I was under the impression that I have been constantly pushing boundaries. A thought reiterated by many who know me. Yet when I think about it, am I really pushing myself out of my comfort zone? Do I really do the maximum to challenge myself? Do you?

The Woolf Partnership is anchored in people. We place enormous value in getting to know our candidates and clients. We discuss motivations, drivers, what is important to their families. In the time that I have owned this business, "challenge" has always scored in the top percentile of what candidates are looking for in their careers. The types of challenges people are after? The juicy ones. The ones that push them beyond their comfort zones.

There is an argument to say that as a firm that targets the 20% of employees responsible for 80% of their business impact (based on our friendly Italian polymath's Pareto Principle) it is no wonder our candidates are champing at the bit to burst out their comfort zones. Except I am not sure I buy it, in its entirety.

If we were ALL willing, waiting and wanting to emerge from the comfort of our own zones, wouldn't there be more innovation, more change, more transformation? Because surely those things happen when we go against the grain?

The Comfort Zone idea came into our consciousness over a hundred years ago, when psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodgson developed the Yerkes-Dodson Law (quite dissimilar to Coughlin's Law). They found that performance increases when our stress levels increase. To a point.

What the research demonstrates is that pushing ourselves to the edge of your comfort zone enables us to perform at our best. Once we get too stressed, when we push too hard, we become less productive. (Makes sense, right?)

So what is the answer?

Ultimately, we have found that the candidates who really push themselves, do perform best when considerably challenged. We see glimmers of pure excellence when we ask them something they aren't expecting, give them a problem to solve they don't have all the tools to solve immediately. Some of those people could survive in entirely new and scary environments. Should they? Perhaps. But I think that is the exception, not the norm.

Instead we propose teetering on the edge of your comfort zone. One foot out the door of ease and one foot into the unknown. Don't settle for easy, but don't end up too frazzled to be successful.

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