I used to identify certain challenges as “Uncomfortable Zones” until several years ago when I was launched fully into this zone in my personal and professional life. After a failed back surgery confined me to a total body cast that prohibited movement for nearly six months, I was confronted with many challenging decisions. I had not planned on retiring from my group dental practice of over 30 years, but when my only other choice was to risk paralysis from attempting such a physically demanding job, I had to leave that comfortable zone that I knew so well. After the advice of my family, medical professionals and with much prayer, I chose to enter what I now refer to as the “Miracle Zone”.
Not all “Miracle Zones” have such demanding and life-changing circumstances; however, for all of us, it is an area that moves us out of our standard, comfortable area of operation into great unknowns that require growth. During my period of recovery, I immersed myself in reading many inspirational books reaffirming the tremendous resiliency and capacity of the human spirit to recover from disappointment and tragedy. I also examined what I might pursue that might build on the tremendous meaningful purpose I enjoyed in my dental practice. I now recognize that although the comfort zone is worshipped and becomes the target or goal, it limits our development and ability to discover new horizons. It required a new set of glasses that looked forward to opportunities rather than looking at life through the rear view mirror.
Transitioning into a new chapter of life for me was forced by a physical condition, but that difficulty opened up a whole new chapter and growth in teaching, life coaching and leadership development in healthcare, education and non-profit fields. As I encounter many offices, I hear far too often” I don’t know if I can do this for another 10 years.” The skill set and decision-making process required for a dental practice has grown in complexity in the past 10 years yet our own understanding of these dynamic changes has often not kept pace.
Rarely can you bring an individual or organization to even consider change unless they are experiencing some level of turbulence. Then, the failure to address or even recognize the issue (because it is uncomfortable) ends up having a serious impact on your growth or the ability to make effective changes. Regardless of our age and stage in life, developing a process that illuminates a challenge and reveals the tools required to make an informed decision is critical. Without this skill set we often remain stuck with the thought “I am not comfortable making a decision to move forward”.
Recently, I coached a high school principal that faced a conflict with a group of parents. He was uncomfortable stepping into what he saw as their arena “chaos” in order to address a challenging issue. Our natural tendency is often to avoid such issues and hope they will go away. In this circumstance, the principal chose to do the opposite; he looked at the circumstance with a different set of glasses – the perspective of the parents – and he entered the arena of “chaos” with vulnerability and transparency to collaborate toward a common solution, as opposed to acting in a defensive manner. The conflict could not have been resolved otherwise, and now, not only can he and the parents move forward, but he has added a new means of problem solving to his comfort zone, which he will use again for greater leadership in his role.
What are some specific Miracle Zones that can impact performance and satisfaction in your office?
You may be facing the need to develop the infrastructure of your practice and your leadership management in order to support growth and greater profit. It might be time to enlist a new associate or have an existing one depart. You might not have created a new vision or growth plan in years, and you’ve realized it’s time to do so. While these changes often create turbulence and this leap might be something you would rather avoid, the other side may reap the tremendous satisfaction, growth, and profitability that you have been looking for and unable to find in your current state of operation.
This is a good time of year to ask the questions: What do I want different in my life? Where do I want it to be in 6 months? What are the skills and expertise that I need to seek to move forward in the changing profession around me? Am I willing to have these honest conversations and gather the necessary information to make an objective decision based on facts and not simply my feelings? Please know that your decisions will have a ripple effect on those around you. Start the process, get out of your comfortable zone and move into your Miracle Zone.
Dr. Jim Schroeder is the Founder of Leadership by Design. He has been writing about leadership and organizational growth for over 30 years.
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