“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” Richard Branson
In Part 1, I told stories about leaving your comfort zone to explore opportunities. In Part 2, I design a new technique to help you leave your comfort zone to embrace opportunities. Use it to prepare for embracing new opportunities.
2. Missed an Opportunity Lately?
Have you ever recognized an opportunity and regretted not taking it? You may have felt it was too risky to leave your comfort zone. Or, you may have feared that taking the opportunity meant a large leap into unknown territory.
It might be an opportunity to learn something new. Suppose you are learning a foreign language and went into a cafe where they only speak that language. You pointed at what you wanted instead of asking for it in the native language. Later, you regretted missing the opportunity to practice the language.
It might an opportunity to engage in an unfamiliar social situation. You feel an attraction for someone at a conference and you failed to walk over to talk to him or her. And, you regretted not taking that opportunity. Then, a few months later, you saw that person sitting alone at a Starbucks. What would you do?
It might even be an opportunity to experiment with being someone else. You are a person who lets the world act on you, rather than be an active player in your affairs. And, you live in a sea of regrets. Would you like to be a person who takes a more active role.
Here, I design a technique that can help you embrace opportunities. It’s an initial design. Yet, you may find it useful.
3. Designing a Future
Imagine someone guiding you through a structured series of questions. And as a result, your thinking and behavior changes. Neuro-Semantics refers to this series of questions as a “pattern.” One pattern replaces a limiting belief with an empowering one. Another turns an insightful principle into action by closing the knowing-doing gap. Stepping through these patterns is a place where magic can happen. You can use these patterns to enhance your talents and fulfill your potentialities. Neuro-Semantics calls this “actualizing your excellence.”
Although you can run through a pattern yourself, it helps to have someone walk you through it. To help describe the pattern I need two roles: “the coach”, who asks the questions, and “the client”, who answers them.
Each pattern includes a purpose, elicitation questions, and a list of steps. Our purpose is to enable someone to act on opportunities despite internal resistance. The elicitation question is the first one the coach asks when using the pattern with a client. “Have you ever recognized an opportunity and regretted not taking it?” is our primary elicitation question. Other versions of the question may be more appropriate. For example, “regret” might not be the only response someone might feel when they don’t take an opportunity. Instead of “do you regret not taking it”, a coach might have said “do you wish you had taken it?” Experimenting with the pattern may suggest other questions. You can use several related questions until one resonates with the client.
When designing the steps in the pattern, I want to include two major pieces. The first piece strengthens the appeal of the opportunity to make it easy to move toward it. The second loosens the hold of the comfort zone to make it easier to leave it. The effect is to propel you toward an opportunity and away from your comfort zone.
4. Moving Toward Opportunities
This pattern assumes you recognize opportunities. Yet, a side effect of doing the current pattern may be to make you more aware of opportunities. The following illustrates questions that elicit higher values related to this opportunity.
Coach: Think of a time when you recognized an opportunity and later regretted not taking it.
Client: I have one. When visiting Italy a few years ago, I regretted not asking for something in Italian.
Coach: Now step into that experience as if you were there. See what you saw, heard what you heard, and feel what you felt.
Client: I am in the experience.
Coach: Why was that opportunity important? Was it related it to something you wanted or to a goal?
Client: It was important because I want to improve my skill in speaking Italian.
Coach: Why is it important to improve your skill in speaking Italian?
Client: I want to see if can think in Italian and if that changes how I view the world.
Coach: Why is that important to you?
Client: I want to experience how my ancestors may have experienced the world.
Coach: Why is that important to you?
Client: I want to feel connected to my cultural heritage
Continue asking why until you define all aspects of why something is important. As you do this, you place a higher and higher value on the opportunity. Each new level of value enlarges the frame. Ask for the higher level if the client responds with emotion (and no new frame) like “It will make me feel good.” An emotion is an expression of the current frame and not a higher one.
Suppose “feeling connected to my heritage” is the highest frame the coach elicits. As a coach, have the client recognize the good feelings that go with this higher frame. Invite the client to have these feelings grow. Then, ask the client to recognize that this is his or her highest intention. The next step is to view the opportunity when looking at it with this higher intention in mind. The result may be a more compelling opportunity.
5. A Resource for Working with Your Comfort Zone
“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”, Seneca, a Roman Philosopher
You don’t have to do as much preparation for the next opportunity as you would for a marathon. Tactical breathing is one technique to use when faced with another opportunity. The military, first responders and martial artists use it to manage stress and help to calm down.
Tactical breathing is a diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing, technique. During deep breathing, air enters your lungs, your chest rises and your belly expands. To perform tactical breathing, take 3 to 5 breathes from your diaphragm as follows
Breathe in counting 1, 2, 3, 4.
Stop and hold your breath counting 1, 2, 3, 4.
Exhale counting 1, 2, 3, 4.
Repeat the breathing.
I use tactical breathing as a self-defense technique when I sense danger. Recently Heidi, one of my friends, who is also a martial artist, saw a bunch of rowdy kids on a subway train. This rowdiness alerted her and she paid attention the kids. One of the kids slapped the back of a man’s head as he was leaving the train, and a moment before the doors closed behind him. A situation like this is an opportunity to use tactical breathing to maintain a calm focus.
If you use this technique, create a trigger that tells you to start tactical breathing. The trigger could be a word you say to yourself like “breathe.” The trigger could be something in your environment. In Heidi’s case it was something out of the ordinary, like a bunch of rowdy kids. Consider this technique as self-defense against an over protective comfort zone.
6. Moving Away from Your Comfort Zone
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Neale Donald Walsch
“…life is not about obtaining perpetual comfort, it is about unleashing possibilities.” L. Michael Hall
Your next step is to move away from the clutches of your life-draining comfort zone. What does it mean to stay inside your comfort zone? For some, it means taking minimal risks and experiencing minimal stress. It is place to avoid danger, pain, failure, rejection, or even success. Your comfort zone is like your base camp. It is where you feel safe. Sometimes it is important to venture beyond your base camp and out into the wilderness. Going far enough out to explore new situations, but not far enough for wolves to devour you.
What keeps people in their comfort zone? They might have negative reference experiences they recall when they think of leaving. They might have some limiting beliefs like “I am not handsome enough to talk to her.” When a challenge causes stress, people may react in different ways. They may be passive and move away from the challenge. Or, they may be assertive and keep the presence of mind to think and choose.
We are not dealing with the issue of how to move out of your comfort zone regardless of the situation. Instead, we are dealing with how to move out of it if you have a very compelling opportunity. We don’t want to dynamite your comfort zone, we want to nudge you out of it.
The following illustrates questions that help loosen the hold of your comfort zone.
Coach: Step into that experience you recalled earlier. What are you feeling when you think of taking that opportunity? Is it fear, stress, or another emotion?
Client: I fear embarrassment.
Coach: Can we modify that fear? What if you had a curious fear and thought “Exactly how embarrassed would I be? Maybe not as much as I think.” What if you had excited fear. You might think: “Although I fear embarrassment, I am excited about the opportunity.”
Client: Actually, curious fear fits better. I wonder what it would have been like if I took that opportunity. Would I begin to learn Italian faster?
You might explore this client’s relationship with concept of “embarrassment.” Another pattern can help the client develop a better relationship with embarrassment. Neuro-Semantics calls it “Meta-Stating Concepts.”
7. Putting it All Together
“We have a normal. As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.“ Robin S. Sharma
Here are the major steps we covered so far.
- Make the opportunity compelling by viewing it through your highest intentions (Section 4).
- Prepare for your next encounter with the next compelling opportunity (Section 5).
- Loosen the grip of your comfort zone (Section 6).
There are a few more steps to add during each of these steps. One is to ask if the result of the step is ecological using questions like:
Is the result balanced or out-of-balanced?
Is the result healthy or unhealthy?
Does the result enhance your life or does it create limitations?
Does the result empower you or does it create dis-empowerment?
Does the result increase resourcefulness or decrease it?
Does the result bring out your best or sabotage your efforts?
If it isn’t ecological, ask “how could you change it to make it ecological?” “Are new resources needed to make the opportunity more compelling. Or, to make your comfort zone less confining?”
There is one last step. Test if you have accepted the change. You could ask: “Will you take this into the future?” “Will you keep it?” Imagine embracing a future opportunity. First, think of a future situation that presents you with an opportunity. Ask yourself to perform tactical breathing. Next, step into the experience. View the opportunity through the lens of your highest intentions and greatest value. Is the opportunity compelling enough to embrace it? If not, ask yourself if there are any internal resources you would need. Brainstorm a list of suggestions. If you feel some fear, you might modify it with courage. Try “courageous fear” (what a concept, eh?).
I designed a pattern to help you take advantage of an opportunity that you would regret missing. Interested? If so, please try it and let me know what you learn. What can I do to enhance it? Send me any questions or comments. You can either comment below or to my email at email@example.com.
9. References and Resources
Where Magic Can Happen. Part 1: Opportunities. Pascal Gambardella, Aug. 1, 2018
Being Someone Else and the Game of the Gatekeepers. Pascal Gambardella, Sept. 7, 2017
How To Recognize Opportunity When It Knocks. Edie Raether, Sept. 27, 2012
The Ecology Check as a Meta-State. L. Michael Hall, Feb. 9, 2010. The ecology questions in Section 6, paraphrase those in this article.
I want to thank Joe Brodnicki for his review of the material. And, also for the phrase “move away from the clutches of your life-draining comfort zone.” He also called it diabolical. I left that word out. I adapted a photo from K. Scott Cecil in section 3.