When I conduct leadership training seminars, I often reference German educator and adventurer Tom Senninger’s Learning Zone Model, which was developed to help us welcome learning moments.
This inner circle represents your comfort zone, the safest area for reflection and thought. In this space, things are familiar and comfortable, and we are not asked to take risks. Although it can feel great to stay in the comfort zone, our passion for success, desire to learn and sense of adventure beckon us to leave this territory.
Just outside of this safety net sits the learning zone or the stretch zone. This is our zone for exploration and growth. The place where we try new things, feed our curiosity and challenge our prevailing assumptions.
Beyond the first two zones is what Senninger refers to as the danger or panic zone. Many people believe that when pushed into this zone, all learning shuts down because of overwhelming fear or panic. When here, we fight desperately to get back out. When change is forced upon us, this makes perfect sense as the choice to stretch to a new zone is not ours to make. But when we enact change in our life—pushing ourselves to newfound limits and welcome the unknown—I believe we can enter the adventure zone. Now it sounds more exciting, right?!
The outer most circle is where the grandest adventures of life lay. It is here that we reimagine possibilities for ourselves and create more capacity for ourselves to do more and become more.
Transitions and Adventures
Those who know me know that I prefer to spend more time in the adventure zone than in any other zone. That zone has fueled me to start 20 businesses, set lofty goals like summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro and reach the seemingly impossible, like becoming a published author despite my debilitating struggles with dyslexia. It’s also the zone I thank for allowing me to embrace personal and professional transitional moments with greater enthusiasm, confidence and energy.
When I look back on my career, a lot of words come to mind—challenging, adventuresome, exhilarating, memorable… the list goes on. Topping the list is “transition.” But then again, doesn’t that describe most of our careers?
Our careers are defined by a series of transitions that become strung together over time. We make moves, take risks and ask for more because we can be more. We create moments of transition regularly—going for the promotion, starting a business, making a career switch, etc.—and I think it’s because most of us (secretly) do enjoy spending time in the Adventure zone.
Transitions can masquerade as insurmountable obstacles. Though our gut tells us we are hungry for more when the moment to shift comes around, sometimes we believe we are not prepared, talented or skilled enough. Therefore, we may choose to settle in and to sit down versus walking through the door to a new opportunity.
How can you embrace your next transitional moment with newfound confidence and success, allowing yourself to enter the adventure zone? Here are three things I think help:
1. Know Your Strengths
By nature, we are a weakness-oriented culture, consumed with what needs fixing. But by embracing positive-strength philosophy, we can instead start focusing on and intentionally playing to our strengths. The Clifton Strengths Finder assessment is a powerful tool for helping you understand your inherent strengths.
When you know your strengths—e.g., being more execution- than strategic-oriented—you can welcome transitions and opportunities that align with your strengths. What’s more, you can identify the top strengths that will prove most useful in a moment of transition. For instance, if one of your core strengths is futuristic, or the ability to see over the horizon, you can lean on this strength to clearly picture your next career move.
When you truly understand your strengths, you know what you can achieve. Knowing your strengths makes your transitions seem less scary and dangerous—more like an adventure.
2. Find the Unguarded Moment
Do you ever have a perfect moment of stillness, a moment of complete clarity? A time when an amazing idea finds its way into your mind? How many time have you or someone you know looked for lost keys only to find them when you stop looking for them? This is you having an unguarded moment—a purely authentic, honest moment with a heightened degree of clarity.
When we face transition, there are many challenges, obstacles, and concerns that occupy our thoughts. Some are real, and some are a fabrication caused by our fears, anxieties, experience and personal history. When we are in a moment of transition, it is essential that we create space for the unguarded moment to find us. We need this clarity and introspection to feel more grounded in what is next.
For me, my unguarded moments tend to come when I least expect them—coming out of a dream, hiking up a mountain, heading into my next meeting, or simply finding a quiet moment in my study. But when they come, I immediately write about the moment so that I can revisit it later. When your unguarded moments happen, pay attention to the clues it lends about what’s next. The unguarded moment can serve as compass point in your future transition.
3. Choose the Growth Mindset
Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, the author of the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” found that people’s appetite for change is largely determined by the mind type they possess: fixed or growth. Those with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence, talents, abilities, and character are givens. Because of this, these individuals are change-adverse, viewing change as threatening to what they know to be true. They choose the status quo. Alternatively, those with a growth mindset believe their intelligence, talents, abilities, and character are dynamic. They are the change agents, fueled to evolve and try something new.
Those with a growth mindset have an easier time embracing transition as they delight in the unknown and the challenge. But no matter how your mind is more hard-wired, we as leaders must select growth every time. When we choose growth, we try new things, remain positive, strive to learn and enjoy being challenged. When we choose growth, we walk towards the transition with greater excitement about what’s ahead.
It’s all in the Framing
As a transition aficionado, I have come to find that it all comes down to the way we frame things. If we frame the transition as frightful, it will be frightful. If we frame the danger zone as just that—dangerous—it will in fact be dangerous.
So instead, try framing transitions as wonderful gifts. The gift of reaching for something new, of pushing yourself to new limits, and of reaching newfound potential. Embrace each moment of transition recognizing that not to know the outcome is one of the greatest gifts of all.
On Wednesday, May 16, Tim will be leading the Nexus women through a leadership training seminar, “In Career Transition? Start Leveraging Your Strengths,” taking place in Providence, RI. Tim will explore how to leverage strengths to more strategically navigate a career transition point with heightened success and confidence. This event is open to both members and non-members. To register, click here.
A perennial entrepreneur, innovator and adventurer, Tim sees the opportunity to affect change everywhere and is passionate about helping others do the same. A national speaker, voracious author and leadership trainer, Tim enjoys exploring concepts related to intentional leadership, business transformation and professional and personal introspection. Tim is currently the CEO/Founder of Trilix and Chief Managed Services Officer of Carousel Industries.