Smashing Through the Comfort Zone

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By Lead in the Moment guest blogger, EJ Widun

As leaders, we spend a lot of our time thinking about how to bring our team to new levels of success. As servant leaders, we are always looking for ways to breakdown barriers and empower our team members for their personal fulfillment and success. My question is whether or not we truly live and practice this in our personal life or do we simply focus on the team?

As leaders, we are called to lead by example. We are also called to sharpen our own skills. If we are not sharp and constantly learning and developing, how can we expect our team members to live what we ask?

I find this to be one of the hardest things about leadership to practice. I spend a lot of time focused on my team and will delay my own development. What ends up happening is that I grow complacent. I will put off my development at the expense of the team and say that I will make that up later. The problem with this statement is that later never comes. Daily leadership challenges will aid in your development, but are you really pushing yourself. Are you pushing your limits and thinking differently?

For me the concept of pushing myself beyond my comfort zone came several years ago. I attended a team-building event on a high ropes course. The goal was to climb a three-story tower that required you to stretch yourself to reach the top. On this day, I reached my personal threshold; I was half way up the tower and didn’t think I could go further. My team below me began to cheer and push me forward. In the end, I made it to the top of the tower and I learned that limits and development are often self-fulfilling statements. Today, I will continue to push my goals and growth in several ways. I will add more miles on to my daily bike ride, when I think I cannot go any further. Other times, I will receive encouragement from others. I had this experience again recently. I was co-authoring a piece with my wife Kristin and I did not want my name on it. I have not published anything since the first Bush was president. She told me to embrace the opportunity to put myself out there. If not this time, then it would come soon. We co-authored our first piece and published it this week.

No matter where we go in our careers, always push yourself and help push others. You never know whom it may help.

Growth vs. Fulfillment – What is the Difference?

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We all hear about personal growth, whether it is physical, spiritual, or work-related. I used to believe it was a pretty simple concept; you made a decision on what you wanted to do and outlined the steps to get there. This was my thought process back when I was younger and slightly naive. What I didn’t bargain for was the fact that our ideas of personal growth change over time and life experience. For example, when I graduated from college, I thought I had it all figured out. I wanted a career with a specific company where eventually, I would move up the ladder and my career would take the specific trajectory I had planned out. For the first seven years, everything worked out pretty much the way I had intended it to. I was growing, learning more every day and enjoying where my career had taken me. I felt like my personal growth was off the charts. Then, around year eight, something inside of me changed. I continued to learn and grow within my career, but I didn’t feel completely comfortable with where I was or what I was doing. I started to feel unfulfilled with my career and more importantly, my personal life.

I had achieved what I set out to do, but once I got there I had no idea what was next. Little did I know that I had tied up my entire identity with my career, and not only did I lose touch with who I was as a person, but I didn’t realize my own idea of personal growth had changed over time.

Personal growth versus personal fulfillment – are they the same thing? I looked up the definition of both words and found this interesting. Growth is based upon the idea that you are in the process of developing. The basic idea of fulfillment centers on the notion that you have accomplished something and you are satisfied. So in reality, a person could experience a high level of personal growth, yet never achieve fulfillment.

This can be a challenging idea to grasp as we all have a different definition of personal growth. Many will see it as just that – what they are doing in their personal lives to grow. Some (like my younger self) believe that personal growth is tied up with your career. Yes, there are many cases where someone experiences personal growth through their career. The trick is to understand how to tie your growth to your personal fulfillment.

Does your personal fulfillment come from your personal growth or does growth lead to fulfillment?