If we just focus on our to-do list we’re not creating anything new. 

If we just engage with our operational network we’re not meeting anyone new. 

If we just do what’s comfortable, we’re not learning anything new.

For real growth, we have to do things differently. 

The options for growth are endless. Not everything has to make sense at once. The payoff may seem unclear. But it will come, as I’ve experienced firsthand on a number of occasions. A more recent one, for instance, sprung from a decision to expand my reading from the usual fare of business-, psychology- and management related writing, to something far less practical and, ostensibly, a complete waste of my time, especially considering that my elbow-long list of work-related books and articles and white-papers that I should read would, as a result, grow even longer and more intimidating in the process. 

On a tip, I had picked up an old classic, a renowned book on birdwatching—a topic significant only in that I haven’t had, and still don’t have, any particular interest in birds. 

What did pique my interest was the highly descriptive language and compelling grammatical rule-breaking for which the author became famous. And while I now know more about the habits of Wrens and Thrushes and Wood Pigeons than I could ever care to know, the disciplined diet of consuming a daily dose of the author’s beautifully crafted observations of his winged obsessions, first thing in the morning, with a good cup of coffee, inspired me to develop a habit I’d been trying to establish unsuccessfully for years—that of intentionally carving out regular time to read without pressure, and to actually enjoy it. That in turn—and that’s just one of the rewards—led to a gradually growing desire to write more, which had the completely unexpected effect of my drafting a new book proposal, something my publisher had been nudging me about in vain over the past year. 

So, my decision to do something different, to engage in something that had no obvious reward at the outset, ended up bringing me full circle—enriched in unexpected ways and better equipped to add value to others in the process. 

See what happens when you choose to:

  • add a different exercise to your workout
  • engage people in conversation whom you normally wouldn’t
  • show courage when ordinarily you’d retreat to safety
  • offer help to someone when your time is limited
  • acknowledge those everyone else ignores
  • explore perspectives and beliefs other than your own
  • share something personal instead of guarding your façade
  • approach conflict with courage rather than avoid it
  • invest in relationships as opposed to existing in them
  • take charge of your own development instead of waiting for others to point the way. 

The call to do something different and escape the allure of the comfort zone has almost become a cliché. Only when we actually do it, does it become something more, and potentially life-changing.