Not what you thought? You had a problem to solve and thought if you got into your comfort zone the new solution would more likely come? I have beginning clients and colleagues who think this.  And science says they would be wrong.

Hmmm…maybe that’s why they haven’t been able to solve whatever it is up until now. Not yet ready, willing, able enough—to get out of their comfort zone!

Problem solving requires learning. And optimal learning requires us to be in our DISCOMFORT ZONE 70% of the time.

Inc. reports on new study out of Yale, published in Neuron, that without sufficient chaos and uncertainty the brain thinks all is well, no need to learn anything new here, so the problem solving, new learning brain shuts down.

In other words, the best way to maximize problem solving is to be stressed 70% of the time. So, for example, if you are starting a new business, and you are anxious it might not fly, good for you, that could help.

And, no wonder I read so often that anxiety—to a point—improves performance rather than the other way around.

But wait. I’m always telling people to put the higher, calmer brain in charge. What about that? No problem, “to a point” helps with that.

That is, too much anxiety is crippling and, therefore, becomes the problem to solve in and of itself. So it’s the Goldilocks Principle: Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold, But Just Right.

And yes, indeed, to get enough discomfort to trigger the learning brain into gear, but not so much to hijack us away from the problem at hand…yes, yes, yes for that kind of regulation we absolutely do need the higher executive brain in charge.

So go ahead. When you want to solve a problem, make yourself uncomfortable, and be glad you did. It’s not that hard. Just do something you never did before, go somewhere you never went before, with no real idea how things will actually turn out. That’s all it takes. Courage.

Play with this, practice, practice, practice…and let us know what you find.