An infallible way to determine whether you are a creature of comfort

Posted by in Productivity

Growth happens outside our comfort zone – or so it’s often said. Personally, I’d rather say it is vastly accelerated, but perhaps the distinction is moot. Regardless, few of us like to think of ourselves as creatures of comfort – because society now dictates that we must continuously challenge ourselves.

Then again, we also tend to think we’re better than everyone else at most everything.

So, I’ll share a trick that will let you determine whether you really are a creature of comfort – but only if you promise not to cheat, because the trick only works if you have a pre-populated task manager or a todo list (the exact kind doesn’t matter). If you do not, stop reading immediately and go write one.

The reason for this is simple: if you wrote a todo list knowing what you’re about to read, you would adapt it to skew the results in your favour. There’s a fancy latin term for what’s causing this, but I’ll be cursed if I can remember what it is; just take my word for it.

Now stop cheating, and go write the list already.

Ready? Here we go.

The trick is to go through everything in your task manager or on your todo list at a project level (meaning a collection of actions that will produce a clearly defined result, such as “Learn to play the piano”), and find out whether or not you are afraid of it – and then mark it accordingly.

In a (good) task manager (with support for multiple contexts for single tasks), adding contexts such as @Inside and @Outside to projects makes it easy to sum up the results. Incidentally, this is an excellent perspective to add to regular reviews of your task inventory if you want to track your own development.

For a todo list, use a plain old marker.

Remember: be honest, and make sure you mark anything that you’re even a little bit afraid of. You could bother with inventing a grading scheme, but in the name of efficiency and the knowledge that every little bit of discomfort counts… don’t.

When you’re done, tally up the results and calculate the percentage of your projects that have you operating outside your comfort zone. If at least 20 percent of your list is marked as being outside your comfort zone, congratulations on a job well done – you’re most likely not a creature of comfort.

This is where you go something along the lines of: “Just 20 percent? Twenty?

If you have absolutely no obligations in life, I’ll be the first to agree that 20 percent is unspeakably modest. Most people, however, spend a large majority of their lives maintaining status quo – a relationship, children, a paycheck and soforth – with little margin for experimentation.

Undue experimentation outside the comfort zone, you see, could swiftly end up negatively impacting what’s inside the comfort zone. In those cases, 20 percent is rather a lot.

In the end, it’s up to you to determine whether you are happy with the results – and if you’re not, I have a challenge for you: see if you can replace one of those marked @Inside with one marked @Outside. Hell, why don’t you make a habit of doing it on a monthly basis?

You never know what it could lead to, and that’s a good thing.