It is a natural behavioural strategy to avoid situations which are stressful or have the potential to be stressful. Of course, one person’s stressor [condition which causes stress] is another’s excitement, exhilaration or challenge—we’re concerned here not with what the stressors are but how they are experienced.
In addition to stressors in business, such as deadlines, cashflow problems, difficult clients, it’s important to recognise that we create our own stressors. In anticipating or avoiding a stressful situation, such as a meeting, we create a further stressor. In these cases, it is not the thing itself that it is the stressor, it is the anxiety the person has that the thing might happen that is the stressor. In other words, the stress is entirely self-induced.
Whilst avoidance of stress is necessary at a primitive level, the trouble is that it is too black and white a tactic. It isn’t the case that something is either stressful, and therefore to be avoided, or not stressful. There are degrees. However, the whole idea of ‘comfort zone’ is so ingrained in our culture that we see anywhere outside our comfort zone as being a stress zone.
A more useful belief is to imagine a stretch zone outside the comfort zone. This is a space where we are challenged, the adrenalin is raised, and we get a buzz. We perform better here. The stress zone only shows up outside this stretch zone. We suggest that deliberately aiming to be in the stretch zone for the majority (but not 100%) of our working time will make us more productive, more effective—better at our jobs.
And, the funny thing is, the more we inhabit our stretch zone, the more we get used to it and the more it becomes absorbed into an expanding comfort zone—thus enabling us to extend, in turn, the boundaries of the stretch zone and successfully rise to new, greater challenges.
I am indebted to Reg Connolly of Pegasus NLP for introducing me to the idea of the stretch zone. You can read his take on it here.
© 2013 Jeremy Marchant Limited . by Jeremy Marchant . updated 30 may 2015 . image: Free Images