Ever wake up just knowing the day was going to hold something special?  A breakthrough of some kind.

I was discussing the idea of breakthroughs with a colleague last week… what they are, iStock_000028401698XSmallwhat inspires them, and how to create them as a trainer and coach.  I recalled a moment at a recent strategic team retreat I facilitated for a large and progressive dental team held at an outdoor challenge course (complete with three ropes courses and nine progressively-challenging zip lines!)  First, we met with our safety instructor, Jamie, who would be by our side for the entire afternoon.  Jamie and I had met earlier to discuss co-facilitating this group since she knew the course and I knew the group, including their strengths, challenges, trepidations, goals, and most of all… their potential.  She started us out by drawing three concentric circles in the dirt with a stick and asking us to gather around it.  She asked everyone to comment on what they hoped to gain from today’s retreat.  The common thread among the group was conquering their fears and generating “breakthroughs” in their creativity and strategic thinking.

“The inner circle here represents your comfort zone, she explained.  “The next is discomfort and the third, outside ring is fear.  She then handed the stick to the hygienist, Jody, standing next to her and asked, “As you think of what’s ahead of us today, where do find yourself in these circles?”  Jody was thoughtful for a moment and then pointed her stick to the line between comfort and discomfort.  “Just a little uncomfortable.  I’m actually pretty excited!” she grinned.

iStock_000014861801XSmallIn turn, everyone did the same with some landing much closer to comfort and some on the edges of fear.  We talked for a moment about the differences in how we anticipated what was to come.  We all had fear of some kind:  heights, speed, trusting others, letting go, even one who worried she would let her teammates down because she was too overweight and out of shape to keep up and properly support her partner.
Then Jamie said, “Today, we want everyone to push themselves a little, support and be supported, have fun, and most of all, stay safe.  Being in discomfort is actually good but we  don’t want you anywhere near fear.  That’s your indicator that you are pushing too hard and could get hurt.  So I want you to pull way back when you feel fearful.”

Hmmm.  Now it was my turn to interpret the circles.  I asked Jamie for the stick.  “Actually, Jamie, I do want them near their fear because it is precisely there, exactly at the juncture where discomfort turns toward fear, that true personal breakthroughs happen…  and breakthroughs is what they said they wanted out of today.  Of course, I don’t want people panicking and getting hurt but most people in my experience quit way too soon when things get a bit scary and the effort becomes really hard.  There’s more in each of you than you think most of the time.  I want you to access that today, use it…. Dance with your fear.  Don’t push away too soon.  This is where the breakthroughs you’re looking for live.  This is where we learn what we are capable of, where we stretch our zone of comfort and enlarge it, and in the process, take away expanded thinking that we can use back at home and work.  I want to see us all play right on the edge of our discomfort and fear.  I’d like to rename the middle zone of discomfort as our “stretch zone”… because this is where it all gets done.  Playing here today is what will transform us and give us what we came for … breakthroughs.”
And it worked.  The day was one of huge breakthroughs for all of us, including myself.  Understandings were expanded.  Personal insights penetrated our core.  It was one of my most favorite team retreats to date.

In our debrief of the day, as we transferred the lessons learned to what we needed and wanted to accomplish back at work, several spoke of how risk, and it’s close cousin doubt, played an important and surprising role in our experience.  Here were two of our big takeaways:

Risk:  To complete the course, we definitely took risks in spite of our fears, but risks are an essential part of progress and expansion.  In baseball you can’t get to second base without taking a lead off first base.  You can stay close to first base and wish you had longer legs, but it doesn’t work that way.  You have to stretch and take risks.  The fruit of the tree is out on the limb and wishing for longer arms doesn’t help.  You have to go out and get it.  You have to take the next step and the next one… stretching what’s possible, risking and expanding your world.  If we wanted our businesses to grow in spite of what others did or thought, a weak economy, or an uncertain future… we’d have to take some risks and try some new things.

Doubt:  Most of us experienced doubt along the course but with small, incremental successes, we began to experience doubt as a subtle challenger.  Doubts are a reminder, not a ruler.  It proves you are in the stretch zone.  When you position it properly in your thinking and push back against it, you transfer its energy to your endeavor.  Instead of stagnating, you stretch.  Doubt is like a barking dog.  It can energize you and make your senses alert.  But if you run, it chases you in the wrong direction and like animals, it’s almost programmed for the chase.  I have found that letting doubt become my brake makes the light of my dream turn red and I come to a stop.  I use personal doubt as my green light.  When I feel it, it’s usually time to push the accelerator, embrace the stretch zone, and GO!

Dreams happen in the stretch zone, often right at the edge of fear.  You will never grow beyond the size of your dreams.  This week, dream big and stay uncomfortable… remember that the zone of discomfort is really your sweet spot… your personal stretch zone.



Katherine Eitel – Lion Camps

The Lioness, Katherine Eitel:

If you would like to take your team into the “Stretch Zone”
and experience some breakthroughs about what’s
possible, call me  ~  800-595-7060  ~ and
let’s design a customized strategic team retreat
specifically for you, your goals, and your budget.

We call them … Lion Camps.

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Book your 2014 Lion Camp BEFORE December 31, 2013
and save 15%.  Pre-Pay your entire 2014 event (in 2013)
and receive our entire suite of downloadable training
products valued at over $700. 

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“If you let fear of consequences prevent you from following your deepest instinct,
your life will be safe, expedient and thin.”
Katharine Butler Hathawa

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