Why do we persist with behaviours that don’t work?

Have you ever noticed yourself in the middle of saying something, or behaving in some way that you know is going to worsen the situation you are in? Do you ever ask yourself “Why did I do that?” knowing that you have just dug yourself a hole, or deepened the one you are already in, that you now need to get out of?

The following are examples of unproductive behaviours that many business leaders have shared with me.  Which ones can you relate to?

  • Working too hard/not spending enough time with the family.
  • Being with the family but thinking about work or working on the phone/computer.
  • Getting upset with someone, or something, and then not saying anything about it.
  • Not scheduling time to plan and/or time to effectively implement the plan.
  • Working through lunch.
  • Scheduling or accepting back-to-back meetings.
  • Saying “Yes” when “No” is more appropriate.
  • Working on the easy stuff to avoid tackling the more difficult matters.
  • Withdrawing in the face of aggressive or bullying behaviour.

And the list goes on………..

Consider that these kinds of persistent but unworkable behaviours are a reaction to you feeling uncomfortable in some way.  For example – feeling like a failure, feeling inadequate or powerless, or feeling like you will disappoint others or fail to live up to their expectations.  Everyone has these sorts of feelings, they lie at the very edge of our comfort zone – they are our ‘Discomfort Zone’.  When we find ourselves in our Discomfort Zone we behave and act in ways that are designed to allow us to get back inside our comfort zone – which makes perfect sense, it’s a logical response.

The only problem is that if we continue to react and go back into our comfort zone then we don’t break the unproductive cycle and we don’t grow and expand our capability as a leader.

Identifying the dynamics of your Discomfort Zone clearly by bringing awareness to the emotions, feelings, thoughts and even physical sensations that come with it is the first step in breaking the cycle.   The more you are aware of your Discomfort Zone and allow yourself to experience it instead of moving away from it, the more you will experience being able to consciously choose how to respond effectively instead of reacting automatically and the quicker you will expand your comfort zone.

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