March 24, 2013
Over a decade ago I remember reading the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. I have most definitely forgotten much of the meat of the book today, but a key premise has been bubbling up in my subconscious repeatedly the last few days: “Good is the Enemy of Great.” This is a concept that can be just as true for people as it is for companies. It means that “good” can turn into complacency and slow the drive for innovation, growth and personal improvement. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking recently about how that concept applies to us as humans, our respective growth curves and what we ultimately ‘get out’ of the short time we have on this planet.
When we are young we all have a vision of our ‘great’ future selves; a wish-list so to speak. Many folks are thrown off the scent of their ideal when entering adulthood and being forced to ride the roller coaster up and down cycles that all humans tend to go through emotionally, financially and spiritually. The fear of repeating the lows in any of these categories can force a gradual recalibration of goals and dreams (often subconsciously). This process over time completely reroutes the vision of what a “great” life is, and what is possible. The new ideal becomes one not of growth, challenges and infinite possibilities, but one of seeking equilibrium to avoid the discomfort of the roller coaster downs.
This comes down to the classic pain/pleasure principal. People by nature will seek pleasure but will go to great lengths to avoid pain/discomfort. Growth is uncomfortable and that fact poses a problem if we run from the pain necessary to achieve our ideal pleasure. My conscious solution to this has been a conditioning of my mental image of what growth is and what it means to me. I have been doing this by envisioning myself standing at the barrier of my present capability/comfort level in any one skill and making myself take a step over the barrier (see primitive diagram above). The programmed reward for me is the act of mentally stepping over that barrier. The feeling of discomfort becomes a mental reward for the expansion of the skill radius.
By doing this exercise over the past several days I have found myself slowly pushing through some previous stagnated mental blocks I had conditioned in both my personal and professional life (many of which I did not know existed). Instead of avoiding the discomfort, I am finding myself seeking opportunities to test my resolve to take that step. As a result, some incredible progress has been made in the past week that has translated into an even deeper quest for conscious personal growth.
We all have goals (conscious or unconscious) for our personal and professional lives, and I came to realize that my conscious ideal for each is impossible to reach without exercising forced discomfort in a frequent (daily) cycle to improve upon various skills. I wrote a note to myself that I keep in my office next to my monitor that reads “Expand the Radius” as a reminder to not just accept the good in my life but to consciously step over the perceived barrier of comfort to put myself in a position to discover the better version of good.