How to tell if an endeavor is right for you

Does it scare you? If no, then you can stop right there. It’s not worth it.

If yes. How much does it scare you?  Is it a completely debilitating fear?  Or does it give you a queasy feeling where you stop breathing and forget your name for a split second?

If you list the worst things that can happen should you fail at this endeavor, and it still gives you that debilitating fear  that the world will be over, then maybe it’s not yet time for you to tackle this.  But if you feel like you’ll still survive if you fail, and you get the queasy feeling mentioned above, then you need to jump into this NOW.  These are the actions that will guarantee your success.  Go for it now and worry about the consequences later.

The author Geoff Colvin summed it up best in his book Talent is Overrated.  He highlights a popular diagram which I’ve included below.  The diagram helps us see that there is a range where we do our best learning. We should strive to always stay outside of our comfort zone, since this exposes us to a wide variety of experiences that we can benefit from.  But we need to be conscious to avoid treading into the panic zone, since making a mistake here will most likely cripple our spirits and will cause us to never want to try anything new ever again.

You maximize your learning when you are in that middle ring called the Learning Zone, since you’re engaged enough to exercise your abilities, but still have the mental resources available to judge your performance and adjust accordingly.  THIS is where it’s at!

Diagram of Comfort, Learning, and Panic Zones

2 Comments

  1. Steven Pressfield talks a bit about this in his book War of Art also. Something along the lines of, if there’s a feeling of expansion in that fear, then it’s the right move for you. But I can understand how it may be difficult for people to differentiate ‘types’ of fear. Fear is fear is fear to a lot of people.

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