The last time that I wrote about authenticity versus adaptability, I received a lot of positive feedback. The idea of finding your true self by flexing your adaptability resonated with people, particularly this question: How can we practice authenticity if we’re afraid to test our limits and find out who we are?
So I want to take this question a step further.
Everyone has heard the wisdom that you grow the most when you’re stretched outside of your comfort zone.
- But why is that true?
- And what does that have to do with understanding who you are?
Here’s an abbreviated article that I wrote for Career Flight Plan that I hope will prompt you to examine where your life is on autopilot and what you can do about it.
Challenging situations produce individuality.
Think about high school or college students who are in the prime time for forming personal and social identities. Through transitioning from high school to college or college to the “real world,” they confront diversity and complexity. These challenges help prevent (most of) them from making life decisions passively and based on past experiences, rather than allowing for more complex and active thinking.
For many of us, going to college – especially if it was in an environment that was very different from the one you grew up in – forced you to think deeply about who you are.
But something happens when we enter “real life”… we want to know who we are, what we believe, and we want this to be stable. In other words, we want to have figured “me” out by now.
The problem is that many of us are going through life mostly on autopilot.
And our brain reinforces this concept. It has scripts or schemas that automatically activate when we have to make decisions, evaluate situations, relate to someone, or complete everyday tasks like driving a car. These scripts rely on our past experiences so that we don’t have to take up unnecessary brain power and make a conscious effort to think through routine situations.
The downside to this mindlessness: It’s hard to challenge our automatic thinking.
Therefore, we must purposefully engage in situations that prompt us to challenge the scripts that run our lives.
What are some of the scripts that dictate our lives? Some are meaningless like our automatic ability to ride a bike. Others reach down to the core of our identity, such as what do I believe about others based on how I see myself.
Or maybe you’ve internalized a “truth” about yourself based on someone’s incorrect evaluation of you, such as “You’re always second best.” Without putting yourself in situations to confront this “truth,” you’ll continue to operate out of this belief and hold yourself back from your potential.
So how can we get outside of our comfort zones? Put yourself in a situation that forces you to engage with people who are different from you. Surround yourself with people that challenge your thinking and the way that you act. Be willing to step into unpredictable situations where you don’t know what is expected of you.
Here’s where the adaptability to engage outside of your comfort zone confronts your authenticity.
Whenever you’re in new situations, you experience uncertainty and have to seek out new information to make sense of what’s going on around you.
In other words, putting yourself in new situations or surrounding yourself with new people forces you to be adaptable. And this adaptability, though uncomfortable, produces growth.
But not only do these situations produce growth, but this growth also leads to a better understanding of who you are as a person. Unfamiliar situations – those outside of your comfort zone – prompt you to question the scripts you live by and see if they are true.
- To read the full article (with links to the research), head over to this Career Flight Plan post