In discussions on leadership development, a topic that is often brought up is the idea of a “comfort zone.” In short, a comfort zone is considered to be the place where someone feels most at ease; where their experiences are valued, their opinions are supported, and minimal risks are taken. Many individuals choose to operate within the confines of their comfort zones each day, as they correlate with our innate need for stability and security.
However, leadership scholars (and I agree) advocate for the personal growth that occurs when a person chooses to step beyond this place of safety. Although all of us at some point will be forced into new or uncomfortable situations, great leaders make the choice to do this frequently and purposefully.
As I reflect on my time traveling this past year, it is safe to say my comfort zone was tested time and time again. Traveling to a new region of the country each week allowed me to observe new sights, sounds and cuisine, but also afforded me the rare opportunity to experience life through lenses so different than the one I had grown accustomed to in my home state. I had the chance to meet assumptions head on, to see parts of the country as they actually are instead of how I pictured them to be. It is one of the results of this experience of which I am the most grateful for.
This week I begin the journey all over again. The first visit of my second season as a leadership consultant. Many folks have asked me lately why I have chosen to be on the road for another year. My main response is usually that my job is awesome, which it is. Guiding and developing collegiate women to be strong leaders is necessary, valuable and rewarding work. Day in and day out, I get to work alongside some of the brightest women in our nation. They inspire me with their talents, their passion, and their dedication.
However, my decision to return for a second year is also linked with my desire and appreciation for refinement. Although I wholeheartedly believe in the life-altering growth that happens beyond your comfort zone, I also value the keen awareness that comes with stepping back into a familiar role. Experiencing something for the first time gives you the big picture, initial reactions, and decisions made on intuition and instinct. Walking through that same experience again allows you to notice the minute details, to draw connections and find the cause of issues, and to make decisions rooted in truth and wisdom.
After a year of traveling, my role as a consultant has now become my comfort zone. When I think back to my first week of my first year, there is a stark difference between who I was then and who I am this week. I am coming back to the same role, but so much stronger. The apprehension and doubt I once felt is no longer there. Instead, I am able to work from a place of confidence in myself and my abilities. It is my hope that the chapters and officers I encounter will benefit twice fold from my training as well as my learned experience.
If you find yourself in a repeat season this year, whether that be returning to the same job, class, or volunteer role, I encourage you to embrace it. Instead of wishing the time away or longing for the next season, invest in the one you have been given. Draw on your lessons and mistakes from the past to educate and empower those around you. Refine your skills to the point of excellence, and watch as you draw closer to success at every turn.
In Sigma Kappa,