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If You’re Not Stretching, You’re Probably Missing Something

“Can you send me over a copy of your book right away?” a friend asked when she heard about my book, AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change You Didn’t Ask For. “I can’t get my partners to learn this new on-line tool that has become crucial in our business. They keep doing it the way they’ve always done, but we can’t afford that anymore. They’ve got to move with the times!”

I understand her partners’ reluctance. I don’t want to blog, learn how to do Podcasts, network more, do on-line marketing, or get a camera for my computer so I can do Skype video conferencing. Yet these are all crucial marketing activities for a professional writer these days. I’ve written for thirty years without doing any of these things and I don’t want to start now. My brain is perfectly happy doing what it’s always done. After all, it does it so well!

Whoops, danger ahead. None of us, whatever our age, whatever our work, can afford that attitude anymore. The name of the game is staying relevant and the life cycle of relevancy is getting shorter and shorter. It used to be that you got an education, then once you started working, while you may have attended continuing education, the basics of your education held you in good stead for decades. Now, the world is so connected and the speed of change is so accelerated that we all need to be constantly learning new skills and tools. We can moan and complain about that fact, but if we want to maximize success, we need to accept that reality and get learning.

To do so we must get out of the safe zone and into the stretch zone. That’s because learning means stretching yourself beyond your current limits. Exerting more effort because it takes more work for the brain to do something new. Pushing your limits regarding what you can do and how you do it. The very fact that you feel awkward means you’re learning—and that’s a crucial thing!

To take this on in your own life means redefining safe, at least when it comes to work. Rather than seeing safety as a wonderful thing that we should strive for, we need to view it as a warning sign that we’re coasting on past learning, rather than paying attention to what we need to take on next.

Here’s a bonus to this all learning. Think of it as a gift from Nature for your hard work. It turns out that, just like our bodies, our brains need a good workout to stay healthy. And the workout must be one in which we’re constantly learning new things to create new pathways so that as we age and pathways begin to disappear, we’ve got reserves! So if nothing else, think of it as making deposits into your brain’s bank accounts for old age.