Factors that help you push your boundaries

Last week  I gave a presentation for the Association for Coaching on Pushing your Boundaries.  It is a topic that seems to be increasingly popular, perhaps because the economic downturn drove many people to minimise risk taking and focus on maintaining what worked, rather than looking for new opportuntiies.

One of the models I use to help people understand how they may react depending on the situation that requires them to push their boundaries is the Johari Window.

Johari Window
Johari Window


Using Johari Window if you look at the window “Hidden Potential” I beleive there are several factors that can help you to explore this area:

Your level of comfort with change

How often do you change the status quo?  According to neuroscience research our brains are hard-wired to keep us safe, and therefore something that appears as a possible change, may be innately viewed as a threat.  So we have to work harder to get used to change.  It can be simply put into practice.  Drive home a different route, sit in a different chair at home, or push your watch on the opposite hand – all of these activities encourage us to get more comfortable and used to change.

Willingness to communicate thoughts and feelings (transparency)

There may be situations when it is beneficial for you to communicate your thoughts and feelings, in order to be transparent with those you are working with.  I recall going into the unkonwn when skiing in the Arctic for the first time. I had no idea what it would be like. As I was part of team, rather than pretending that all was ok, I expressed my excitment or concern at different times, so others in the team knew more about me, and how I was thinking and feeling.  That helped them to share too, and as a result we built rapport and trust more quickly.

Ability to show vulnerability

Vulnerability means being ok about showing weakness. For many that is an alien concept, yet the very best leaders in business have this capability. They don’t pretend to know it all, or not have weaknesses. They know that by showing their vulnerability is a quality that can only enhance their leadership, and bring team members closer together.  During the presentation at the Association for Coaching, I talked about several coaching situations when I was uncertain what to do, and having told the stories, others in the audience shared that they also have been uncertain at times.  That brought the whole group closer together and as a result, we all learned more because of the willingness to show vulnerability.  There is a great You Tube video by Brene Brown on this subject.

Confidence in your own capabilities

Stepping into the unknown requires belief in what’s possible. Can you accomplish what you hope to?  What happens if it does wrong?  Also, what happens if it works out?  I do come across people who not only have a fear of failure, but a fear of success. That might mean they have to continue to perform at a higher level in future, or it increases others expectations of them.  No matter what the outcome, you have to believe you can do it.  A good way to regain your confdence is to read your CV or marketing literature from the perspective of an employer or client and remind yourself what you can accomplish.

Your ability to be aware of, and question assumptions

We all make assumptions that influence our behaviour. “If I lost money on the stock market, it might happen again, so I won’t do it”;  “My boss does not seem to like me, so I wont bother applying for promotion”, “Venture Capitalists never fund our type of business”   All of these statements contain assumptions that we may never even challenge.  So when planning to push your boundaries, make sure you are aware of any assumptions you are making about the situation, your experience, other people etc. as they may hold you back.

Pushing your boundaries requires discpline to keep at it. A new challenge every day, a small step towards the unknown, helps you to make progress and take you towards the goals you never imagined were possible.



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