As a teacher and mentor at one of India’s leading b-schools, I have frequently come across students who find it difficult to get out of their comfort zone and change the habits they had picked up in their earlier years and know would be detrimental for their future career.
Soon after joining the MBA program we realize that we do not possess the skill sets required for corporate life. For example, handling procrastination, thinking less emotionally, managing relationships etc. Therefore we realise the need to change.
In the initial stages, we are enthusiastic about the change and go for it with “vim, vigour and vitality.” Over time, this enthusiasm fizzles out and we revert to our comfort zone, and then rationalize our inaction.
What is this comfort zone?
As we develop a habit, neuron paths are created in our brain, as the habit moves from the conscious into our subconscious. This becomes a convenient path and familiar path, a path of least resistance. The more we use it, the smoother it becomes. The psychological reasons for using this path also become ingrained.
When we change the habit, we are trying to create a new path, through a jungle. We need to cut down trees (overcome resistance from self and others) we need to smooth the path (try the new method enough numbers of times) and become familiar with it.
This is tough, and in most cases we give up, as the other, familiar path is there.
Even if we create a new path, we now have choices. The new, untested one, and the old tested one. We take the old one.
How do we handle this?
- Before making even the first path, decide if it is the right path. My friends in the IAS say that agreeing to the politicians the first time is tough, but it gets easier. The first time you pay the bribe, you feel bad, and then it becomes easier. A path is created.
- Create the new path only after you understand the benefits, so that you are motivated to take the new path. Walk on it enough number of times.
- Close the old path, so that even if you want to go on this path, you are unable to do so.
Take addiction as an example
- Decide not to smoke.
- If you do start and it becomes a habit, then, since smoking is also an emotional desire, you need to find an alternate emotion, that is more powerful than the current emotion.
- Make sure that your friends and family are supportive and stop you from smoking, reward yourself for not smoking for a certain number of days, etc. Work in a smoke free zone.
Sometimes, teachers are trying to create new habits in you. To create the new path, they force you to do things which you do not like because they force you to get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes you ask the purpose of the change – which is a right approach – and sometimes you try to avoid doing what they recommend.
Either you know more than the teachers, or you need to trust them to do the right thing on your behalf.
The choice is yours.