Article by Philippa White, Founder and CEO of The International Exchange

Did you know that some of the world’s most famous artists and creators have long appreciated the value of not knowing?

David Bowie, for example, recognized a long time ago that for anything truly new or creative to come about, there had to be a period of letting go and unlearning. Yes, that’s right. He literally made a career out of feeling lost.  He loved to unlearn what he knew before, and this fuelled his many reinventions.

Our comfort zone is just what it says – a place where life just feels pretty good. We feel very little sense of risk, and we only need to use a limited set of behaviours to perform.

But, living and working within our comfort zone doesn’t really offer much incentive for us to be the best we can be. To be inspired. To innovate. And find new solutions to challenges. It simply doesn’t force us to achieve higher and different levels of performance.

In fact, I would go as far as saying that staying in your comfort zone blocks growth and progress, and as a result, improvement, achievement, and success becomes just that much more difficult.

And, who wants that?

As David Bowie said, “If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being”.

The key is to deliberately put yourself into states of not knowing and disrupt your comfort zone. To see what will arise at the other end. A chance to allow something new and unexpected to emerge.

Zen Buddhism even has a concept for this. It’s called “beginner’s mind”.  It’s the invitation for us all to experience life in a way that is unburdened by the past and by previous knowledge. “A mind that is empty and ready for new things”.

The key is finding ways to chase what is new to you.

That said, it’s not easy to find these opportunities. We all need to find ways to be shaken up a bit, to step out of the monotony of life. To help broaden horizons. And that’s what we’ve been doing for the past 17 years at The International Exchange (TIE).  Helping to create that space for people.

I think we can all agree, especially in the world of tech, it’s too easy in our jobs to drop into a formula and a rhythm where you feel like you are going around the block a bit. People can feel constrained. It’s hard to know how to contribute. Everyone knows their place in the system.

So, we need to find ways to step out of the circuit, and find our own route, where we don’t have to deal with the hierarchy and predefined silos of our roles. We need to look for growth opportunities that can provide the space, and the opportunity, to do and be more.

If you really do make a conscious effort to leave your comfort zone and take healthy risks in your life, it will help you to become the best version of yourself and excel professionally.

About the author

Philippa WhitePhilippa is the Founder and CEO of The International Exchange (TIE). She is driven by the belief that when professionals fully engage with their humanity, ingenuity and purpose, good things start to happen. TIE is a CPD accredited leadership development programme that creates conscious leaders who are shaping the future of their industries and companies.

Through the simple means of disrupting comfort zones, TIE exposes people to global challenges, and creates the space for them to find their distinctive power to make meaningful change. Philippa believes that to profoundly change the world, we need people to connect with their potential.  In her mind, where we were is very different to where we are going. By helping people discover more about themselves and what their distinctive power is, her ultimate aim is to help create better people, with better companies, in a better world.

Philippa is a global citizen, having been born in South Africa, grew up in Canada, studied in Thailand, and worked in advertising in the United Kingdom. In 2005 Philippa moved to Brazil and launched TIE.

Philippa is 44 years old and still lives in Brazil with her 7 and 11-year-old daughters. They spend weekends hanging out in the Atlantic rainforest and exploring local beaches. She also loves spending time with her partner at his small shipyard as he finishes creating his new class of sailing vessel.