Stupid, dangerous thinking: “We’ve always done it this way.”

If you want more of anything in your life … an improved relationship, a different career, a stronger bottom line, a healthier body, a bigger bank account … ANYTHING … it always, always, always requires leaving your comfort zone. In other words, you can’t go on doing the same thing the same old way and expect better results.


That’s why I hate it when I hear someone say, “We’ve always done it this way.” It’s stupid and dangerous thinking.


Just because you’ve always done something a certain way is no guarantee that you’re doing it the very best way and ensuring the very best results. In fact, it is almost certainly not a guarantee.


In today’s Tuesday Tip I want to encourage you to take a few more constructive risks, to get outside your comfort zone a bit more often, and reap the benefits of doing so.


► 1. Take a self-assessment of your risk taking.

Are you more of a person that says “Let’s go for it” without enough thought? Or are you more of a person that says “Let’s wait and see” and spends too much time thinking and not enough time moving forward? Neither one will serve you well.


Put another way, if you were the mouse in my university psychology lab experiment, what kind of a mouse would you be?


In one research study, four tubes were placed on the floor, side by side, with a hunk of cheese placed in the second tube. A mouse was released to see what he would do. The mouse scurried through the first tube and discovered it was empty. He quickly went to the second tube, found the cheese, ate it, and went back to his cage.


The next day, the researchers did the same thing, and so did the mouse. It wasn’t too long before the mouse was conditioned. He knew there was no cheese in the first tube, so he went directly to the second tube to get his reward.


After several days, the researchers moved the cheese from the second tube to the third one. The mouse was released, and, of course, he went directly to the second tube. It was empty.


What do you think the mouse did? Did he go to the third tube, searching for the cheese? No. Did he go back to the first tube or on to the fourth one? No. He stayed in the second tube, waiting for the cheese to appear.


He had become accustomed to finding cheese in the second tube and when that changed, he did not adjust. He did not explore any further. He didn’t take any “risks.” If the scientists had allowed it, the poor mouse would have probably starved.


What about you? Are you like that mouse starving to death in the second tube? Are you waiting for things to go back to the way they used to be? I hope not. The future does not look very good for those kinds of people.


Or would you be a mouse that’s out there, exploring other options, checking out the other tubes, taking the risk that there’s got to be more cheese out there somewhere? I hope you are.


Take an assessment of your risk taking. If you’re a seven or higher on a 10-point scale, you’re taking the right path. If you’re six or below, you’re probably not liking the results you’re getting in some part of your life. You want things to be bigger and better, but you’re stuck in your comfort zone, afraid of taking the risks.


If you’re on the lower end of the risk-taking scale, go ahead and list five risks that you need to be taking, personally and professionally. What have you been afraid to do? What do you really, really want? How can you go about getting it? What’s your first step? And then your second, third, and fourth steps.


Once you have assessed your risk taking,


►2. Make sure your risk is likely to pay off.

That takes a balance of courage and smarts.


On the courage side, I refer to the pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh. He said, “I don’t believe in taking foolish chances. But nothing can be accomplished without taking any chance at all.”


On the smarts side, I refer to General George S. Patton. He said, “Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.”


There are four questions that will help you balance out the courage and smarts, resulting in risks that pay off for you. Ask yourself these four questions. The more “yes” answers you get, the more likely it is that your risks are good, healthy, constructive, and productive.


►Is it necessary?

In other words, to move ahead, to get better results, you know you can’t keep on doing the same thing you’ve been doing.


► Will it work?

Based on your knowledge, experience, intuition, and research, it seems very likely that your risk will work out the way you want it to.


► What will it cost?

Nothing is free. Your risk will take some of your time, money and energy. As best you can, figure that out in advance.


► Is it worth it?

Once you estimate the cost, figure out whether or not it’s a good investment. Is the payoff big enough to justify, or indeed, fortify the importance, of taking the risk?


For some of you, your risk may be working with a coach. You’ve gone as far as you can on your own and need someone to work with you as you move forward.


That was what one of my coaching clients discovered. As the founder and CEO of a billion-dollar financial organization, he recently said, “Dr Z has been my Executive Coach for the last 2 years. I wish I would have engaged him 30 years ago!”


You can read his entire story and recommendation on my LinkedIn page if you’d like see how that one risk made a huge and positive difference in his life and work. Give me a call if you’d like to work with me as your coach. We can discuss what that means.


Final Thought: You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.