By Caleb Cottle, MBA, TRT
At age 30 it had been five years since I had completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Utah. During those five years, I had become a father (twice), moved halfway across the country, helped open a residential treatment center for adopted children and became licensed in recreational therapy. I had been working with teenagers in various treatment settings starting in the wilderness of southern Utah. I had always loved a challenge and was a bit of an adrenaline junkie growing up. For me, pushing the limits physically and being in the outdoors was right in my comfort zone.
After our treatment center was acquired by a private equity firm, I realized that while I loved the clinical world of adolescent treatment, there was a whole business side to this industry to which I was pretty naïve. I decided at that time to pursue additional education and get an MBA. This decision was not an easy one. Studying for the GMAT and getting accepted into the program of my choice overwhelmed me. Fortunately, with the support of my wife and family, I found the courage to disrupt my comfort zone and enter into what I like to refer to as “the growth zone”.
The growth zone is intentionally uncomfortable. It is where we discover new limitations. It is where we seek the support necessary to do hard things and find success. Some people believe the growth zone is where we test our character and resilience, but I believe it is where character and resilience are acquired. The two years I spent working on my MBA were the most difficult and rewarding two years of my life. During my MBA program my family grew by three additional children. I had the opportunity to travel the world, to connect with people and cultures and to discover what I was capable of. It prepared me in many ways to face challenges and difficulties with confidence and conviction.
Pursuing an MBA was obviously not the first time in my life I had disrupted my comfort zone. Thanks to parents, mentors and friends who believed in me, disrupting my comfort zone has been a common theme in my life since early childhood. It is through repetitive, novel experiences in the growth zone that our self-efficacy is established and reinforced.
At Cascade Academy, we work with teenage girls who struggle with severe anxiety. This anxiety has caused their comfort zones to become quite small. We firmly believe that the only way to expand a comfort zone is to disrupt a comfort zone. We do this by organizing regularly scheduled exposures. While these exposure experiences are uncomfortable, intimidating and flat out scary, they weave a web of self-efficacy that becomes a predictable and supportive foundation upon which we can take risks and discover opportunity.
The famous American film producer Brian Grazer is no stranger to the growth zone. I invite you to click here to listen to Brian’s interview with NPR news. His example is one that has inspired me to find courage and follow the advice of Eleanor Roosevelt, who encouraged us all to “Do one thing every day that scares you”.
Caleb Cottle is our Director of Business Development at Cascade Academy. He and his wife, Raylene have five children of their own.