Crashing the Terror Barrier

There comes a point in any journey of personal growth and development where the next step we need or want to take suddenly feels way bigger than all the others taken so far. You might be embarking on your biggest ever project at work, preparing your first public speaking gig, creating your first presentation for work, starting a business or turning up to join a local sports team or theatre club for the first time. Whatever it is, it is something that is taking you out of your comfort zone.

And it is at this point that all our inner demons find their voice – telling us that we do not know what we are doing, whispering a stream of what-if questions – what-if we fail, what-if we damage our reputation, what-if we waste and lose a lot of money.  And the what-ifs are followed quickly by the what-wills. What-will my friends say, what-will my boss say, what-will this mean for my career, what-will this do to my relationships.  Most of these, if not all, boil down to a fear of the unknown.  And for many of us, most of the time, the fear of the unknown appears to be bigger than the certainty of our current situation.  Why? Because we fear making things worse or being worse off and so we decide to do nothing or scale back our ambitions.

When coaching a client, I call this point the Terror Barrier – and it is something we must master and push on through if we want to get to the achievements and success that lie in our future.  Maslow described it succinctly when he said: We either step forward into growth or step back into safety. 

We either step forward into growth or step back into safety - Maslow

Imagine two circles, one inside the other like a target. The inner circle is your comfort zone and the outer circle is your growth zone and the terror barrier is the line where the two meet.

And then something cool happens- once you push through the terror barrier into the growth zone – you soon become comfortable in this larger area and your comfort zone expands to fill all of what used to be your growth zone and a new growth zone becomes apparent to you on the outside of the circle.  As your horizons expand, as your ambition and levels of thinking improve you realise that there are still more opportunities for you to grow into and achieve more and you realise the old outer edge of your circle is now a new terror barrier which is the gateway to a larger growth zone… and so it continues – forever.

As we move through the terror barrier into our growth zone, we discover it becomes our new expanded comfort zone and a new growth zone develops

As we move through the terror barrier into our growth zone, we discover it becomes our new expanded comfort zone and a new growth zone develops

So why do some people start to grow and develop, move into their growth zone, own it and move on again, passing through their terror barriers and then they stop while others keep on going and keep on growing and every time you meet them you can see they have moved forward and grown in their professional and personal lives?  Why do some keep in growing while others settle?  It all comes down the price.

Each time we pass through the terror barrier from our comfort zone into our growth zone there is a price to pay.  The price may be emotional, it may be effort, it may be reputation and status (although if that is the case it’s because those people in our lives have mixed motives and are not themselves willing to cross their own terror barriers). The price may be time and it may be money.  Usually it is some of all of these.  But there comes a time for many people, when they look at the price of moving their performance and achievements up to the next level, (i.e. the price of crossing that terror barrier one more time) and they decide they are not willing to pay the price.  They are happy to settle where they are.  Such people are sometimes described as having Destination Disease. They feel that they have ‘arrived’ – they have reached their destination and are not willing to move on any further.  The sad thing is, so many people catch destination disease not when they reach the lofty heights of world class performance – not when they are operating as experts in their field but much earlier in their careers and lives – when there is still a huge area of growth zone that remains unconquered.  How many additional Richard Bransons, or Einsteins, or JK Rowlings or Bill Gates or Elon Musks or Rinaldos or Ed Sheerans have been denied to the world simply because those people were not willing to pay the price to cross the terror barrier one more time and take their performance to the next level?

My challenge for you this week is to consider the price you are willing to pay so you can cross through the terror barrier and take possession of the next level of success in your professional and personal lives.  Are you willing to spend the time, the money and effort it requires to achieve your desired level of impact, income and influence? 

When opportunities are presented to us, we often react quickly to them and say yes or no without really thinking it through.  Getting into the habit of thinking things through and making decisions with a purpose rather than simply reacting is one of the hallmarks of a high flyer. 

Take some time today and over this weekend to think through the price you are willing to pay.  As John Maxwell says, everything worthwhile in your life is uphill. 

Everything worthwhile in your life is uphill - Maxwell

There is a price to pay and you cannot have it if you are not prepared to pay the price to cross the terror barrier.  Then, when the next opportunity presents itself that will help you grow and cross the terror barrier you will be ready to decide on purpose to take advantage of the opportunity grow.

Until next time