How do you stay in your growth zone?

People feed me, and are an important component of my growth zone. Reflecting on my interactions helps me try to understand how and why, so that I can intentionally stay in my growth zone as much as possible. Last night, I went to an amazing gathering and I knew in advance it was going to be good. From the minute I got out of my car, I was hurrying and I literally ran up the stairs so I would miss as little as possible!  

When I look at what happened last night, I realize that right now, there are three things keeping me in my people growth zone and working for me

Connecting deep and wide

A peer in my Georgetown cohort recently complimented me on my ability to exude energy while at the same time being intimately aware of what is going on with the people around me. This was a generous insight that was such a gift: I had not had been aware of this before. With new insight, I can leverage it more.

At last night’s event, without any effort, I naturally tried to say hello (and hug) as many people as I could, while at the same time having quality conversations. In my one-on-one’s, we dove into varied topics including (but not limited to) a friend’s three month cruise into New England, which hit some of my favorite old haunts; a Navy captain’s ability to mentor and lead, and how different people have different levels of conformity and non-conformity, even within the same institution; a business that is struggling because of the economy; celebrating a content creator’s expansion into a new arena; a new mom’s delight in the folds of her baby’s legs and her pleasure at how much she actually likes being a mom; a race officer’s desire to focus on mentoring others in the next year.

I was so fed by these short but meaningful interactions. I grew so much from what they shared with me, and was so warmed by our connections. The people:time ratio was not in my favor and there were more people I could only give a quick hello. If only there were more time last night, can you imagine how even more pumped up I would be right now?

Finding the awesome

When I taught sailing to adults, I learned years later that my fellow instructors had an ongoing wager: how long it would take me at the end of the first day to say, “I love my students!” And it’s true. In multiple years of teaching live-aboard multi-day courses to adults, there were only two students I didn’t click with, and I can’t even remember one of them. (The other one I can remember because I loved the rest of his family!)

When I traveled internationally for work, I was aware of, but did not presume, stereotypes and cultural differences. In my connections, Russians did not get me drunk (or get drunk themselves), Parisians were not rude, and the Japanese were warm and intimate. I gave people the liberty to be themselves, not who they were supposed to be, and they stepped right into it.

Everyone at the event last night shared two common interests – racing sailboats and supporting women in racing. By starting with those, we can connect, and find even more areas to explore together. By giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and presuming positive intent, I often see the positive intent and the best sides of people.

In so many people, there are good things to explore and to connect with – especially if you think about, and focus, on them, and not yourself. Self-consciousness, self-doubt, and vanity are all the sandbags in your hot air balloon – When you dump them, you are free to soar and float, and enjoy the amazing perspective!

Going toward the good

Sailing is a intellectual sport. So you know that in a room full of sailors there is going to be a lot of good ideas, if you are open to hearing them. So intelligence is there, but smart people are not necessarily nice people. And I want to be around nice people.

When I spend time going for the good, I don’t have time for the bad. When I focus on the good in people, and the growth potential in learning from mistakes, I can move on. The big question becomes what IS possible?

As I was sitting last night, waiting for the speakers to begin, I looked around the room and was reminded of a slumber party I went to the spring of my senior year of high school.

Now, we all knew that as high school seniors, we were “too old” to be having a slumber party. But one of our peers had decided that, after that last home basketball game of our senior year, instead of going to the big party, we should have a final, girls-only, get-together. We all brought sleeping bags and it was one of the most quality times I ever had with my peer group in high school. We had group time and one-on-one time. It was all generous and loving, and I still remember it, fondly and vividly, to this day.

Sitting next to me last night was a women I got to know by sharing a hotel room with during an away regatta – we had trouble stopping our conversation long enough to fall asleep! As I sat there last night, I wanted to have a slumber party with everyone in that room! I wanted to have more time to soak in all the goodness in that room. All the energy, excitement, goodwill and support. The chance to have those one-on-one late night conversations with everyone I didn’t know very well, the small group discussions, the circle question with everyone giving their answer. The generous and loving sharing and connecting that helps us all be ourselves, better.

So, for now, I’m going to intentionally mine these three areas to keep myself in the growth zone. It’s such an amazing feeling. Like a healthy food diet, I can feed myself with good behaviors to keep up the positive momentum.

What are the components of your growth zone?

What do you do to stay in your growth zone?