“You cannot stay comfortable and reach your full potential.”

These words come from an excellent TED Talk by Peter Bregman.  Bregman hits on a core truth—namely, that if you want to grow you must be challenged.  And I believe that, particularly in business but also in life, staying “open” to challenging concepts and ideas requires a consistent and deliberate effort.

As humans we have a natural tendency to seek out information that confirms our beliefs and convictions.  You can see this clearly in the world of politics and media: “Conservatives” tend towards FOXNews and right-leaning blogs, while “Liberals” often prefer MSNBC and left-leaning blogs.  This concept has been described as “The Daily Me” – each day, many of us get up in the morning and seek out news and opinion that validates what we already believe about the world.  Why do we do this?  Because it’s comfortable.  But it certainly doesn’t challenge us to think critically or seek new understanding.

Why does this matter?  Because as business people, if we aren’t deliberately seeking out new ideas and new approaches, we risk closing ourselves off to further growth.  Whether it’s new approaches to marketing, leadership, financial management, or anything else, if we hope to grow as managers and leaders it is critical that we expose ourselves to new ideas.  This might sound obvious and fairly easy to do. But as Peter Bregman points out, opening yourself to people and ideas that challenge our own beliefs has emotional consequences.

It’s unpleasant to hear that what we believe may not be true, or that what we considered to be the best approach to a given problem may not actually be the wisest course of action.  Most of us have a natural defensive reaction to such a challenge which can be the equivalent of holding our hands to our ears to literally block out uncomfortable information.  But often, learning to accept such uncomfortable input is the only way to truly grow.

I highly recommend watching the video (TED Talk) when you have the time (it’s seventeen minutes long).  And then make a concerted effort to seek out new ideas that may NOT be comfortable for you, whether that means listening to dissenting opinions in your next board meeting or finding new management theories that are different from yours.  Are you going to be comfortable?  Or are you going to challenge yourself to grow and reach your true potential?  You can’t have it both ways – I hope you’ll choose the latter.