Old Shoes, New Shoes: Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Do you have a really old pair of shoes? You know the ones: you automatically slip into them when you are just doing things around the house or running errands; the ones that are so broken in, that they fit your feet with no tight places. They’re easy to slip into, but not so great to look at: worn down on the sides, scuffed and scratched, and impossibly out of style. They may have some holes in them, some stitches that are missing, and seams that are broken. The soles may even be worn thin. Comfortable shoes like this may be too comfortable, so comfortable that any time you try on a new pair of shoes they just feel stiff, tight, and hard to wear. The new shoes pinch in all the places your old shoes don’t.

Is Your Business Model an “Old Pair of Shoes”?

Now think of your business: Has it become like your comfortable pair of old shoes? Does it seem easier to keep doing the same things than to try something new? If you’re too comfortable in the old ”shoes,” anything new pinches, and seems too tight and uncomfortable. Is your old business model so easy to hold on to that even when the signs are there that the sides are broken down and the style has long since been surpassed that you can’t consider a new model because the old one is so comfortable?

Rarely is anyone comfortable stepping out of existing comfort zones, whether it is trading old shoes for brand new shoes or old ways for new ones. It takes a time to break in new shoes, and it takes time to get comfortable changing the way you do business, even when it is necessary to generate better results.

New Shoes: Finding a Good Fit

What does it take to find a new pair of shoes? It takes some comparison shopping. It takes looking at the options. For shoes most people think about style, fit, brands, cost, materials, and so on. For business models, it is also somewhat about style, fit, cost, and other features. Finding the right new way of doing business will be about as comfortable as slipping into a pair of new shoes. You know they won’t feel quite as comfortable as the old pair, but they will feel more comfortable the closer the fit is to how your business needs be doing business.

Like a new pair of shoes, when changes feel right, they may be a little tight in a few places but you know that when you walk in them a bit and you have time to grow used to them, they will become as comfortable as your old shoes. (But like your old shoes, at some point in time you will have to give this pair up as well.) The old business model was comfortable and familiar, and—truth be told—you probably were so comfortable with it that you may have been lax in adhering to all the rules you had established in the beginning. And any changes, even little “tweaks” to that model, that you wanted to make would quickly be abandoned because they just weren’t comfortable. (Ahh! That old pair of shoes!)

New Shoes: Breaking Them In

When it comes time to change, we find the new business model, but keep reaching back to our old ways. Every business model—like shoes which become worn—needs to be updated or replaced, but we tend to be creatures and businesses of habit, so we hang on to those old ways like our favorite pair of shoes. We find the new uncomfortable, so are tempted to go back to what we are used to, even when we recognize that the old is hopelessly worn out and outdated. It takes time to break in and become comfortable with new ways of doing business: systems, processes, and methods. It is mandatory that the business make it through the transition period and implement the new model. Success depends upon getting everyone to adopt the new model and making the fit work. Before you know it, the new model will be your comfort zone.

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