Stretching the Limits in a Strong Market: Dealing With Comfort Levels

How is your production – and bank account – in today’s market? Both looking solid? Good! For most firms, our current market is both strong and steadily improving, and is likely to continue that way for quite a few years!

But there is a major trap in this kind of economy which may cost you both business success and longevity.? That trap is the tendency to achieve only to your “comfort level” of financial accomplishment, the level where you feel you have reached your expectations. If your production is spasmodic, that is, high for a few months and then low for a few months, there is a real possibility that this applies to you.

Unless specific actions are taken immediately, this will lead to two results.

The first is the firm establishment of habit patterns of skills and work pace sufficient to yield only “enough” income. Unfortunately, those habits that yield “enough” income in a strong market will yield far less than enough in a weak market. Some day things will change. And trying to improve habit patterns under the stress of a deteriorating market is very difficult. This fact alone results in the drastic reduction in our numbers in a slow market. That might be you.

The second inevitable result of falling victim to the “comfort level” trap is simply that of reduced production. Were this the depths of 1975 or 1982 or 1991-92 or 2001-02, how much would you long for today’s market?? And how much would you promise yourself that you would make the absolute most of it?? Are you doing so?? Or is the “comfort level” trap standing in your way?

Can this problem be overcome?? You bet it can!

Identify the Problem

It is simplistic and erroneous to attribute the “comfort level” problem to one specific factor. People are complex animals. Similar actions may be due to completely different mental reasons. The first step logically is to identify the real problem rather than the result. Following are the common factors leading to the plateau called “reaching the comfort level.”

1) Fear of Failure: To attempt anything implies risk – the risk of failure. What if you try – and can’t do it?? To a person who has not failed at something significant for years (because they haven’t tried), this can be a shattering experience. Shakespeare’s words were “our doubts are traitors, and cause us to lose the good we often might gain, by fearing to attempt.” Many fear to attempt.

2) Fear of Success: Henry David Thoreau probably did more harm to achievement with his dictum of “simplify, simplify” and “reduce your wants” than any other. Of course, he avoided being brought to face reality by dying young. It is commonly thought that money or success changes people. It does. It makes them happier. Early brainwashing in wrong directions by our parents and society can be a powerful deterrent to achieving our potential.

3) Low Expectations: Think of the finest, most up-scale restaurant you know. Decor, food and service are all superb.? Now invite an unsophisticated inner-city dweller to that restaurant. How would they feel?? Awkward, uncomfortable, out-of-place. They couldn’t wait to get out and go back to McDonalds. That is how most people feel at first when their bank account or home or clothes exceed what they have been used to. Many such people will spend unwisely or simply quit working until their surroundings again approximate their expectations.

4) Low Self-Image: This has to do with a person’s perception of themself in the pecking order of life. Lack of confidence and belief in one’s self will prevent even striving for a higher level of achievement. Heraclitus once said that, “Character is destiny.” But in achievement and especially in sales, self-perception is destiny.

5) Mental Fatigue: Burnout may be defined as “the lack of a feeling of continuing improvement.” When this is combined with a consistently high number of calls over a protracted period of time, energy and enthusiasm diminish. As Vince Lombardi, legendary football coach, said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” And, the plateau which we blame on “reaching our comfort level” may be the result.

6) Satisfaction: It is possible – maybe – to achieve all goals and lose the desire to strive. Close examination, however, will almost always reveal this explanation as an excuse for one of the above factors, especially #1. Who couldn’t use more money or feel warmed by greater achievement?

The Rewards

We are dealing with a situation where the rewards are truly massive. If the solution results in an eventual income increase of $10,000 per year (and it may be much higher), this represents an increase of this amount for every year of your remaining working life. Translate that amount into security, education, or a higher living standard for yourself and your family.

The economic results, however, in no way even approach the emotional benefits. Few feelings in life are as personally joyous as the permanent attitude of being strong, confident, and successful. No true winner feels that way unless they are continually improving. The ending of the stagnancy of “comfort levels” is imperative to self-fulfillment.

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The Solutions

1) Honest Self-Searching: The first step (as always) is the hardest. The process of identifying which one or combinations of the above situations are posing the problem simply must be done. Honestly analyze yourself. Only then can corrective steps be effectively taken.

2) Expand Your Economic Horizons: You must work to break out of your “limited-needs” mindset. Make a scrapbook consisting of pictures of things you’d like to have. Spend a day looking at expensive homes. Rent a BMW, Mercedes, or Porsche for a weekend. Read books and magazines on investments. Expose yourself to a better life-style … and cultivate a lust for it.

3) Motivational Material: Motivation without skills training is useless. However, a competent consultant who has stagnated must brainwash themself out of their comfort level. Motivational books will be quite beneficial to this person. Start with the best – “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill and “As A Man Thinketh,” by James Allen. Read them, underline them as you read, and then read the underlined material. Keep doing it. You can think and grow rich – if work accompanies the correct thoughts.

4) Improve Your Selling Skills: Nothing produces boredom more surely than a cessation of improvement of selling skills. To be forced to rely on “hitting numbers” without skill improvement is mentally debilitating. A solid program of skill improvement is mandatory.? Broadcast-quality industry-specific videos and books, combined with reading books on classical or industry-specific selling, will explode your production and enthusiasm rapidly. A good sales-oriented in-house trainer should also be considered. Sharpen your selling skills – and you will improve your attitude and production!

5) Planning: A “plateau” of desire is usually accompanied by a slowing of work pace and a lack of planning. Fifteen minutes extra time in the office after working hours should be allocated to additional planning for the next day. It will yield major dividends in breaking out of stagnation.

6) Hypnosis: Comfort levels are frequently due to problems stemming from old attitudes absorbed in childhood. Hypnosis is a genuine tool to help you achieve your potential – a fact well-known by Olympic athletes and martial artists. It will not cause you to “lose control” or come under someone else’s “power.” It will take more than one session to be of benefit. Try six sessions, once a week. Explain to the hypnotist about “comfort levels.” Show them this article. Don’t ignore this valuable tool just because of incorrect prejudice. Hypnosis is not everything. But it will help.

7) Long-Term Goals: It is remarkable how few people really stop to envision themselves decades away. Give real thought to where you want to eventually be economically. Then add specifics to your vision. Figure out how much money it will take. Keep your vision firmly in mind – and then go out and earn it!

Which of the above suggestions need to be followed to break out of the “comfort level” trap?? The obvious answer is all of them. Just as the problem of “when the striving stops” generally stems from multiple sources, so must this be solved in multiple ways. Not to make the effort dooms a person to a life of frustration and limitations; once the obstacles have been overcome, however, greater confidence, achievement, and financial rewards will be the inevitable result!

We have a strong market, which will continue to improve. Maximize it!

Acclaimed international author, speaker, and trainer Steve Finkel is a veteran of over 30 years and six recessions in our industry. Personnel Consultant Magazine, published by the National Association of Personnel Consultants, has referred to him as possessing "the most in-depth knowledge of search and placement in industry history." Recruitment International Magazine, Europe's largest industry publication, has described him as "the world's premier author and trainer in search and recruitment." His revised and up-to-date 360-page book Breakthrough! is now distributed in 25 countries and is also available on Amazon. Contact him at 314-991-3177 or