Breaking the Status Quo

Life is constantly in a state of flux and change. People grow and age, flowers bloom and wither while time and tide wait for no man. The passage of time is a true albeit cruel fact – even for those who refuse to face it. Most of us choose to stay in denial and opt for an unchanged and stagnant life. A good question to ask ourselves is:

Is there really a life that stays the same forever? 

The answer is a straight “no”.

We don’t own a car forever. It will get damaged and eventually scrapped. We can live our whole life in a homely abode but our house will still get sold or may be destroyed by a natural disaster over time. Even our relationships with our friends and spouses change over time – be it for better or for worse. But human nature is such that we grasp futilely at constancy – knowing fully well that there is no such thing. This may be how the phrase “comfort zone” is created. Along the same vein, “stepping out of one’s comfort zone” is actually a normal way of living, and not what many proclaimed as an incredible feat. Similarly, “Staying in one’s comfort zone” is not what many presume to be the norm. In fact, staying in one’s comfort zone may well be the only road to mediocrity.

It is time to break the status quo of life.

We can already see this happening in the classrooms. While previously, educators are the ones appraising their students, some educational institutions have implemented the system of students assessing the teaching and/or facilitating effectiveness of their teachers. This may sound strange at first glance but think about it: only sound feedback from their students are educators able to improve their teaching skills. This is one of the best examples of breaking the status quo – the other being the fact that the abilities and talents of students are redefining curriculum and lesson plans. Teachers are no longer required or encouraged to teach students what they know. Through experiential learning, students are encouraged to create their own learning experiences based on their personalities, interests and inclinations. This will enable them to be lifelong learners instead of being great students from within their classrooms and feeling helpless from without.

Some employees often lament that they are often free to suggest ideas but find it extremely challenging to implement them within their organisations. There are numerous causes but the more common ones are as follows:

– Heavy workloads:  It is the responsibility of organisations to lighten the workloads of employees as not doing so not only stifle employees’ creativity, it basically exhaust them to the point of being ineffective. Having said that, some employees love to stay in their comfort zone – and having them face heavier workload by the day only makes them want to stay in the comfort zone longer. They will often use heavy workload as a reason not to take on new and exciting tasks. And who can blame them?

Office politics and corporate bureaucracies: This is especially prevalent when the entire effort of a project rests on the shoulders of not one but several departments.  Let’s imagine just 2 departments X and Y collaborating on a project. When department X is supposed to be in charge of the presentation materials as well as the presentation session, any input from department Y to improve on the presentation materials may be thrown right out the window – despite the fact that the suggestions and ideas are valid and feasible. All departments want to look good. The presentation standards of Department X is good all this while, so why allow some comments from Department Y or any department for that matter to jeopardize that? Of course, one can argue that we should all help one another out in a collaborative effort to produce a good output. This is easy to say but in light of departmental appraisal coming up, who can blame them? Appraisals of departments and employees are a good way to ensure good to great performance by employees but it also causes conflicts – both internal and external.

Differences in priorities and conflicts of interest:  One man’s meat is another man’s poison. An engineering department might like to push their invented product out to the market. The customer service department might say no because introducing a product too early with no prior testing may result in higher complains and increased workloads. They prefer dealing with patented and trusted products. The marketing department might say no because they already have marketing plans in place for existing products and the profits generated from their sales are more trustworthy than newly-invented products. After all, why spend time investing in the planning of new marketing plans and campaigns for an entirely new product (which might not even sell) when the current status quo brings in the revenue year after year? The sales department might say no because they have not known the new product’s features inside out and hence are not confident of selling them. An objection from any one of these three departments is sufficient to lay the new product to rest – forever.

If we are to examine the abovementioned three examples, we can observe that all three scenarios result from a closed mindset – a strong refusal to accept new things in life. This very act is – in actual fact-  going against the flow of life itself.  Only by adopting an open mindset are we able to embrace the miracles of life.  Christopher Columbus would not have found new lands if he does not have the courage to step outside his comfort zone to embark on a journey of exploration and discovery. If not for the innovative spirit that exists within the organisation, 3M would not be as successful as it is today.  If not for a “why not?” question in someone’s head,  useful inventions will not exist in this world.

So, break out of our comfort zone. Embrace Change. Be curious. Break new grounds. Leave the crowd and take the road less travelled by making a positive difference in someone’s life.

Help the poor and the underprivileged. Learn a foreign language. Help someone achieve their dreams.

The whole world lies ahead of us – only if we break out of our shell.

Take action now.

The world is waiting.

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