by Josh Millar
Really think about it. Where are you in relation to your comfort zone? Have you been firmly planted there for a while now? Do you venture out occasionally? Or maybe hardly stay in it long enough to recognize it? I don’t think there’s necessarily a one-size-fits-all relationship that’s best here, but I do think there are some key points we can all benefit from looking at. One, we need to realize what our comfort zone looks like and have a sense of how often we venture outside of it. We need awareness. Two, I also believe there’s a relationship between stepping out of that comfort zone and growth. This isn’t to say that you can’t grow in it, or that every time you step out of it will feel like a success. But the practice of challenging ourselves to push beyond the boundaries of our safe zone can be a powerful motivator of growth. Here are some of the most important things to think about when it comes to your comfort zone:
The way that we think about our comfort zone tends to dictate how we engage with it. Some professionals stay firmly planted in their comfort zones and rarely think about it. They let routine and lack of risk box them in. Then there are others who occasionally push themselves to step outside, but who prefer to be in their comfort zones. Finally, there are some who find their comfort zones to be not so comfortable. They are so committed to growth that they would rather be uncomfortable and challenging themselves than comfortable and stagnant. When you have a growth mindset, you can start to look at your comfort zone from a more complex perspective. You can see that while there is value in routine and ease, there is also value is pushing beyond that. When your mindset makes your comfort-zone feel a bit less comfortable, that can drive forward progress.
If you’re someone who wants to start stepping out of their comfort zone more often, starting small is key. If you’re not used to venturing so far outside of it, it can be, unsurprisingly, very uncomfortable. Suddenly, you’re in a position where you don’t know all the answers, where you need to be able to adapt and think on your feet. If you get inspired to challenge yourself a bit more, don’t force yourself so far outside of your comfort zone that you can’t wait to return. This makes it even harder to try again in the future. Instead, start with small steps that feel right to you. The more you do this, the more you’ll be able to challenge yourself over time.
Step out of your comfort zone and fail. It will show you that it’s not so bad, that there’s something to be gained from it, and that you can keep moving forward. Of course, you won’t fail intentionally, but allow yourself the possibility. That’s what stepping out of your comfort zone is all about. Try something that you are not certain you will succeed at. This is how you find your edge. And if you go a bit too far and aren’t successful, you’ll see that you can withstand the discomfort. This can quickly shrink the fear of failure and build confidence to try again.
To me, a comfort zone is a fine home base to return to, but it’s not a place to stay forever. Getting to a point where you have a level of comfort in your career is great. It’s in this place that we can reflect, explore, and strategize. Then we can wisely venture outside of that comfort zone, to expand, learn, grow, and then return. This means your comfort zone will evolve with you. Things that were once really challenging become par for the course. How do you engage with your comfort zone? I’d love to hear your thoughts.