Comfort zones. We all have them. Generally speaking most people don’t usually like to leave theirs. But if you want to grow you have to learn how to get out of your comfort zone at the right place and the right time. Today we are discussing how to do just that.
Have you ever heard that you need to step out of your comfort zone in order to grow? It makes sense since most living things only grow or change when pressed by some outside force. Many times that reason we get out of our comfort zone is thrust upon us.
You might get a promotion at work that forces you to learn to speak in front of others or to lead people. If you have kids they’re constantly forcing you outside your comfort zone with their developments and troubles. Even a new friend or partner might help you push yourself out by taking you on some new adventures.
The problem is that many of us will not step out of our zones unless we have one of these outside forces helping us along. However, if you want continue to make strides in your personal growth, you’re going to have to find ways to push the edges of your comfort zone on your own.
When is the right time? Certainly if we take an uninformed leap out in the wrong direction it might cause such a bad experience that we never want to leave our comfort zones again. Ever.
But you can’t let the fear of having a bad experience rule you either. Where’s the balance?
We don’t need to try to grow in every direction, and certainly not all at once. As I’ve talked about before your growth can be wide where maybe you’re touching your toe outside your box in several different places or it can be deep where you’re taking giant leaps in one direction.
Also your risks can be calculated and well informed and still be outside your comfort zone. Just because speaking at a meeting of 10 is in your comfort zone doesn’t mean that teaching a workshop at a conference is too.
Below are tactics and methods that you can use to help yourself figure out when and where you should be pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone so that you can grow. While fear is one of the main things that keeps us inside our safe place, the more we push our boundaries in well designed ways the easier each attempt will become.
Just like you shouldn’t say yes to every opportunity you’re presented with, you shouldn’t feel compelled to leap out of your comfort zone at every turn. Getting out of your comfort zone comes with a certain amount of stress, and we can’t be stressing ourselves out constantly and expect to thrive.
But how do you know the difference between deciding that it’s not worth it and just being afraid to do it?
Plenty of us have convinced ourselves that we didn’t really want to do something, when really we were just afraid, and saying we didn’t want to do it is what we told ourselves so we could avoid doing it.
In order to figure out whether an experience is worth it ask yourself whether you would do whatever it is if there was no fear, no stress, and no risk of failure. Of course there’s no such real situation like this, but these are the things that stop us before we start.
I am an extrovert, I love meeting and talking to new people — but if we’re being honest I don’t really like networking events. They make me feel stressed and suddenly socially awkward when I don’t normally feel that. I know there are many other people that don’t particularly like networking events either.
In order for me to decide whether doing that is worth it is to imagine taking away those feelings.
For example, if you just imagined you were going over to a friend’s house for a party, where lots of people in your industry would happen to be, does that change whether it’s worth it or not?
If reframing the situation still doesn’t make you feel like this opportunity is important, then it probably isn’t. However, if lifting that mental weight lets you say that you’d totally do it if it were that easy — that’s how you know it’s time to stretch.
CHECK YOUR SCHEDULE
Because I was once the queen of over commitment this needs to be said here again — just because you’re presented with an opportunity, doesn’t mean you need to accept — even if it’s a good one.
In order for you to increase your chances of success in this particular growth opportunity, you’re probably going to need to spend some time working on it beforehand. Things inside your comfort zone are generally something you’ve been trained on or skills you have worked at for years.
Things are outside your comfort zone for a reason. They’re somewhat unknown. Or the way you currently handle them is stressful. So in order to complete the task successfully you need to do some learning and some growing.
This takes time.
When looking at your schedule to plan your new endeavor don’t just calculate how long it will take you to actually participate, think about all the planning and learning you need to do up front.
You might be at an event for 2 hours and spend 20 minutes of that time giving a speech. However, you might need a few months beforehand to write the speech out and work on it with someone, before you feel comfortable enough to deliver it.
Growth takes time, so remember to plan accordingly.
If you’re going to do more than dip a toe outside your comfort zone you’re going to want to prepare as I’ve said above. But what does that entail?
If you’ve already decided that something is worth it, then you probably have some experience with what you want to do.
For example, if you’d like to lead a workshop you’ve probably already attended one and thought it would be great to give one yourself. If you haven’t, then you should probably do that to make sure you really want to do this.
The next step would be to research further into what you want to accomplish. How do the people that you look up to get it done? What do other industry leaders believe is the mark of success? What skills might you need to develop in order to succeed?
Then it’s time to practice. If teaching a room of 30 people is waaay out of your comfort zone, then start small. Perhaps you practice in your living room, to absolutely no one, first. Then you give the workshop to a couple of close friends. Then again to 5 people you don’t know.Then actually deliver s the real deal.
These are baby steps in low risk environments that help you build the confidence to make the full jump. It’s not to say that you couldn’t just go straight from prep to the full 30 person group, but if that scares you to the point that you don’t want to try at all, then low risk practice is the way to go.
OVERCOME YOUR HURDLES
If leaving our comfort zones were easy we wouldn’t have them in the first place. But that’s not how this works. We’re all going to have our own particular sticking points about a new situation.
Here are some tactics you can use to turn this uncomfortable situation into the newest addition to your comfort zone.
Bridge the Gap
Oftentimes the things that are outside our comfort zone come with a LOT of reasons why we aren’t comfortable with them. With the networking example, it might not just be that there’s so many people there. They are also often in a place you’ve never been and can be noisy and overwhelming.
Most of us are fine one on one in a coffee shop with a friend, but in a big room with a bunch of strangers, and nowhere to hide, that changes everything.
In order to cope with all these changes, imagine what you could do to make the situation closer to your comfort zone. If you’re in a large conference room could you meet someone interesting and then ask them to step into the lobby so you can hear them and possibly sit down? Or could you just focus on getting business cards and then follow up with people later to make one on one appointments?
Imagine what would make this new thing totally a part of your comfort zone and then look for all the creative tactics you might use to bring the new situation closer to your comfort zone.
Make Yourself Do It
Just as I talked about in the beginning, many of us won’t grow if we’re not forced. Sometimes you need to find a way to make yourself do it.
This can take a lot of forms. You can take a class or get some accountability. Tell the world that you plan on doing it and keep them up to date along the way. Sometimes just the fear of someone asking you how it went is enough to make you do it in the first place.
We all respond differently to various tools. Some people love a deadline, while others have no problem watching it whizz by them. You might be motivated if you took a class or that might just double your fear of the situation.
Figure out what things get you fired up and use those to your advantage. If you know that you won’t do this thing unless you put some tactics in place, then make sure those tactics are built into your plan in the first place.
I think we can all agree by now that perfectionism isn’t helping anyone get anything done. In fact it stops most people from even trying to do hard things.
And when it comes right down to it, it’s never going to be perfect. And that’s ok!
There are many ways to step out of your comfort zone and none of them are right or wrong. Some people love to dive head first into something without thinking, and others need to plan and strategize and do it baby steps.
Whatever works for you is great as long as you let go of the results being perfect. Because none of these tactics will help you if you’re never willing to start in the first place.
Remember Your Why
When you thought about what it would be like to go on this adventure without any of the stress or worry, what was the reason that came to you? What makes it important enough for you to go through all this preparation and stress?
Think about the positive results that you could get from your experiment. If you’re going to travel alone for the first time think about all the amazing sights that you’ll get to see and the unique experiences that you will have.
Holding on to your why will get you through all the times that you are doubting whether this is worth it or not. Especially in do or die moments like the last day to cancel that plane ticket or that moment right before you’re announced to go on stage.
It helps if you can come up with something to visualize and revisit that image frequently — preferably daily. For example, when I start getting nervous about how a speech is going to go, I imagine nailing it and hearing the roaring applause from the audience afterwards. It’s a quick image that I can come back to easily and helps bolster my confidence.
Imagine yourself succeeding at your diversion from the routine and you most likely will succeed.
If you’re struggling with getting out of your comfort zone or in any area of personal growth, contact me here. Coaching can be a great way to work through your obstacles and keep you accountable so you can reach your goals.