Challenge. It’s often mentioned as one of your company cultural behaviours. Or see the following definition
One of the most effective ways to challenge yourself is to break out of your comfort zone.
What’s the comfort zone?
Everyone needs a safe spot. Most people will have that psychological panic room that provides mental safety, stability and relaxation. It’s our way of reducing risk, keeping anxiety low and making life easier. It’s our comfort zone.
It’s great to spend time in the comfort zone. But it’s even better to leave it. Here’s why and how you can achieve that goal.
How do you benefit?
- Growth – I don’t think anyone wants to stand still. Certainly not at my org. Leaving your comfort zone is a proven way to evolve your capabilities in any area of your life.
- Productivity & performance – An increased focus and variety of experiences leads to a sharpening of skills and discovering of new abilities. Often ones you never imagined you’d have.
- Confidence – The more you break out of your comfort zone the more you’ll see confidence improve. I’ve seen people completely re-invent themselves just by taking on more challenges.
- Satisfaction – And the satisfaction a new challenge nailed speaks for itself. You’ll begin to build up the circle of challenge feeding satisfaction, feeding more challenge.
- Friends – Wanna see your network grow? Each new challenge will have a population of enthusiasts, newbies & experts alike, all willing to welcome you into their family. It’s the best way to meet new people.
- Influence on others – This is one of my personal favourite benefits. Once you get into the habit of taking on new challenges, then you’ll be able to act as a mentor for others and help bring them along with you. It’s often more satisfying to help someone else achieve their goals.
There are many motivations or triggers for wanting to break out of your comfort zone. You might experience a life event such as childbirth or bereavement, or it may be part of a wider strategy to reinvent yourself. Or maybe you’ve had a Rubicon moment in your career where you just want change. The trigger could be anything. But that’s the starting point for great things to happen.
How do you escape the comfort zone?
- Understand the boundaries – First you need to know where your comfort zone end are. Generally if the thought of doing something makes you nervous, then it’s likely to be outside your comfort zone.
- Make a list – Note down all of the activities, thoughts, actions that scare you. Try to cover things that might be a small stretch, as well as the huge, seemingly impossible items. You might want to categorise the items, as there may well be different themes. I like to think of separate comfort zones relating to work, family, sport & mental health. You can even make it fun. I thought of creating a list of activities to break out of my food comfort zone. Sushi anyone? Ew!
- Rank & rate – Now rank each item in terms of how much benefit you *think* it might give you and also rate in terms of how hard you think it will be to achieve. Obviously if you’ve got “Run a Marathon” on your list and you’ve never run before then you’ll have to break that down into manageable steps. It’s likely you’ll have a lot of items so ranking them is important.
- Make it happen – Then it’s time to start doing some of these scary things. Start with the easy, manageable items that are just a little bit scary, then work up. You’ll get so used to taking on challenges that it will get progressively easier, although always scary. And for each achievement that feeling of satisfaction will grow.
- Act as If – There was an interesting talk at my org recently from life coach Charlotta Hughes, author of this book. She spoke about “Acting as if” or “faking it till you make it”. Have a look online, this is an approach that can make it easier to achieve the goals on your scary list.
- Seek safety in numbers – as you work your way through your list of terror, try to associate with other like-minded people. Just like it’s easier to train for a marathon with a group, it’s easier to achieve your goals when surrounded by similar people. You’ll inspire each other.
But be aware of the demands of all this challenge. There’s a sweet spot between anxiety and performance. Don’t push it too much, and listen to your body and mind. And if it gets too much, don’t be scared to ease off and review.
And as you grow in confidence, ability and stature as a result of all this achieving do remember that everyone is different. Stay humble and non-judgmental. What might be easy to you may be super-hard to someone else.
This obviously isn’t a foolproof guide to success, everyone is different. But I’m confident that this approach would be beneficial to most people who want to kick-start an aspect of their life.
Do let me know what you think of this in the comments. Especially any personal examples of where you’ve left your comfort zone or top tips for achievement.