Feel the fear and do it anyway – tips for breaking out of your comfort zone

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.

Regards, Paul

 

References

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/in-flux/201512/5-benefits-stepping-outside-your-comfort-zone

https://www.roystonguest.com/blog/7-reasons-why-stepping-outside-your-comfort-zone-is-a-must/

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/7-benefits-from-stepping-outside-your-comfort-zone-joshua-miller/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-brain-and-emotional-intelligence/201203/the-sweet-spot-achievement

https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/10-ways-step-out-your-comfort-zone-and-enjoy-taking-risks.html

http://mentalfloss.com/article/74310/8-fake-it-til-you-make-it-strategies-backed-science

Accelerate your career with a Personal Board of Directors

Hi all,

As we wrap up annual performance review season, you’ll all be on the receiving end of feedback. Some of it will be good, some of it will be less so, but hopefully it will all be constructive. With any luck there won’t be any big surprises in there, that’s always unpleasant. Feedback should be a continuous process throughout the year, driven by the individual.

A great way of creating that pipeline of continuous feedback, advice and support is to think of yourself as a company. Banoub Inc. if you will. Has a nice ring to it actually. The best companies operate with a solid, skilled and experienced Board of Directors, working together to provide the direction that the company needs. No one person can do it all themselves.

And that’s the same with you. We all need our own Personal Board of Directors. The people that can advise, critique, praise, motivate and generally steer each of us through the minefield that is our career.

I like to think of my own Personal Board of Directors as 6 – 8 people that connect with me in a number of ways. Here are a few suggestions.

  • A Subject Matter Expert

    • Someone that knows my subject area inside out. A person I can learn technical and job-related skills from. A real expert in the field.

 

  • The no BS advisor

    • We all need someone who gives it to you straight. Someone who’s opinion comes with no BS. They’ll tell you how they see it, whether it is uncomfortable for you or not. Often a great way to get the feedback that others are too scared to give you.

 

  • A super-fan

    • Some people just like you. They might like the way you work, or your attitude, or you just click. It’s always good to have a positive fan on your Personal Board of Directors. They’re handy for spreading that positive message about you and for selling your achievements.

 

  • A critic

    • While your super-fan will tell you all the things you do well, it’s good to balance that out with someone who will let you know where you’re going wrong. They might seem negative, but if they’re spotting flaws that you are missing then they’re extremely valuable. Obviously attitude is key here; you want feedback to be constructive.

 

  • The connector

    • We all know someone who seems to know everyone! They’re all over your social feeds, all over forums and events. Their name crops up everywhere and they seem to get all the info on what’s going on. It’s great to be close to someone who has this profile. They’re able to connect you with people from all over the place and they open so many doors. And as cliche as it sounds, it really is all about the network.

 

  • Someone from Generation-Not-You

    • Your perspective on life is profoundly influenced by your generation. And there’s not a whole lot you can do about that. I like my Personal Board of Directors to feature someone from another generation. Be they younger, or older, they see things through a whole new lens and as such can offer an invaluable opinion.

 

  • The non-work advisor

    • I find it useful to have an advisor that I don’t share any real work connection with. Maybe they share the same hobby as you, or have similar life challenges, the non-work advisor can offer unique commentary that you can use to make real progress.

 

Finally I like to think how I can act as someone else’s board member. Maybe you’ll have a mutual arrangement with some of your own advisors? But do consider how your own skills can be of use to acquaintances at work. The recipient might not even realize you could be of use. So offer!

You’ll probably already have some of these roles already filled, maybe without even realizing it. And just like a real company, there will be turnover, hirings and firings, and maybe the odd scandal, but the group will undoubtedly provide a great deal of collective value.  One thing is for sure, your Personal Board of Directors will provide a continuous fire-hose of actionable feedback and advice, that you can use to shape your career for the better. Don’t rely on the usual feedback channels, go out and get hiring!

Regards, Paul