Anna has been pushing me out of my comfort zone since we met for 10 years now. She claimed it would help my personal growth. There are actual articles backing up this idea. Let us try to think about it.
Our comfort zone typically includes things we feel comfortable doing: things we do automatically, things that are easy for us, and things we have significant experience of doing. Usually things in the comfort zone are so easy for us, that we enjoy doing them: after all, it is nice to be good at the things that we do. Quite often we associate our image of ourselves, our ego and our safety with this comfort zone. There are only two problems with the comfort zone: (1) occasionally we are pushed out of it and (2) if we are comfortable, we are not motivated to change.
Quite often we say that each of you is a hero. There is a good reason for it: anyone taking a step out of the comfort zone to learn new things, need a lot of courage to do that. We can find ourselves out of our comfort zone for many reasons. Something bad can happen, like we can loose a job. Or something good can expose us to new challenges, like a promotion. We may decide to take the step ourselves out of boredom, sense of purpose or curiosity. Maybe someone near us gives us a strong push towards the new things because they know something about us we do not notice ourselves. One way or another each of us has to be a hero occasionally. And being a hero we grow. “Fake it till you make it” is not a myth. Once we assume new roles, we learn new skills and eventually our comfort zone grows to include these roles – just in time for new challenges.
There is a word of caution: stepping out of comfort zone too often or two strong may be a traumatic experience. Unlike becoming a hero we may feel a victim. Try not to step out of your comfort zone, until you are comfortable with your life. Good stress (also known as eustress) should be carefully monitored. There is only so much stress each of us can take, before the stress starts to damage us.
How do we deal with stepping out of the comfort zone?
- Take responsibility. Do not just be a hero, feel well about being a hero. Try to be as responsible for your new roles as you can, be proactive rather than simply react to what happens. Enjoy the adventure. This comes natural for some, is almost impossible for few others, yet for most people it is just a matter of proper atonement and self-talk.
- Be prepared. When out of comfort zone, try to find as much relevant information as you can, using different sources. Read, talk to people, make simulations. If you can prepare before stepping out of the comfort zone, it is preferable. Otherwise, try to learn on the fly.
- Control wisely. Not everything can be controlled. Try to choose wisely which events you want to control and where you need to let go. Controlling you own attitude is hard enough, quite often it is sufficient. Do evaluate the risks and avoid situations where the risk is higher than you can stomach.
- Have patience. When out of comfort zone we often feel need to either return to the comfort zone or progress to the end of the activity. This is very bad. We make mistakes when we hurry. Try to resist the need to end the activity, and mindfully focus on the activity itself.
- Appreciate feedback. You will probably get a lot of feedback when out of comfort zone. Some of it will be helpful. Some of it you will not want to hear. No matter how bad the feedback we get: it does not mean we are bad people or the activity is not suited for us. Maybe we simply moved too far and too soon, and need to take a step back and rearrange our assets.
- Discover leadership. When we are out of our comfort zone, there are usually other people around us out of their own comfort zones. They need feedback, comfort, support, guidance. When out of our comfort zone we can discover the type of leaders we are. Everybody has some leadership traits, only some are natural leaders and others need to develop their trait carefully. Stepping out of comfort zone is a great way to develop your leadership trait.
- Open up. When you step out of your comfort zone, do it publicly. Be transparent about what you do at least with the people who are there to help you. Try to reach out to others in similar situation. Accept criticism in good spirit.
As we learn, especially if we learn in a group, we are continuously stepping out of our comfort zone. Be a hero, enjoy the challenge. Good things may happen as a result.