It’s advice as common as the reminders we get to drink water every day for good health. We hear it over and over, from mentors, bosses, friends, coaches like me, etc. Everyone tells that if you really want success beyond what you experience today you must “get out of your comfort zone.”
I’m always struck by how superficially this advice is bandied about with no substantive follow up about how to actually go about navigating beyond the comfort zone. Do our well-meaning advice givers not know what it is really like to go beyond our comfort zones? Or do they know and just decide not to share how hard it can be…as a way to challenge us with immediate discomfort?
Too often, talk about getting out of your comfort zone and stepping into a new reality is made to seem as easy as getting out of a car and walking into the grocery store! And that may be why so many of us stay stuck, knowing there’s got to be more to our success and fulfillment, but not getting farther than thinking about changing.
So here’s the truth. Getting out of your comfort zone is be a complex and challenging process, and it can be really flipping hard. That’s why we must expand the comfort zone conversation and give ourselves a chance at success! We’ve got to be straight with each other, with our colleagues, teams, and our friends and families about the post-comfort zone reality.
Let’s enter this new broader conversation with a clear understanding about what the comfort zone is. First off and often overlooked is that the comfort zone deserves some credit as being a place where we find contentment and satisfaction. It not a bad place! The comfort zone is well worn, safe, and sound. Habit, routine, and even the proverbial path of least resistance are among its hallmarks. The comfort zone is the fertile ground in which aspiration, ambition, longing, and desire for growth take root. It’s the place from which, given that our basic needs are met, we can envision further growth, greater possibility, and more achievement. And yes, the comfort zone can also be a place of boredom signaling that the sense of comfort we feel could be out of date.
OK, so with that understanding let’s assume you’re ready to shake things up and go after a new level of success and fulfillment. You’re ready to heed the advice to “get out of your comfort zone,” but you hesitate. You don’t know what’ll happen next and fear sets in. It’s that point of hesitation we want to move beyond by bringing into the open what might happen next. The following are all possible if not probable as you get out of your comfort zone:
- The determination and confidence with which you decided to step out of your comfort zone may immediately seem to evaporate into vast, unnerving uncertainty
- As you continue forward pushing up against the limits that you knew where part of your comfort zone, different ones may reveal themselves—suddenly your comfort zone looks bigger than you expected (Yikes!)
- The factors of your comfort that you thought you had to handle may seem to multiply and take more shapes and forms than you predicted—and with each discovery additional insecurity about your decision may arise
- Uncertainty may start to seem more and more severe; you may then start thinking on overdrive, urgently trying to come up with an antidote for the uncertainty
- Tiredness may set in, and like it always does, that exhaustion will amplify the gravity your situation
- You may feel completely exposed; what you know (or don’t know) and what you do (or don’t do) will feel like it is under meticulous scrutiny by everyone you’re in contact with (even your dog)
- You may experience intense fear of failure, hyper sensitivity to judgement, all of which may threaten your resolve to continue
- You may begin to question your sanity and start treating yourself badly
- Memories of that good old comfort zone may seduce you, calling you back to safety
Any or all of the above can happen in the process of getting out of our comfort zone. These are normal, if not expected, parts of the “what next” scenario. How we face these challenges can either make or break our foray out of our comfort zone, yet we aren’t usually given the heads up about any of it. But that stops now! From now on we talk openly about these challenges and we succeed at getting out our comfort zones. YES!