“I don’t like to be constantly told that I need to step out of my comfort zone. I’m happy where I am.” I was at Starbucks yesterday, waiting for a friend of mine to join me, when this remark caught my attention. The lady who made this remark was looking quite frustrated and was possibly having one of those down and out moments.
Do we constantly need to live out of our comfort zone?
Do we need to constantly push somebody out of their comfort zone?
In 1995, when I came to Hong Kong, I had till then never lived alone nor in a new country/city on my own. I took on a new role within the same organization, that I was working for in India. Here I was, in a new country, new culture, new work environment, new language, new role and yet….I learnt my way through, from my mistakes, believing in myself and not giving into my fears and I continue to live and enjoy this city, 20 years later.
If somebody had mentioned to me that I have to step out of my comfort zone, I probably would not have realized, what that meant, then. All I knew, at that moment in time, was that I have to make a meaningful impact, prove my worth, achieve the department goals and in all this, get a sense of fulfillment and grow in my career path and life.
Yet, when I reflect, I did step out of my comfort zone in several ways throughout my journey of 20 years and continue to do so. If I had not done so, I would not have made the journey to where I am today.
Can we live outside of our comfort zone all the time ? No, in fact, not necessary.
We need time to process our experiences and thus need to come back within our comfort zone. If we are constantly seeking new experiences all the time, we may run the risk of missing out the subtlety and experiences of life. In this day of the technological innovations, breakthroughs, and being connected all the time with our smart phones, change is continuos and the last thing we want, is for the new and interesting to become boring within a short span of time and a sense of apathy to develop.
So, why is there so much importance being given to stepping out of our comfort zone?
We are creatures of our habits and over time, we all gather a set of constricting habits around us—those that we become less conscious of and lull into an auto pilot mode. Some of these habits restrict us from attaining our full potential because we allow ourselves to be dominated by our fears. When you allow some of these not so useful habits to rule you, you will be stuck in a rut.
So how do we motivate ourselves to step out of our comfort zone and yet not make it stressful and nerve wrecking.
1.Have a growth mindset
When you have a growth mindset, you become more aware of opportunities for your self-improvement. Living on an auto pilot mode and continuing the same habits which causes frustration adds to your stress and overwhelm. Challenging yourself to move forward adds that spice and flavor to your life and enables you to achieve progress in your life.
My transitions within the world of investment banking world, where I spent 20 years and switching from a corporate career to running my own business, four years back, has been possible on account of my growth mindset. Research in Neuroscience tells us that our connection to meaningful impact and contribution activates our neural reward networks.
2.Change your thoughts
Your thoughts control who you are. If you believe you can’t, you won’t. Living within your comfort zone today, was someday, probably, out of your comfort zone. Living within your comfort zone is good as long as it doesn’t make you stagnant.
How can you expect to progress and move forward in your life if you are not willing to do something with which you are uncomfortable? Anything new is likely to create some uncertainty or discomfort. The first day in your job probably felt uncomfortable and 3-6 months later, you got into the groove.
Give power to your negative thoughts and it starts to control your feelings, words and language and you are not able to break away from the vicious cycle of negativity. Empower your thoughts and the actions that follows as a result.
3.Face Your Fear
Unknown and uncertain things is many times perceived by our brain as a threat. If we allow that fear to dominate us, we become victims of it. A little anxiety may be just what you need to focus your efforts and perform at your peak, psychologists say. Ask yourself how did you overcome some of the fears you had before? What did you learn from that experience? Let logic more than emotion prevail in guiding you to overcome your fears.
“There’s a place for information,” Dr. Taylor (Kathleen Taylor, a professor at St. Mary’s College of California, who has studied ways to teach adults effectively) says. “We need to know stuff. But we need to move beyond that and challenge our perception of the world. If you always hang around with those you agree with and read things that agree with what you already know, you’re not going to wrestle with your established brain connections.”
Such stretching is exactly what scientists say best keeps a brain in tune: get out of the comfort zone to push and nourish your brain. Do anything from learning a foreign language to taking a different route to work.
Believe in yourself, the depth of your talent, the power of your ability and the reach of your potential. If you keep doubting yourself, then you will not be able to move forward. Reflect on things you do well, things which challenge you and where you need to improve, and how you can use your strengths to overcome your challenges. Seek the help of a mentor or coach who can be a sounding board and help you get the necessary insights. Let go of being in control of everything in your life. That adds to the overwhelm and stress.
Viewing the stress response as helpful, the heart still pounds but the way your body responds is similar to when you are in joy and courage. If you think of something as a challenge, which you will enjoy, then you are able to live up to that challenge.
Whilst learning, growth and development happens outside your comfort zone, seek diversity on things you already do well and within your comfort zone. This will give you the optimal balance of being challenged and in a healthy way. Try out different ways of doing something, you have been doing as a routine. For e.g. If you write every Monday, to publish your blog post and you feel bogged down by sticking to that routine, try changing it to another day. Not every aspect of your life at every stage needs to be viewed as stepping out of your comfort zone.
If using the word “Outside your Comfort Zone”, bothers you and causes agony in you, reframe your communication.
Ask, what do you need to start doing to get to your vision or goal? What do you need to stop doing to achieve your dreams? What do you need to give up to reach your potential ? Enjoy the journey and if you feel you are running on a hamster wheel, Stop, reflect and check if you have pushed yourself way too hard to cause overwhelm and fatigue.
The idea is to move forward and provide yourself motivation to take steps to achieve what you seek and that means to get uncomfortable with the comfortable and comfortable with the uncomfortable. Your growth as a human being and a leader depends on it.
Transitions creates overwhelm and challenges in our life. Some of the changes that we get dealt with are outside our control and some are within our control. How we transition to these changes in our life is entirely up to each of us. Grow and develop or choose to stay stagnant. Consult me for either one-on-one coaching, group training, facilitation, or workshops.