Humans tend to be creatures of habit. They love what’s familiar and cherish their personal little routines: a double espresso or a smoothie to start the day; a mid-morning catch-up on social media; lunch at the same two or three restaurants; a visit to the gym or a drink after work with their besties… These are the beneficial parts of comfort zones: they foster a sense of security and they’re as important to a happy, healthy life as sunshine.
But when it comes to careers, comfort zones can be places of stagnation: remaining in them won’t help you get ahead. On the contrary, sticking with what’s familiar and easy can prevent you from reaching your full professional potential.
Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, therapist and author of Better Than Perfect, has found that people who regularly step outside of their comfort zones are more emotionally resilient and creative than those who “play it safe”. In other words, if you make a habit of stepping out of your comfort zone, you will actually hold a cognitive advantage over those who don’t.
But how can you start being more of a risk-taker? How can you help yourself leave your comfort zone?
Here’s some great advice from professional coaches and business leaders to get you started.
- Reframewhat it means to be comfortable: “The world is changing quickly, and ‘comfort zones’ are less of an option. Change often brings fear and uncertainty. What are you feeling when you are in your comfort zone? Safe? Secure? Maybe, but are you also bored, inflexible, stagnant? What if your comfort zone was also your “failure zone” because nothing changed? Reframe ‘comfort’ to mean growth, learning, or purpose and see what changes.” Rachel Bellack, The Improv Advantage
- Find a compelling reason: “Stepping out of our comfort zone can be difficult if we do not build a compelling reason to do so. Take the time to think about what it could be like to take that step. Marinate in that visual, idea or thought long enough to build solid momentum that propels you into inspired action.”Indira Jerez, INNERtia Project
- Move toward your fears: “I found that the things I’m afraid to do are often the things that have the greatest potential to expand my life. Now when I feel fear, it’s usually an indicator that I need to do that thing I’m afraid of. Making a commitment to lean into that each day has been really uncomfortable at times, but it has also been responsible for a lot of great memories and a deep level of personal satisfaction.”Mark Krassner, Expectful
- Tell yourself, “I am fearless”. “Disempowering thought habits keep us in our comfort zones. Replacing those thoughts with empowering ones help us take a new perspective and move to action. Repeating the mantra, ‘I am fearless’ over and over again and envisioning yourself successfully doing or achieving what you fear can help you reprogram your disempowering thought habit and move forward.” Janet Ioli, Janet Ioli International
- Agree to something you wouldn’t normally consider: “Sometimes when someone offers me something that I would normally refuse, I like to surprise myself by saying yes, whether it is something business-related, like trying a new strategy, or accepting an invitation to join an amateur sports team on the weekend. Even if it doesn’t work out, I always learn something from the experience.” Russell Kommer, eSoftware Associates Inc
- Act as if you’re comfortable and just do it: “All the pep talks and classes under the sun won’t make it easier to step out of your comfort zone. The best way to accomplish this feat is to act as if you are someone else who you know would have no problem taking this step. The reality is that once you do it and see you can do it, the rest comes naturally. But you need that initial shove, and this will get it done.” Laura DeCarlo, Career Directors International