When you get out of your comfort zone, where do you go?
How do you turn that move into success?
I’m often struck by how almost superficially the advice to "get out of your comfort zone" is bandied about. It's as commonly touted as the advice we get to use and reapply sunscreen during outdoor activities. What's so astounding to me is that this advice is rarely if ever given with any substantive follow up about what you step into when you step out of your comfort zone.
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. We're made to think it's easy.
But the fact is, getting out of your comfort zone is a complex and challenging process. IT'S HARD! But if it's so important to our success and fulfillment, why aren't we talking about it in more depth?
We must expand the comfort zone conversation and give ourselves a real chance at success!
To do that we first need to be on the same page around what the comfort zone is. Critically, it's important to recognize 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 And yes, the comfort zone can also be a place of boredom signaling that the sense of comfort we feel could be out of date.
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 that's when fear sets in. It’s that point of hesitation that we can move beyond by openly talking about 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—your comfort zone looks bigger than you expected
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 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 judgment, 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. But because we're not given the heads up about any of this each of us individually can start to feel like weak, cowardly, or that we're just not cut out for the challenge.
Let's stop cutting the "comfort zone conversation" short. From now on let's talk openly about these challenges. Let's recognize that this stuff is normal in the mess of growth. Let's give ourselves a REAL chance for success outside our comfort zones!