How To Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
As children and college students, we are required to get outside our comfort zone on a daily basis. We are being challenged by adults who still largely rule our lives to stretch and grow in new ways every day. As we mature and our independence expands, we can choose to stay inside our comfort zone more and more, and THAT is where career inertia creeps in.
Let me back up.
Early in my career, I had a job that required me to be an effective public speaker. I had not done any public speaking outside of what was required of me in college, so this seemed like a daunting, but not unmanageable, skill to learn. I was highly motivated to excel because my compensation was directly tied to my ability to influence the audience and persuade them to take action.
They say that people fear public speaking more than death. While the task never kept me up at night, my success rate hinged on my ability to “get in the zone” 30-60 minutes before I had to give my speech.
During my pre-speech prep time, I spent about half my time making sure I knew my content inside and out, that I myself believed in what I was about to “sell”, and that I was ready to ad-lib in certain areas to keep my content fresh.
I spent the other half of my prep time working on my mindset, or “drumming up my nerve”, as it were. I developed a practice of intentionally focusing my thoughts on how being an effective speaker would help me achieve my goals, and how I would feel once I was on the other side my presentation.
We have all faced times where it is necessary to leave our comfort zone in order to get something we want. Here are some steps you can take to make the process easier.
Before Leaving Your Comfort Zone
Know your starting point– meditate on where you are currently. Do you take small risks daily, or can you even remember the last time you took a deep breath and “went for it”? When was the last time you felt nervous about doing something or saying something? When was the last time you got outside your comfort zone?
Go for a walk, journal, or ponder this on your morning commute. Determine where your starting point is, then check in with your gut: are you telling yourself the truth? Step outside yourself and observe your conclusion: is it true? Is it accurate?
Once you have acknowledged your starting point, it is time to acknowledge that in order to change, some of your comforts will be disrupted. In the same way a lizard molts in order to grow, you, too, will leave behind certain habits in order to become the next version of “you”.
If you are not yet ready to make space for your more authentic self to be born, consider why that is. You may need to allow additional time to explore this before tackling your challenge.
Have a carrot– “Everything you want is on the other side of fear”. So, what is it that you want, and why? Are you satisfied with your “why”? Make sure your reasons for getting to the other side of fear are crystal clear to you. While you don’t need to be able to explain or defend your reasons to others, you need to be able to name what they are.
In my 20’s, I was highly motivated to achieve a certain level of financial success in order to lay a solid financial foundation on which to start a family. In order to make my vision of family life a reality, I needed to push myself beyond my present circumstances again and again.
Do you want to change careers?
- If so, why?
Are you motivated to learn something new?
- What will you be able to do, or who will you become, once you have this new knowledge or skill?
Do you want to explore a vocation centered on a cause that you’re passionate about?
- What is it about this cause that has captivated you?
Do you want to earn a certification in XYZ field?
- What will that feel like? How will having that certification change you?
Go to the moment of achievement– the moment you overcome the wall of fear separating you from everything you want. Allow the feelings of satisfaction to wash over you as you envision taking hold of that which you have been working for.
Identify your mental coach– who inspires you, encourages you, reassures you? If they’re on social media, follow them. If they’re a friend, let them know that you are getting outside of your comfort zone and that you might reach out to them for support along the way.
If you think you might need extra help and don’t want to burden the friendship, consider hiring a coach. Allow yourself to experience the support and guidance of someone who has your best interest at heart.
Identify your alter ego– Visualize the version of “you” who takes this on and conquers it. Steal a page from Beyonce’s playbook and name your alter ego, or simply add an adjective to your own name (“What would Bada$$ Brenda do?”). The goal is to show up as the confident version of you, not the anxiety-ridden one.
When fear surrounds you, you’ll need to step into this alter ego. Spend a few moments taking in the future version of yourself: cloaked in confidence, new accomplishment tucked victoriously under your arm, how do you walk into a room? How do you interface with others?
Borrow someone else’s ‘why’: You might have a tough time working up the nerve to ask for a raise for yourself but have no problem advocating for people on your team. Take the success you experienced in advocating for others and apply those techniques, and that confidence, to your own case.
Having a tough time thinking of yourself as a salesperson but know it’s a skill you need to develop to get to the next level? Give some thought to a cause that you’re passionate about, then practice selling on behalf of that cause. Maybe it’s raising money for a certain charity or canvassing for a political candidate; gain skills and experience, then transfer these skills and your new confidence to your own personal cause.
In The Midst of the Fear Zone
See and recognize fear– begin to understand that it gets dressed up in various costumes to try to fake you out- become adept at seeing it for what it is.
Do you want to start a new career but agonize at the thought of taking beginner-level classes? Fear is masquerading as hardship. You may not be worried about passing the classes, but you find you are fearful of quitting before you have even started.
Do you believe you are deserving of a higher starting salary than you’ve been offered? You research your position, only to find that what’s been offered is market rate. Fear has talked you out of trusting your intuition and won the day!
Take small steps at first– how many times have you heard of someone waking up one day and, with no training, running a marathon? Never! When you’re getting outside your comfort zone, you must start with small, actionable steps.
Do you want to be more assertive? Start by asking for what you need from the waiter at a restaurant. Next, take a minority position on a low-risk issue. Finally, speak up in the boardroom at work. It’s important to gain momentum, then celebrate your successes.
Stepping outside your comfort zone will become a habit. When you get stuck in the moments before action, employ Mel Robbins’ 5-Second Rule: countdown 5-4-3-2-1, and then DO IT.
Gain knowledge– on the other side of fear is knowledge and experience. Take a mental trip (leapfrog, if you will) past fear by immersing yourself in research about what it is you want to do.
Do you want to run a marathon? Read up on courses, training plans, nutrition and mental obstacles. The more familiar you become with the obstacles you will encounter, the more confidence you develop about how you will overcome those obstacles when faced with them.
What would my best friend say? Coach yourself outside of your fear zone and through the difficulty by imagining your friend is standing right next to you, saying, “You got this.” or “I’ve seen you handle harder things.” Fully ‘go there’, mentally- what does she look like when she’s saying this, what color are her eyes & how urgently is she pleading with you or encouraging you? Imagine that she is in this moment with you, right by your side.
What would the “new” me do? Consider who you are with your new accomplishment. Do you stand taller, shoulders down and chest out, owning your success? Are you the person who runs toward challenges with confidence? Put on the persona of the new you; play pretend that the new, accomplished you is who you are now; live into your future self.
Would you rather talk this one out?
You know what you need to do, but some of the obstacles you’re facing feel overwhelming. You’d like to have someone in your corner to encourage you and keep you on track when fear and insecurity make their appearance. Contact Anne to discuss a customizable coaching package!
Consider past successes– use past accomplishments to bolster your confidence in your ability to overcome challenges. The substance of the accomplishment is practically irrelevant; what’s important is being mindful of your ability to overcome challenges.
Are you heading to a new client meeting at Big Shot Firm’s headquarters and feeling a bit nervous? Recall your nerves when you visited your very first client’s office and how you overcame those nerves. Even though the stakes for your company may have been lower at the smaller client’s office, the feeling of nervousness that you experienced then is likely similar, if not identical, to the nerves you are experiencing now. You survived and thrived then; you can do the same now.
Getting outside your comfort zone is not easy, but it is a necessary step for any kind of growth. Take the first step, TODAY.
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