How To Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
As children and young adults, we are required to step outside our comfort zone on a daily basis. Adults challenge us to stretch and grow daily. However, 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 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 overcoming impostor syndrome, 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. I pushed any limiting beliefs to the side so that when I stepped up to the podium, I presented myself as a confident business woman – whether I was wholly confident to or not.
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.
1. Why Do You Want to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?
Before you can take the bold move of leaving comfort for a new experience with an unknown outcome, you have to be in touch with your “why”.
I truly believe the saying, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear”.
So, what is it that you want, and why do you want it? You need to be crystal clear on why you want something or else you will not have the endurance to push yourself hard enough, long enough to get it. 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.
Common Reasons to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Discover New Interests
You have almost forgotten about the things that used to bring you joy before you took on your adult responsibilities. 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?
Stepping outside your comfort zone to explore new interests and old pastimes can be exhilarating.
Practice Adapting to Change
Whether we recognize our own static behaviors, or whether a child or young adult points them out to us, we all know when we have become a bit too set in our ways. Growth requires change, and change requires stepping outside our comfort zone.
Broaden Your Network
Our personal and professional networks can leave us feeling stuck in a rut, but meeting new friends and making new connections can be difficult. Nevertheless, pushing ourselves beyond that which has become comfortable can lead to new, fulfilling friendships.
Perhaps you want to explore a vocation centered on a cause that you’re passionate about. What is it about this field that has captivated you? Consider why you are drawn to it, then ask yourself: who do I know within (or, who do I need to add to) my network to help me learn more about this new field?
Life events like divorce, death, childbirth or adoption demand that we grow into a new understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Personal growth can come in many forms, whether mental, spiritual, physical, or emotional; the common thread is exploring new personal limits.
Perhaps you would like to earn a certification in a new field. Consider what it will feel like to have this form of validation. How will having the certification change you?
Explore Your Creativity
Creative expression is nurtured in children but too often neglected in adults in light of other responsibilities such as caregiving and financial security. As adults, we have to push ourselves to find opportunities to explore our creativity.
2. Before You Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Gain Clarity on Your Starting Point
What is your current threshold for discomfort? 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?
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.
Research Where You’re Going
On the other side of fear of the unknown is knowledge about the known. Take a mental trip beyond the fear you have of your new experience 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, and nutrition. 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.
Prepare to Meet Fear
Before you step out of our comfort zone, accept that you will meet fear along your path to your new experience. Fear may look like an excuse – fear may be convincing – fear may even try to make you believe something that is simply not true. It’s important that you 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 the market rate. Fear has talked you out of trusting your intuition and has won the day!
One of the most important characteristics of courageous women is that they have trained themselves to be comfortable with fear, and you can do the same.
Visualize Your Achievement
Visualize the moment you overcome the limiting beliefs 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.
Take a look at the version of “you” who takes this challenge on and conquers it. Steal a page from Beyonce’s playbook and name your alter ego (aka, Sasha Fierce), 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 does she walk into a room? How does she interface with others?
Identify Your Hype Squad
Identify your mental coach. Who inspires you, encourages you, or 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.
3. Start with Small Steps Out Of Your Comfort Zone
When you’re stepping out of 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.
5 Small Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
1. Introverts, make small talk with a stranger or clerk every day for seven days.
2. Extroverts, commit to spending 30 minutes in quiet solitude a day for seven days.
3. Shy friends, challenge yourself to speak up three times in a meeting.
4. Creatures of habit, take a new route to work, school, or the grocery store. Or, visit a new store or gym.
5. Join a group or take a class that is learning something that is new to you.
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.
Have a Back-up Plan
You might have 100% clarity on why you want and need to step out of your comfort zone, but you are concerned that you will chicken out when it comes time to take action.
For instance, you plan to work up the nerve to ask for a raise for yourself but you worry about balking at the last moment. Meanwhile, you have no problem advocating for people on your team. Bingo! Take on the confidence and success you have experienced in advocating for others and apply that mindset and confidence towards making your own case.
Perhaps you need to develop your sales skills but are struggling with identifying yourself as a salesperson. Give some thought to a cause that you’re passionate about, then practice utilizing your sales techniques by 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.
4. Go For It!
There comes a time when you can no longer prepare – it’s now time to go for it!
Coach Yourself Through The Fear Zone
Coach yourself through the difficulty and fear by imagining your friend standing right next to you encouraging you. 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.
Would you rather talk this one out?
Remember Your 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.
Visualize the New You That You Are Becoming In This Moment
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.
Getting outside your comfort zone is not easy, but it is a necessary step for any kind of growth. Take the first step out of your comfort zone today!
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