Published on May 19th, 2017 | by Nancy F. Clark0
Take This Challenge If You Want To Break Free Of Your Comfort Zone
By Christine Bailey—
Last year, I was smacked by a major life change: the job and team I loved became redundant. I lost my salary and stability. Was I devastated? Did I panic? Quite the opposite. I said to myself, “This might lead to something even better.”
I could respond with optimism because I was comfortable outside my comfort zone.
A comfort zone is a place or situation where we feel at ease and without stress. We cling to this space because it’s safe and predictable. We don’t have the confidence to step beyond it. But staying within its parameters may hold us back. As Margie Warrell writes in Forbes, “In an increasingly competitive, cautious, and accelerated world, those who are willing to take risks, step out of their comfort zone, and into the discomfort of uncertainty will be those who will reap the biggest rewards.”
Being comfortable with discomfort does not come naturally—it’s a learned behavior. When my job went away, I knew everything would turn out alright because it had happened to me twice before. Being forced to take risks and pursue new opportunities made me stronger both personally and professionally. And it taught me that change is the norm, not an anomaly.
How can we condition ourselves to embrace risk in the name of reward?
To answer that question, I turned to Biba Binotti, Founder of Global Warriors, a firm that works with people who want to challenge the status quo and get ahead of the game. As Biba explains, “As a 21st-century leader, you can’t be afraid to chart new territory. You must be willing to stand out from the crowd and take risks for the sake of your bigger vision.”
With that goal in mind, Biba and I challenge you to take these five steps:
1 Dare to begin before you’re ready. That’s a key takeaway from Richard Tyler’s Jolt, a book that inspired me to try new ways of thinking. Biba explains it like this: “Do something every day that makes you gulp.” Too often, we become paralysed trying to envision the end state before we begin a new project or endeavor. Instead, tell yourself, “There is an answer, I just haven’t found it yet.” and start road-testing ideas and approaches. Channel your inner Thomas Edison. Every experiment you make will deliver a data point and move you closer to a solution.
2 Challenge your limiting beliefs. We’ve all had some version of the nasty voice in our head that whispers, “You’re not smart enough. You don’t have the experience. It’s too late to change.” As Biba explains, “The stories and ceilings in your mind stop you from swinging out to unlimited opportunity and potential. Noticing—and then challenging—your limiting beliefs lets you break free of your comfort zone and enables bold and courageous change.” Remember: beliefs are not facts.
3 Fight the impostor syndrome. I recently met an accomplished marketing executive who sits on the board of a large company. “I’m afraid the board thinks I only know marketing and don’t contribute to the bigger picture.” she told me. I encouraged her to flip her thinking: instead of focusing on what you aren’t doing, remember that you are a proven marketing expert whose opinion is valued. Know your strengths and don’t be afraid to flaunt them. Having confidence in your abilities makes you more likely to leave your comfort zone.
4 Dream big, but take small steps. A little anxiety is good for you.
But when healthy anxiety becomes overwhelming stress, the opposite is true. According to
Dr. Philippe Goldin, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, “Anxiety is normal and often helpful in focusing attention and drive to get things done and take action; when anxiety is above a threshold both in intensity and duration it begins to be corrosive and undermine productivity and wellbeing.” To bust out without freaking out, make one comfort-minimizing change each week. “Build up over time,” says Biba. “That way, giant leaps won’t seem quite so big.”
5 Feed your brain. Athletes cross-train to target different muscles in varying ways. Cross-training your brain is a great way to break out of your comfort zone. If you’re used to reading for information, switch to videos, podcasts, or TEDTalks. Try new networking or social media-based events. Even cultural pursuits do the trick. “The science of neuroplasticity proves that our brains are capable of continual change.” explains Biba. “Each time we encounter a new experience or environment, we make our brains stronger and more adaptable.”
Chances are, you’ve been living in your comfort zone for quite a while. Moving beyond it won’t happen overnight. Quiet the voices in your head, jump in, and take incremental steps. Before long, you’ll have moved from the comfort zone to the sweet spot—the place where you can achieve amazing results.
Dr. Christine Bailey is honored to be a Top 10 Influential Woman B2B Martech. Follow her on Twitter @christinebailey.
Article photo of Amy Cuddy by Kris Krug