Push Beyond the Comfort Zone
Human beings are creatures of comfort. When we perceive that something works well, feels good, or makes sense for wherever we are in our lives, we cling to it like glue. We tend to resist anything different or new that could involve uncomfortable change or risk. But as leaders, this mindset can be incredibly dangerous and self-defeating to our vital goals. It can curtail curiosity and inhibit important learning. It may also prevent opportunity, growth, solutions, change and, eventually, sustainable success. So look for ways in which you can push your comfort zone, stretch what you think or do, and take on what’s unfamiliar. Embrace the idea that sometimes going beyond what’s comfortable and safe is really in your best interest. In fact, this very strategy can enable you to expand upon what you know, be better prepared for unexpected challenges, and, ultimately, improve upon how you lead.
When I look back at my career, there were big spurts of professional growth that were directly connected to when I really pushed my comfort zone. These were times in which I had little or no experience with a particular area or in a certain subject, so I took on and mastered those new projects or responsibilities. While I sometimes had to just learn on the fly, this practice was clearly a career accelerator for me, and one I learned to welcome. Consequently, I became a big believer in the importance of periodically pushing your comfort zone.
By learning something new, you can also fully experience a challenge and grow through and benefit from it. From a professional standpoint, tackling something that’s out of your comfort zone has the power to build your capacity for success and is a great discipline worth pursuing. Here’s how pushing your comfort zone can also benefit you:
You’ll have more confidence. When it comes to embracing knowledge and what’s new, people working in the technology industry provide a perfect metaphor for us all: They must have incredible self-initiative and motivational drive, particularly by endlessly innovating to remain cutting edge in their industry. They can’t fall behind in their field. If they do, it can put their careers, reputations, livelihood, and even their self-esteem at risk. The best leaders in this and many other fields know that the extreme thirst for knowledge and trying whatever is new pushes them to be the best in their field. When they succeed, they gain greater assurance in their abilities and around what they’ve learned. Likewise, the more you know, the more equipped you will be to effectively manage what you face over the course of your career. Not only will you feel more in control, but you’ll also display more confidence because of the prior experience you’ve gained by challenging yourself.
You’ll stand out. Do you have a reputation for being someone who likes to take on new things and difficult assignments? Amazingly, this singular characteristic can send a message to your boss, your people, and/or your clients that you’re different in how you approach your work, goals, and career. When you consistently push your comfort zone and learn new things, people will recognize your efforts, and it can become a smart strategy for setting yourself apart from others. Eventually, their awareness of you will pay off—perhaps you’ll land that breakthrough client, someone who never gave you the time of day until you took that self-initiative to become smarter or more skilled at business development. On top of this, your newfound skills and expertise could earn you a better position within your current company or a more challenging, exciting opportunity outside it. Maybe it will pan out in the form of greater financial rewards, a payback that can be particularly satisfying if you’ve personally invested hard-earned dollars, time, or other resources into your self-improvement goal. The benefit might not seem obvious or be immediate but will eventually become clear.
You’ll have more fun! If you make the conscious choice to view your self-improvement in a lighthearted, positive way, you can actually enjoy whatever it is you’ve decided to learn. Approach the goal you’ve set with a positive attitude that’s backed by a heart of gratitude, and your perception about the goal and the journey will simply feel exciting, easier, and less like work, more like fun. View this commitment as something you WANT to do, not something you HAVE to do, thinking of it in terms of exploring fresh horizons, creating new relationships, pushing exciting personal boundaries, etc. Also, building up the fun factor in whatever you’re learning and projects you’re pursing will make them more attractive and certainly more doable, too.
What are you doing to push yourself out of your comfort zone?