The dictionary definition of ‘comfort zone’ is as follows:
- a situation where one feels safe or at ease.
- a settled method of working that requires little effort and yields only barely acceptable results.
The comfort zone is the easy path. There’s no difficulty involved in the familiar. It’s simple, straightforward, effortless.
Sometimes the comfort zone is a good thing. If your job is straightforward and generally requires little effort to carry it out successfully, but your personal life is in turmoil and chaos, then working in your comfort zone may be the best thing for you … at that moment. Occasionally, stability is the order of the day. This is positive.
However, many times we find ourselves in a comfort zone without even realising it. Life happens. You are doing a busy, demanding job, looking after elderly parents, taxiing children around, juggling fitness and family commitments. One day you stop and BANG. You find the comfort zone is well and truly established.
You feel bored, de-motivated, dull, unchallenged. Feel this for too long and you may start to doubt yourself and your own abilities. A slippery slope to low self-esteem, lack of confidence, even depression. This is the negative side of the comfort zone.
But why do we stay in our comfort zones? It’s because they are just that – comfortable. They’re like a blanket; keeping us warm and cosy. Except they’re not, are they? Not if you stay there for any length of time, as I have mentioned above.
The real sticking point for coming out of our comfort zone though is fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of being exposed, vulnerable and fear of failure. Fear of failure is particularly significant if you have had a bad experience in the past. No one wants to repeat a failure, do they? Nope. We need to try something different.
Below are seven suggestions for getting out of your comfort zone with confidence. Some are small steps, some are slightly bigger. I am sure there are more and would love to hear from you if you have others. Come and join me to continue the discussion in my private Facebook group The Thinking Space.
- MIX UP YOUR ROUTINE – go on give it a try. Do one small thing in your routine differently. How difficult was it to do it differently? What stopped you initially? How did you overcome that block and how did it make you feel once you had?
- BRAINSTORM YOUR FEARS: what specifically is stopping you moving out of your comfort zone? Make a list of 3 – 5 ideas. What are you thinking when you see this list? Ask yourself for each point, IS THIS TRUE? IS IT REALLY TRUE? What do your answers tell you about your fears?
- ARE YOU A PERFECTIONIST? You need to have everything perfect and in place before you can move on/do something different? Recognise that. Acknowledge it. Sit with it for a moment, then ask yourself, “what if my life or my job, right now, was good enough?” How would that make you feel to know that it was good enough?
- CAREER STALLING? PROMOTIONS DRYING UP? Stop. Take stock. Look around you. What are successful colleagues doing to be promoted? What actions are they taking to make them visible to other people in your company. Which behaviours do you like? Could you adopt one behaviour yourself?
- GET A MENTOR: this is someone you respect or admire but will share their experiences and problem-solving strategies with you. They’ll be objective about your career and what you might be able to do. A mentor is not a coach.
- Say “yes” to something you’d normally say “no” to – volunteer at a school fete, agree to try a choir, do a sport you don’t normally like (this is for me – I don’t like swimming!)
- Start a conversation with a stranger. Yes, really. Do it. Try it. You have no idea what the outcome might be – hearing a funny story, offering them a listening ear which might make their day. You never know what could happen unless you try it.
The bottom line is, whatever step you take, however small, it’s significant for getting you out of your comfort zone with confidence.