How many times have you heard the expression, ‘out of your comfort zone?’ It’s certainly an overused cliché in the workplace. There’s the colleague who’s perhaps bitten off more than he can chew; ooh, Nigel’s really out of his comfort zone...(Good on Nigel, I say). Or the workmate who doesn’t take risks and always plays it safe. Laura just won’t move out of her comfort zone. Or the guy in accounts who was phobic of flying and then surprises everyone by not only boarding a plane but skydiving out of it too. OMG... Pete SO moved out of his comfort zone.
When a saying becomes a cliché there’s a danger the underlying message gets lost.
No matter what we call it, it’s a thrill when we witness people overcoming lifelong fears or pushing themselves to achieve significant goals. It’s a wake-up call to action....if they can do it, why can’t I?’
Be honest, do you cling to the safety of the known, or do you believe that who dares wins?
While the whole comfort zone concept irritates me somewhat (now what is that telling me?) it has its merits. I’m my own harshest critic and berate myself for being too safe. But when I look back over the last five years I can see that I have in fact, pushed myself in ways I never thought possible. I have changed my profession (from journalist to Untapped AI personal accelerator); studied for an accredited qualification in Executive Coaching; taken up open-water swimming in the depths of winter....
I now look back and shudder to think how dull life would be had I not pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and yet the fear before doing so was palpable. But in each instance I asked myself: what’s the alternative? I came to the realization that for me, staying stuck was more painful than moving forward. But until I’d reached that point, it felt impossible to dip my toe in the water – freezing cold water, in my case.
I hasten to add that with any new challenge we must be prepared to fail, and that in itself can push you out of your comfort zone. No one likes the taste of failure and yet it’s inevitably part of the deal. Surely it’s the very fear of failure that stops us from growing. Make your peace with it and you make great strides.
To paraphrase founder of AI Untapped Kendal Parmar, “Courage is a like a muscle; the more you use it the stronger it gets.”
When you think back over recent years, how have you pushed yourself and how did it make you feel? And have you patted yourself on the back for your wins or failed to acknowledge your bravery? My guess is that many of us don’t take adequate time to reflect on these things. We should all take stock on what holds us back, what’s made us grow and how we want to develop going forward. As leadership guru Robin S. Sharma says, “As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.” And believe me, if someone had told me that swimming in an icy pond at 7am would be my new normal I would have said they were crazy. Yet here I am....
What will it take for you to experience temporary discomfort in exchange for exhilarating growth? As renowned research professor and author Brene Brown so wisely says, ‘You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You can’t have both.’
Which will you choose for 2020?