This article was last updated on December 29, 2015
Everybody has a comfort zone. This is in no way a bad thing. In fact, our comfort zones can keep us physically and emotionally safe. If we avoid something because it makes us feel unsafe or uncomfortable, that is evidence of the boundaries created by our comfort zone keeping us from harm.
Problems arise however, when our comfort zones are too narrow. Comfort zones that keep us away from bad things can be good, but comfort zones that keep us from success are a definite issue. Now, ask yourself, is my comfort zone compatible with the success that comes from personal and professional growth?
If your answer is no, why not explore some ways that you can expand your comfort zone and increase your chances of success? Nobody has the same comfort zone, but these steps are certainly common ways in which you can expand yours.
Taking Some Baby-Steps
Cold-Calling Somebody for Job Assistance or Advice.
For so many people, the idea of picking up the phone and contacting somebody they do not know is very challenging. This is even more of a challenge when the call includes asking for assistance or advice.
If you are looking for one way to push the limits of your comfort zone, try contacting somebody in your academic area and career field and asking them for some advice or help in furthering your career goals. At worst, you won’t get any help, but you will have taken a brave step towards success. At best, you will have made an important connection that could lead to some opportunities. (You have also stepped out of your comfort zone, and it didn’t even hurt).
Offering Help to Others.
This is another activity that involves sticking your neck out and putting yourself at risk for rejection. After all, when you offer to help another person, there is always the chance that they will brush you off. Even worse, your offer of help might embarrass or anger them. However, if you do take that risk, there is a great chance that you will find yourself in a situation where your help is appreciated and rewarded, and the favor might be returned one day.
The two activities just mentioned are not major “pushing” out of your comfort zone. They are your first experiments, to demonstrate that you really can do this, and with each “push,” you will get braver and more confident. Now, how does all of this translate to your career? In huge ways. So, here are some things you must think do and think about doing, if you want to look back on your professional life and call it a success.
Taking Some Bigger Steps
Students Must Learn to Push on Those Comfort Zones While Still in School.
For lots of students, just leaving home and going to college miles away, is a big step out of their comfort zone. Most of them learn one very important lesson from dong this: if you are willing to abandon the security that comes from what you “know,” you will soon gain comfort in that zone of what you have not known. And students come to use a set of rules to be successful that serve them long after graduation. They establish relationships with fellow students from a huge diversity of backgrounds and ethnicities; they become assertive in navigating the “system” of the bureaucracy that exists on all campuses; they learn how to live when they are broke (and for many, this is really living outside of that comfort zone); they learn to become independent and self-reliant and develop the confidence that they can “fend for themselves.”
Pushing Out of that Zone on the Job
It’s safe and secure in a career position in which the responsibilities are carefully laid out, and, as long as those responsibilities are met, the annual evaluations are good and a raise comes along. Many people actually sit in that “place” for their entire work lives and only wonder how thing might have been different after they have retired. If this is your idea of success, then this is exactly what you professional life will become. And there should be some inner discomfort with this attitude. So, again, take some steps that will push that zone outward into new territory. Here’s how.
Display your Talent When Not Asked.
Let’s clarify something. Your talent does not have to be anything related to singing, dancing, or playing an instrument. In this case, displaying your talent is simply responding to a need for your skills, or even better than that, taking the initiative at work to utilize and display those skills. If you can do this in a group setting, that is even better.
Blowing your own horn in a way that lets others know about your talents, and then using those talents to assist with projects and tasks, is a great way to push your boundaries and open yourself up to better professional opportunities. And the praise you receive will be a major incentive to do more of the same.
Take a Risk – Go Back to School or Move to a Job that Allows Professional Growth.
Here’s the thing. Today’s pace is too rapid and too competitive not to take this kind of risk. Ask those people who lost their jobs during the crash of 2008 if they wished they had been trained earlier for the jobs that are now available and unfilled because the skilled talent is just not there. That comfort zone that is your current work can be gone in an instant, and, if you have not stretched that comfort zone, you will be underemployed somewhere and unhappy.
Get Comfortable with Change. –
Success will not come to those who remain stuck in their comfort zones, because change is occurring outside of those zones – change that will ultimately pierce those comfort zones anyway, and the discomfort will come rolling in. Those who will emerge successful are the ones who embrace the change and take the risks that are associated with it, even if they are taking risks that could result in criticism and failure. And if you fail, what is the worst scenario? You are certainly not dead, and you learned some things – things that will help you take the next risk and perhaps succeed.
No one has ever achieved success from the comfort zone. Think about where you want to be in ten years. Think about what you want to say about your life when you have retired. Start with the small steps now, work up to the larger ones, and be ready to take the big leaps when those opportunities come.
Photo credit: Emily May