You have your life planned out for you…maybe it’s not exactly as you originally planned, but you are in a place where things seem to be on track. You graduate from college, you get a job, you believe you will make a difference and are excited…and then, you and most of your friends are told that the state of NY is going to let go of all the new teachers because…there are just too many. What do you do? Your plan is going up in smoke and you realize, whatever you do next will push you so far out of your comfort zone and you don’t know if you’re ready…
That is what happened to me and whatever I would do next would take me into the world of the unknown and I knew it would also be extremely uncomfortable. Back in the 70’s we didn’t have life or business coaches. You worked things out yourself or you shared your problems with your best friends…and my best friends were in the same boat. I decided that it was up to me to find a new adventure that would be my new career. When we looked for a job during that decade, we looked through a newspaper and made a phone call and the person at the other end either offered you an interview or they didn’t. Either way, you were stepping out of your comfort zone. In my case, it took only a few calls and I had an interview set up for a bank on Wall Street. The only challenge I was going to face was the position I was interviewing for…head of accounting. Needless to say, the only course I never took was accounting but I thought if I could get an interview, I would worry about the rest. As I traveled on the subway to Wall Street it hit me…I had no idea what I was going to walk into and I suddenly realized how crazy this was and yet again, I was way outside my comfort zone. I took a deep breath and asked myself “What’s the worst that can happen?” For me it would be that I would be offered the position.
I went to the interview, I was escorted in and I met with 3 executives. They wanted to know how I would handle certain situations and never really asked about my accounting experience. I gave them my thoughts, opinions and shared my ideas about getting comfortable with their accounting system. Remember, this was the 70’s and there were no computers, calculators or anything other than pencils, ledger sheets, pads of paper and not much more. I simply reminded them that accounting is really balancing the left and the right columns and said a few more things while inside I was screaming that question… “What if they hire me?” And…they did. They thought I was bright and innovative and excited, and they couldn’t wait to see how I would turn that department around. I stayed there for a few years and I realized how many times I was moved out of my comfort zone and how many times I succeeded, how much I learned and how I shouldn’t get too comfortable, because my comfort zone, was always a temporary place and I would step out or be pushed out quite often.
Each one of us has our own comfort zone, you know that place that is part of the routine we call our daily life. This special place gives us the safety and security that we all treasure, especially when it’s no longer available to us. While creating a comfort zone seems like a healthy way to live, stepping out of our comfort zone actually gives us the time to grow, learn and transform…even if we feel a bit stressed and anxious at the same time. Living in that warm and cozy place is really helping you to miss out on new experiences, gives you nothing to be challenged with and eliminates any risks. Sounds a little boring doesn’t it? But it is a comfortable and familiar place and why risk venturing out into the big bad world?
Here are three opportunities that will give that gentle nudge for leaders to go outside your comfort zone and meet the great big amazing world that is waiting for you:
- Opportunities for Growth-While we may believe we are great at just about everything, the truth is, we’re not. At some point, you will be faced with something that you’re not ready to tackle. For me, that would certainly be technology…I might have said accounting, but we already know how that story played out. Now is the time to decide if you are going to stay inside those comfortable walls that surround you or are you going to rise to the challenge, even if you don’t know you can handle it.? Go outside your comfort zone and build up the skills you need to learn. As your skills grow, so does your comfort zone. Take advantage of the opportunities that scare you…When trembling, proceed anyway.
- Opportunities for Advancement-You’ve seen that stepping outside your comfort zone brings you growth and with that, there are new doors to open and a way to advance toward your goals. Whatever advancement looks like for you and your goals, getting out of your comfort zone can help you to plow through whatever is holding you back and watch the speed it will happen.
- Opportunities for Fun-Getting out of your comfort zone can give you and your life a lot more fun. The life you lead doesn’t have to be boring. If you are daring and move outside of the boundaries you’ve created, you will be amazed at what is waiting for you. If you don’t peek, you’ll never know so put on your explorer gear and get moving.
Living inside your comfortable space can eliminate some of the experiences that are waiting for you. Your comfort zone is a nice place to visit and maybe even a place to take a power nap, but don’t spend your entire life there. It’s time to take some risks and stretch yourself. You won’t know what you’re missing until you get out of your own way.
Remember, that comfort zone you’re wearing…step outside it today. Life begins there.