Every now and then you stumble across a quote or post on social media that sums up your current status succinctly. I found one of those recently: “I have a new address. I’m living outside my comfort zone.” Stretching like this can be scary. At times, it can even be overwhelming. It’s also, however, exhilarating and inspiring. Out here is where growth happens. It’s where change occurs. Are you ready to give it a try?

Where is Your Comfort Zone?

The phrase “comfort zone” is something we toss around a lot but let’s take a moment to define it. Your comfort zone is a behavioral space that fits a routine and maintains a pattern of minimal risk and stress. You’re happy here because its predictable and safe. Functioning within this zone is to maintain the status quo.

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Why Do You Need to Leave the Comfort Zone?

Let’s be clear: There is nothing wrong with operating in this space. In fact, you’re probably going to spend quite a bit of time moving around here. There are times, however, when you have to step outside those bounds and accept the stress and anxiety that comes with that leap. Why? The space beyond your comfort zone is where growth happens. If you want to up your game, advance your career, and/or change your life, you’re going to need to stretch into the “Uncomfortable Zone” for a spell.

How Do You Get Out There?

Like we said before, moving outside your comfort zone can be scary. We’re talking about embracing more stress and anxiety and stretching into the unknown. Even when you realize that this is where the magic happens, it can be tough to take the first step outside your natural space. How do you muster up the courage to give it a go? Great question.

  1. Embrace failure. You may stretch and fly, or you may stretch and fall flat on your face. It’s important to be okay with either outcome. Understand that you are taking a risk and part of doing so means making peace with the idea that it might not work out. Be okay with it not being okay.
  2. Recognize the value lies in the journey, not the outcome. Ready to try submitting a proposal for that book you’ve always talked about writing? There is much to be learned and gained simply by trying. Maybe you won’t find a publisher this time, but the process could give you an idea to refine your book or your pitch. You’ll gain insight into how the process works and what publishers are seeking. You might learn how to better prepare a pitch so when you’re ready to try again (or try something else), you’re better armed for success.
  3. Start small and work your way up. The first step can be the hardest. Maybe you’re thinking about giving your taste buds a new experience, but the idea of an entire meal of “new to you” cuisine is a bit intimidating. What if you don’t like it? That’s you thinking about an entire meal prepared in a “new-to-you” way. You don’t need to go all in the first time out. Instead of meeting up with friends at a place with a menu that’s completely new to you, start with an eatery that has familiar items, as well as unfamiliar choices. Get an appetizer you’ve never had before and stick with familiar fare for your main dish.

    Treat other ventures outside your comfort zone similarly. Before you leap into an entirely new career, volunteer a few hours a month dabbling in the area you’re thinking of exploring. Launch a side business selling your jewelry before you quit your day job and open your own shop. It’s okay to dip your toe in and give something new a try. Just don’t stop! If your initial try is successful, keep wading out deeper into the water until you’re all in.
  4. Be real and have fun. It’s easy to cajole ourselves out of risk taking. We can come up with a list of excuses of why it’s not a good time to apply for that scary promotion or why we should wait another year to pursue an MBA. Before you buy into whatever you’re telling yourself, take a hard look at that internal dialogue. Are you being honest with yourself? Are these legitimate reasons to wait or is it fear? If it’s your anxiety and insecurity talking, push it aside and jump in anyway. Ask a mentor for help identifying the real concerns vs. the excuses if you can’t objectively define them on your own. Once you’ve made the commitment to stretch, own it and enjoy it. You’ve got this!