“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
— Neale Donald Walsch
Whether your career path has been steady, or you are emerging from tough times, your ability to stay relevant and viable to your target audience might cause you to act from a reactive (and not proactive) position. Instead of taking risks and moving forward in leaps and bounds, are you taking “safe” and easy steps, thinking you are being more systematic in your career? Because it might be the big bold moves that will catapult you to a greater level of happiness and professional growth.
Our comfort zone is where we feel safe, familiar, and stable. We feel good in our comfort zone. Putting up boundaries enables us to accept the parameters of possibility and navigate inside them. However, when we can accept the anxiety and uncertainty of innovation and vulnerability, we often find creativity, passion, and a effectiveness we never knew existed!
Here are four ways to kick yourself outside the comfort zone:
1. Seek to understand… even when it’s uncomfortable
When something is going well in our job or we encounter a career roadblock, we often look to understand the logic of what happened rather than the narrative behind why it happened. Seeking deeper understanding from your supervisor, staff, customers, or internal influencers can generate a new level of problem solving and ideation. Understanding their motivation and intention, not just the impact you felt from their behavior. While motivation and intention are often difficult to dissect, the “why” question can be revealed by asking directly and actively listening for the answers.
Opening the channels of communications to invite insight from your peers builds trust and can lead to greater understanding in other areas, too.
2. Build intimacy
Are you willing and able to explore deeper connections with the people you work with who can affect your career? Can you trust your employees, customers, board members, and shareholders to share insight into your reputation and long term viability? They might be holding the answer to something you’ve been struggling with that’s been holding you back from your next career success.
Regardless of how well you believe you know your target audiences, there is always room to grow closer with those you serve. I moved way outside of my own comfort zone when I did a Gratitude Project a few years ago. This experience taught me valuable personal and professional lessons, most notably that I need to share more of the “why” behind my work, get closer and listen better to my audiences in order to trust them (and myself). I learned first hand how much the people in my life have to teach me about my vision, brand, and goals. Opening my head and my heart to listen took courage, but what I received in return was invaluable.
3. Let go of control
When I was a first time manager, I remember thinking that if I passed on any of my responsibilities, I would be seen as ineffective and replaceable. It was only when someone on my team referred to me as a “mentor” that I recognized the learning power of delegating (plus, it freed me up to work on other things).
Are you delegating and empowering those around you? Try releasing control over things you don’t need to control to still be effective. By surrounding yourself with people and processes that are smart and deliberate, you can elevate your learning and choices to new levels. Is this scary? Absolutely! But it’s also great for career growth.
4. Learn to embrace risk
Are you an entrepreneur? If so, you learned all about risk the day you printed your first business cards and handed them out to prospects. Will they hire me? Will they buy what I have to offer? Risk is an entrepreneur’s middle name, and it’s the flame that keeps us doing our best work.
In a professional career, risk is often the double-edged sword. Embrace it, and it can go great — making you a huge success. If it goes wrong, you are left hurt and scarred. If you approach risk as a tool or as part of the process, then when it does arise, it doesn’t look offensive or scary, it appear as if you’ve been expecting it.
Our comfort zone is just that — the place we feel comfortable. Careers are evolving, dynamic, and vibrant parts of our lives that require a bit of discomfort from time to time to be truly meaningful and rewarding.
“Always do what you are afraid to do.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (Click to Tweet)