Why you must expand your comfort zone.
How we react to external events is to a large extent determined by our basic human needs and their relative order of importance to us. To many people, the need for certainty and security is dominant, and far outweighs the need for uncertainty, growth and variety. When that happens we become control freaks who cling onto that which is known. We’re ok doing something new as long as someone guarantees us that it will work! But when there is too much risk we shy away. Just think about it for a moment. Have you ever let fear or discomfort hold you back from doing something exciting because it introduced more uncertainty than you were comfortable with – for instance in relation to a job opening or an opportunity to present to an audience?
The obvious issue with our need for certainly and security is that it hinders our development and slows down our progress. We use it as an excuse to not try something. How often have you read a book or listened to a presentation which contained some great ideas, but you never implemented them because they seemed too different to what you were used to?
The project manager who was fearful of change
I recently coached a project manager who was bored in his job. He said that it contained no stretch or development opportunity and that he was only working at 60% of his capacity. He wanted to progress into a more senior position, and knew that he had to find a new job in order to do so. But in spite of logically knowing that he needed to move on, he said that he wasn’t going to. He valued the security and his manager’s support in him too much. He knew that he could earn as much in another role but he was uncomfortable with the risk of not being paid for a couple of weeks in between jobs. This project manager felt torn between his need for certainty and his need for growth and variety. It was only when we had an in-depth conversation about his fears that he realised how much he had allowed his need for certainty and stability to control his choices.
In order to progress and achieve that which we want we have to try new things, take risks and expand our comfort zone. We don’t have to do it in a big and scary way. We can take small steps each day which gradually stretch us and move us in the right direction. And remember, that it’s normal to feel uncomfortable when you’re doing something you’re not used it. Discomfort can be a good sign; a sign that you are developing and growing. Don’t let discomfort deter you. Let it motivate you and inspire you to take action.
What is the next step for you?
The question is how you are going to use this in your own life. What are the items that are firmly outside of your own comfort zone and you know that if you were to master them it would make a big difference to your personal and professional life? Maybe giving a presentation is outside of your comfort zone; dealing with conflict; improvising; or asking for feedback. I would like you to think about one item in particular which you feel would make the biggest positive difference to your professional achievements if you were to master it. Please write it down.
Now I would like you to close your eyes for a moment and imagine that you have conquered the very thing which is outside of your comfort zone. See yourself doing it, imagine it in your mind’s eye and feel how good it feels to finally master it. Feel how strong you are and imagine what you will be doing, feeling and hearing once you master it. The beauty about expanding your comfort zone, and doing the things you want in spite of feeling uncomfortable, is that your confidence will grow exponentially. You will get a boost of energy and an appetite for continuing to grow.
So my invitation to you is to first and foremost ponder on how much you allow your need for certainty and stability to control your choices. Secondly I encourage you to expand your comfort zone step by step, and to let your steady growth and progression provide you the certainly you need rather than having to cling on to the old ways.
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