As humans, we are creatures of habit. We look for ways to do things that we like and we stick with them. And we get terribly comfortable with the way we interact with other people and anything that prods us out of that level of comfort can send us into panic mode.
I was asked recently about what “bold action” I had taken in the last few weeks and the first thing that came to mind was that I’ve opened myself up to be vulnerable with other people.
Why is this bold for me? Because for the longest time I’ve tried to do everything in my business alone and I never wanted anyone ever to see my weaknesses, or as my mentor Suzanne Evans says, “my mess.” I never wanted anyone to see my mess.
But, there is something to be said for a bit of prodding every now and again to get us to step out of our comfort zone. The result of being open and honest with people, especially in areas where I think I’m weak, has been a liberating thing!
What is a Comfort Zone?
This usually takes very little explanation as most folks are pretty tuned in when we talk about a comfort zone. Most of the time we’re talking about leaving it, as I’m doing today. But in case you’re still wondering, a comfort zone is simply that place in our lives where we are most comfortable. It may not be a space that works well for us, but it is what we know. It’s the old “better the bogey man you know than the one you don’t” kind of thing. You know where that place is for you (or the multiple places).
Now, there’s something to be said for safe places. They exemplify assurance, trust and dependability. Everyone needs a measure of that. But, it also means sheltered — sheltered from good as well as bad. It’s hard to let in one without the other.
Making changes in your life mean that you will have to open the door of that comfort zone and step out to see what else is out there. There’s no doubt that it will be scary and maybe a bit stressful. On the other side of the coin, it can also be inspiring, instructional and fulfilling.
Steps You Can Take Through the Comfort Zone Door
At some point, you’re going to want to change your life. It’s inevitable. As we age, certain adjustments have to be made to continue to live. So, knowing that change is a part of life, you can pursue your goals even if it means you will have to stretch yourself a little more.
Following are a few stepping stones I’ve discovered that will help to get you going in the right direction. Sadly, when most of us contemplate change we tend to look at what we are likely to lose. But another way of looking at change is to see what you might gain. This is called a “calculated risk.”
Every time you make a decision to change something – or to explore previously unexplored territory – there is some risk involved. That’s inherent in every decision you make, no matter how big or small. I would encourage you to be smart, as well as courageous, anytime you decide to step out of your comfort zone and here are some tips that will help:
- Start small – There is no reason why you can’t test the waters until you find your sea legs, so-to-speak. Set a small goal for yourself that you know will require the use of skills you need to cultivate. A success here can give you the confidence to try a bigger challenge.
- Do your due diligence – This is part of the “calculated risk.” Find out the upside and the downside to the project you are about to tackle. Weigh the pros and cons realistically.
- Suspend judgment – When you are doing your due diligence, one of the “cons” will surely be that you are scared. That’s to be expected. Instead, look at the situation through non-emotional eyes to see if there are any deterrents other than this one. If not, you may proceed with the next step.
- Bring someone else along – Support is the key to lasting change. (Boy have I learned this lesson first hand lately. I wouldn’t be moving in the direction I’m heading if I did not have outside support to move forward.) Let’s say that you want to try skydiving or starting a blog. Ask a friend who is more daring, or maybe more experienced, to try it with you.
- Accept the results – Whether you fail or succeed, the point is to try. Use the outcome as a learning tool for the next challenge. While none of us like to fail at anything, if you simply dismiss a perceived failure out-of-hand – and not look at it as a learning experience – you’ll become even more rigid in staying safely within your comfort zones.
Just remember that courage, in any arena, is not the absence of fear, but in managing it. If the risk is acceptable to you, walk out of your comfort zone and into a brand new – and likely, better – life.© Copyright 2012 Marty Marsh