Yellow Eve cartoon of woman getting out of her comfort zone

How to get out of your comfort zone to maximise career success

In this article Liz Hatch will tell you how to get out of your comfort zone in order to pursue a more fulfilling work life. 

Fear is often the reason you don’t fulfil your career aspirations or pursue your dreams; you fear you are not good enough to progress, that you will under-perform or let others down. You allow self-doubt to creep in and take over and you convince yourself that your past successes were merely luck (or you let others take the credit). You don’t want to fail because you are conditioned to believe that failing is bad.

  • Failed an exam? You didn’t study hard enough.
  • Project wasn’t successful? You didn’t plan very well.
  • Didn’t hit the brief you were set? You didn’t gain enough clarity.
But if you never fail how can you learn from your mistakes?

The adversity to failure feeds the gremlin that tells you to stay in your comfort zone. Most of us have one. Your gremlin is the voice inside your head that influences you. It’s the source of your negative thoughts and wants you to accept its interpretations of your life as reality. It’s what keeps you in your comfort zone. Once in your comfort zone, it’s hard to get out. A bit like your bed, it’s the place that is comforting and familiar. It is a safe space where you feel confident and happy. There’s no pressure and you coast along nicely without having to worry about what’s coming next. Your gremlin tells you that’s where you should stay.

Your comfort zone lulls you into a false sense of security

Before you know it, you’ve been in the same place for too long, you’ve stopped learning new things and the aspirations you had seem like a distant memory. Your potential is left unfulfilled.

One of the quotes I’ve always lived by is “never regret the things you didn’t do.”  For me, that’s what it means to step outside your comfort zone. It’s about trying things you weren’t sure you could achieve; ignoring your gremlin telling you that ‘you don’t have the skills or experience to take on something new.’  It’s about doing something you’ve always wanted to but having no idea how. It’s about taking risks which may not go to plan.

I’ve been through many role changes in my career and most of them were outside my comfort zone. They were stressful, exhausting, infuriating, fun, exciting and sometimes de-motivating. However, the underlying feeling they left me was a sense of fulfilment. I didn’t always get things right and I had many moments where I questioned why I put myself through it… I had to have some serious discussions with my gremlin but in the long term, I am grateful for these experiences and I won’t have to consider the “what ifs.”

The 3 things that stepping outside your comfort zone will get you:

1) You quickly expand your skills and business knowledge.

Learning on the job and through experience is, in my view, the best way to learn. When you are thrown in at the deep end it’s either sink or swim. Your survival instinct kicks in and you get the job done.

2) You advance your career more quickly.

As you adopt new skills and become more competent in different areas, your employability increases. You become significantly more valuable both inside and outside your organisation meaning promotion becomes a possibility more quickly

3) Your confidence is boosted.

The more time you spend outside your comfort zone the more you get used to the unknown. You gain more confidence in your abilities and in handling these types of situations.  Your potential widens exponentially.

So how do you get out of your comfort zone?

Set a courageous goal.

One which generates fear but also excitement. One that inspires you and sparks your imagination. It’s one you will need courage to achieve, which is exactly what’s required to get you out of your comfort zone. From this, you can develop smaller goals to progress towards your courageous goal.

Focus on your strengths not your weaknesses.

I love this quote by John Zenger; “Great leaders are not defined by the absence of weakness, but rather by the presence of clear strengths.”  Write a list of all the things you do well. It’s these that will carry you through the challenges you face.

Set your sights on your next role – one where you don’t tick all the boxes. 

Don’t let the fact that you’ve only done 70% of the role hold you back. You will learn the other 30% on the job.  ust because you haven’t done something before doesn’t mean you won’t be any good at it. You will never know until you try.

Remember that sometimes it’s about small steps. 

Take on small challenges at first to prepare yourself for the more difficult ones. This will help you get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Motivation is driven by being challenged. The rewards from challenging yourself exceed by far those found in your comfort zone.  Think about how good it will feel when you have achieved your courageous goal. Have confidence in your abilities to do the things you think might not be possible. Don’t regret the things you didn’t do.

Liz Hatch, Coach

Liz Hatch

Liz Hatch is an accredited coach with the Academy of Executive Coaching (AOEC) and certified by the International Coaching Federation (ICF). After holding various corporate roles, Liz wanted to spend more time developing people, helping them through the challenges they face and enabling them to become more successful. She started my career in Finance as a Chartered Management Accountant and has worked in senior global roles in Customer Experience, Program Management and Process Improvement.

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