Stepping out of your comfort zone is one of the most beneficial actions that you can personally and professionally take to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed. While it’s easy to grasp in theory, taking the age old saying that complacency is the enemy of progress can be quite daunting to actually put into practice. In order to compete and rise above in today’s professional market, it is essential that you seize opportunities that are favorable towards your success. Often times this means taking risks and stepping outside of what you consider your comfort zone.
When I was 15, I moved away from home to play for a competitive hockey team. I lived with a housing family who I had never met before, I attended a new high school as a sophomore, and I played on a hockey team with a number of guys I had also never met. I went on to do this again midway through my junior year of high school, and again went through the same experience. These were tough decisions. I was unsure, I was uncomfortable, I was excited, I was scared, I was optimistic, and I was way outside of my comfort zone. As it turns out these were some of the best decisions I have ever made, and they would have never come to fruition had I decided not to tear down the walls of my comfort zone and take some chances. More times than not you will look back and appreciate the chance that you took, and 100 percent of the time you are presenting yourself with a learning opportunity, whether it be a failure or a success.
Unfortunately, putting yourself into uncomfortable situations doesn’t come naturally to everyone (myself included). Without an exterior force motivating you or pushing you to out-perform, it’s tough to first give yourself that initial push into an unfamiliar situation, and then secondly, to make it a habit.
This is where it helps to have a goal, and a system in place to help you reach that goal. You can start small, something easily attainable and then build yourself up as you get more comfortable. The great thing about stepping out of your comfort zone is that there are essentially an infinite number of opportunities to do so. You don’t have to leave the nest before you can fly. For me, the goal was to play D1 hockey in college, and my system was the network of teammates and coaches that lived and breathed hockey just as I did. A support system if you will. A professional parallel could be like-minded co-workers, managers, mentors and/or leaders in your organization!
From a professional standpoint, we all have aspirations, dreams, and goals that are shortlisted because of one excuse or another. We have all been there. It weighs on your mind and often times you know that it’s not the best choice, but it’s the comfortable choice. It’s the choice that you can rationalize by telling yourself that you got a toe outside the comfy zone so you get to label it a success.
However, if you can learn to be accepting of the idea that you will not always succeed and embrace those failures by turning them into learning opportunities, and thus erasing the thought of failure, you will undoubtedly be surprised at the positive outcome.
So join a recreational sports team, attend a local church service, strike up a conversation with a stranger, network with a professional over coffee, or connect with a mentor! The overarching point here is that while you may initially feel like a turtle without a shell, it’s absolutely essential for you to find the strength to become comfortable in uncomfortable situations and make a habit of stepping outside of your comfort zone!