How to comfortably step out of your comfort zone

lionPay-off: Increase your rewards more comfortably
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You’ve surely heard that the uncomfortable thing is often worth doing?

You know, really, that you should do it. It would probably make a big difference to your career or life. And you know that things will probably stagnate if you just stay in your comfort zone.

Sometimes you even decide that you will step out of your comfort zone and you promise others that you’ll do that thing…

…and then the moment of truth comes and you have to stare your discomfort straight in the eye, and out of your own free will, step right into it.

Do you do it? (are you constructively insane?)

Did you do it when you had that last opportunity?

Or did you walk away thinking you’ll do it next time whilst your creative subconscious churned out some beautiful excuses to tell people? Phew. Off the hook. But…depressingly stuck here for a while longer…

Your comfort zone lies to you

The main problem I learned years back, and continue to be reminded of, is that your comfort zone lies to you. And your mind believes the lies.

The reality is that it’s less comfortable inside your comfort zone. At least in the medium to long term. And it’s infinitely more comfortable and rewarding beyond the edges of your comfort zone. In fact, as you may suspect, that’s where the rewards tend to be.

No, you can’t trust your mind to make the right decision for you when it comes to comfort zones. You’re going to have to step outside of your biased mind to get yourself to do the right thing. And that’s the point of this article. I’m going to suggest a way to do this that works, and that’s comfortable (enough) to do.

Let’s assume you have the will

The purpose of me writing this isn’t to recommend that you step out of your comfort zone. I’ll assume you already know that the quality of your life will likely improve significantly if you do.

Neither is it to make the point that having a magic wand that flips discomfort for comfort is an amazing asset to have under your belt (and that the ability to do this is one of the most liberating things you could ever learn to do.) Although, ahem, I think I may have just drawn attention towards that significant point.

Lack of skill or clarity?

No, assuming you have the ‘will’ we need to look at why you’re still not taking the step out of your comfort zone, whether it’s the perceived lack of ‘skill’ or whether it’s the often overlooked issue of lack of clarity. And when we know what it is, we can work to remove it to make it comfortable enough to take that first step.

So, whether you don’t (or didn’t if you’re thinking of a past example) take that step that you felt you should have, was it because you didn’t think you were good or capable enough?

Or was it simply because of fear?

Fear of the unknown?
Fear of looking stupid?
Fear of failure?
Fear of rejection?
Fear of discomfort?

Let’s figure out a more useful and constructive way to deal with these fears.

Luckily, the fix I’m going to propose to you nails both the lack of skill and lack of clarity issues, with one stone. Oh how I love an effective and efficient solution.


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What’s uncomfortable and what we fear

Some time back I was chewing over the sorts of things we fear and why. Since fear of some sort is the number one cause of inaction.

I’d heard enough times that we tend to fear what we don’t understand. And that we fear the unknown. And, (and admittedly I’m pretty sure I picked this one up from a Batman movie years back) “we fear what we can’t see.”

And I thought, what’s the remedy to these? Well, logically, flipping each of them, we need to make:

  • what we don’t understand, better understood
  • the unknown, better known
  • what we can’t see, better seen

And how do we better understand things, make them better known and ‘seen’ more clearly?

Well, how about we learn more about them? How about we get more clarity? How about we put the effort in to see what we previously couldn’t see, knowing full well that what we can see in any situation in life is just one biased perspective of many? If you accept that then you have the option to start exploring others ways of seeing things, which gives you more clarity and more options.

I enjoyed one definition of ‘intelligence’ I once came across as, an ability to accurately see things that other people can’t.

Cut through the confusion to step forwards

That’s when I realised that a major reason we don’t move out of our comfort zones when we know we probably should is because of a lack of clarity or simply ‘confusion’ around what will really happen.

But you can increase your chances and increase your certainty by learning the right things about whatever challenge you’re walking in to and prepare yourself with coping techniques or simply by planning that if ‘X’ happens, then I’ll do ‘Y’.

When you stop assuming and guessing and letting your fear tell you what will happen, and start getting clearer on the reality, you become more comfortable to take that step forwards.

My suggested 3 step solution

So, at the risk of over-simplifying, I wrote down my own three step approach for stepping out of your comfort zone comfortably (or for tackling almost any fear):

1.Study and learn more about the thing you’re uncomfortable about within the relevant context.

Find out what really happens to people who operate in that zone facing your relevant challenge.

Find out how they do it. Learn practical things that you can do to survive, cope or even thrive in that zone. That’s comfortable right? The learning bit? Nice and safe? No excuses? (Providing you want it badly enough). You’re learning to find a better, smarter or easier way to tackle your challenges. You’re learning the map to your treasure.

2.Take a baby step into it. One you can’t possibly say no to.

You control the design here. And specifically two things; You can shrink the size of the baby step such that you can’t possibly say no. But also as you go through step 1, your confidence, clarity and certainty increase too. So this increases your feeling of power to take on a baby step. Whatever. Find your level. Pick a step forwards you’re ready and comfortable enough to take. One you will take. And take it.

3.Repeat

With your new experiential learning, increased sense of power and control over this, and the fact that you’re one step closer, your confidence, certainty, clarity and even your options tend to increase. The mountain doesn’t look as tall half way up. Plus, you’ve learned you were able to get this far and you’re still in one, increasingly excited piece.

Well, that’s it. Advance towards those rewards and watch your comfort zone expand before your very eyes.

Example

I used this when I first overcame my fear of public speaking years back. It enabled me to set up my own business and enjoy my career from that moment onwards.

Here’s how I used my own three step process:

1.I went down the library and read all I could about public speaking, presenting, overcoming nerves and so on. And I created a list of useful ways to think about it and ‘coping techniques’ that I’d use. I felt more confident about the idea of doing it.

2.My very first step into my new world was phoning up my old University and asking them if they wanted to throw 5 students into a room who wanted to learn more about how to learn effectively. I promised to run a short workshop, no charge, to help them do that. That was my baby step. I knew I’d cope with just 5 people.

And that was that. I enjoyed that first workshop, I got flattering feedback, and for my step 3…

3.We repeated, except this time with 12 people and the University paid me. My new business was born, and my life took an exciting turn. Now, 14 years on, I’m enjoying going further down the path this opened up.

Find selling to others uncomfortable?

I’ve since used the technique and helped many others over the years use it, particularly to step into areas of discomfort around sales conversations, or reaching out to new people to initiate sales opportunities.

Nearly every time the non-sales professionals I work with make excuses for not taking worthwhile actions it’s because of discomfort. And 9 times out of 10 it’s because they lack clarity around what’s involved, what challenges they’ll really face and how they’ll deal with them.

Once they learn the right stuff, get clarity on the reality, and design a do-able ‘baby step’ into it, they come out smiling.

Just like the accounting partner I worked with who told me, “I want nothing to do with sales”. But once they saw that what was expected of them was not what they thought sales was, they responded with “oh – is that all I need to do? Oh, fine, I’ll do that” and the BD activity wheels started turning.

An emotionally-charged lack of clarity

It was confusion. It was a an emotionally charged lack of clarity that they suffered from. Leading to a distorted belief. Their comfort zone was lying to them. And they believed it.

What about lack of skill?

Oh. And to wrap up, I mentioned that once you have the ‘will’ and the ‘clarity’ working, you still might feel that you don’t have the ’skill’ yet.

Well, the 3 step solution takes care of that too. You learn the skill by learning, stepping into it (executing) and repeat. Not a bad little process then to play around with on something you’re uncomfortable about. What might that be?

So, there’s my approach to comfortably stepping out of your comfort zone, and opening up many more rewarding opportunities. I hope you find it useful. Please share if so, and if you want to get in touch and learn more about how I’m helping non-sales people to become effective at selling or developing business, or if you want some help getting others to learn skills or behaviours more effectively, you can reach me here. I enjoy a chat.

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