How to Move Beyond Your Comfort Zone

To-be-outstanding-get-comfortable-with-being-uncomfortable.You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself  “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you cannot do.”

Been out of your comfort zone lately? Can you recall how you reacted how it  influenced  making the right decisions? A CEO I once coached, told me  the  story of his trip to China where he had met up with other key players from around the globe. The city they visited was no Beijing or Shanghai. It was smaller in size and his hotel was in an area specified as the ‘government zone.’

As foreign nationals they were advised not to venture out of zone. However, in need of exercise and fresh air, my client did venture out one day. He soon found he had  walked beyond the edges of familiarity. His surroundings  had changed dramatically: more cars – unlike the few taxis entering the government zone with special permission to drop-off visitors at their hotels;  loud noise ; beggars he hadn’t seen before. He was   intrigued because he had found himself  in the hustle bustle of what looked like the real China.

He noticed  groups of older men huddled together over a board game; numerous shops with varied offerings and then  most disquietingly, realised he was the only “white man”  there. He was  very much out of his comfort zone and he felt the need to return to what was at least familiar, in a different city – his zone.

Can you recall the last time you were out of your Comfort Zone (or  CZ) and what your thinking pattern was? How did you feel? What did you do? The challenge is that most of the time we are totally unconscious of our behaviour and reactions.

We tend to go into an automatic, default reaction as the brain kicks into a survival, threat mode.

However, by being aware and mindful (and of course managing our threat response) recognizing when we are out of our comfort zone, we can connect with more choices to do something different.

What is your default mode?

It’s easy to say, “just face your fear,” “take more risks” or “just do it!” But before we can do this, tuning into our own individual reaction helps us understand our ingrained brain-behaviour patterns and then create some new pathways.

My client had been faced with a choice. Should he carry on exploring or return to the safety of his hotel? He found himself thinking that that no one in his team knew where he was and that there were probably very good reasons why he shouldn’t be where he was – so he returned.

Later he wished he had pushed himself to explore and discover what he had left behind  outside the zone.  There,  he’d  felt excitement along with some fear. He began connecting this experience to his decision-making in business especially when newness and ambiguity were  present. He realised that on a day-to-day basis, he tended to keep within his comfort zone – playing it safe. From time to time though he would also  take that big leap and each time he managed  that it paid off handsomely.

Being out of our comfort zone can provoke a range of  reactions. Some business managers become loud, dominant and authoritative when deep down  they feel vulnerable. Equally, others become withdrawn and disengaged. 5 leading steps in moving beyond your comfort zone.

The first step when you’re out of your CZ is to be more mindful –  monitoring  your thoughts, feelings and reactions.  As a practical  follow up to any initial anxiety,  find information, resources or people who could help.

Being self-aware enough to identify and name what is going on is a key part control in situations like this.

Body language is  also critical. If you are saying one thing and your body language another,  your body language will be read by others and  will be  the ultimate winner. Self-awareness helps people to become  powerfully present in the moment and  to making the best, right decisions at the time.

With a greater, more conscious feel and awareness about your automatic reactions, you could now choose to create a new neural pathway through a different approach.  David Rock’s book, ” Your Brain at Work” will help you here. Being vulnerable is human – we all have our strengths and weaknesses.

* Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn By Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life

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Jasbindar Singh

Jasbindar is a business psychologist, leadership excellence coach and author of 'Get your Groove Back'.