Learning to escape your comfort zone

Posted on February 25, 2017 by ATB Chartered Accountants

Daunting tasks such as speaking up in a meeting, which is important professionally but threatening personally are found everywhere. Many people detest making small talk, however it is a crucial part of networking and expanding business prospects. Why step out of your comfort zone if you don’t have to?

The problem with staying in your comfort zone is that while situations such as those above are unpleasant, they are necessary for growth in our jobs, careers and personal lives. Individuals are constantly presented with situations that require a behavior change, and without the skills you need to escape your comfort zone, you may miss countless opportunities. So, how can professionals avoid remaining in their comfort zone in order to advance their careers?

The first step is to be honest with yourself. On an individual level, you need to evaluate business opportunities that have been presented to you in the past. For example, if you declined to speak at a conference, did you really do it for the reasons you said, i.e. because you didn’t have the time, or was it because you were worried about going on stage and presenting to a number of people? There is no shame in admitting the true reasons for missed opportunities. Admitting that you are making excuses to stay in your comfort zone is the first step in changing your behavior.

Next, you need to take control of your behavior. It is highly unlikely that you struggle in every aspect of unpleasant work situations. It is possible that you don’t hate small talk, and you find it a lot easier when you have knowledge on the topic. Or maybe you struggle with networking unless it is in a small setting. It is important to recognize these situations for what they are, opportunities. If you’re someone who gets nervous talking to a large group of people in a large, loud setting, minimize your discomfort by stepping into a quieter corner or hallway to talk in. If you loath public speaking events but are comfortable in smaller groups, set up a lunch meeting with individuals you would like to network with. Stepping out of your comfort zone in such ways will greatly improve opportunities presented to you.

Finally, take the leap. In order to escape your comfort zone, you need to do exactly that. Escape it. Put plans into place that will force you to leave your comfort zone and you might find something that initially scared you isn’t as bad as you thought. Start with baby steps. Instead of jumping straight into presenting at a conference, sign up for a public speaking class or start voicing your opinions and concerns in meetings. You may struggle at first, but every step counts when it comes to leaving your comfort zone. You may be surprised at the opportunities you will have to learn, and grow professionally.