No matter what our day-to-day looks like - whether we’re seasoned business owners, new to the world of entrepreneurship, climbing the corporate ladder, or just starting out in our careers - it’s easy to fall into a routine without even realizing it. Routine can be good (some would argue it’s necessary for success), but we get comfortable, and sometimes let days, weeks, months, or even years go by before we notice that our routines have become defined comfort zones.
Sometimes staying in a comfort zone or routine can work, but growth requires being uncomfortable. At the same time, the thought of getting “out of your comfort zone” can be terrifying. So how do you grow? How do you pivot out of comfort and routine, and into new experiences and new versions of yourself?
"Pushing or expanding our comfort zones can mean making ourselves vulnerable and for some reason as a society we are taught to protect ourselves. I recently got told to show my belly more".
- Amanda, GEM founder
First things first: know your boundaries. We know growth requires discomfort, but too much discomfort can be paralyzing, so like in all other aspects of life find that balance! Play in your areas of strength, but push the limits enough to grow your career.
Amanda Aerin of Amanda Aerin Design is an edgy designer, brand ambassador, boss, media influencer, an inspiration - and a regular on The Marilyn Denis Show, now. But going on TV wasn’t on Amanda’s list of ‘comfortable’ things to do:
“After entering a contest to win a broadcast television position on The Marilyn Denis Show, I was quickly thrust into the spotlight. The night before my first live appearance I didn't sleep a wink due to nerves. My business brain understood the value and potential opportunities gained of presenting my skills on TV but my emotional brain was afraid to fail, embarrass myself, and ruin the small clientele following I had built.”
But Amanda had a game plan to get through the discomfort, too. “I reflected back on a time when I went to see my first design client and literally had to act like how I perceived a successful designer would act- this would be the key to my on air confidence. I acted confident and eventually the true confidence came. I am however still a very shy person at heart.”
Lana Dingwall is a business coach, international best selling author, and podcaster, and doesn’t shy away from pushing boundaries to experience growth at the right speed. Remember to check in: “In my experience my ‘comfort zone’ is just a meter I can use to determine how much growth I’m going to experience, it’s not an indication that I shouldn’t do something.”
But don’t be so aware of boundaries that you don’t expand your comfort zone. “If it doesn’t feel uncomfortable in some way, I won’t really grow or make a lot of progress,” says Lana.
Every time we learn a new skill or have new experiences, we are expanding our comfort zones. Feeling uncomfortable can be really healthy, and it’s critical we tune in to our personal cues and learn how to grow from them.
GEM Conference Founder Amanda Cockburn agrees that it’s important to expand our comfort zones so that they grow with us because we might look back and live in regret. “You don't want to look back in ten years and realize that you don't feel fulfilled because you did the same thing for so long. Gently expanding our comfort zones allows us to evolve without the shock value. You know what works for you: challenge yourself to sign up for something new, to start that thing you keep putting off. Work on personal branding even though putting yourself in front of a camera makes you squirm.”
Its important to surround yourself with people or join groups where you feel safe to be vulnerable and try new things, free of judgment.
Growing is definitely uncomfortable, but learning to work through those feelings of discomfort is how you’ll start seeing those successes. Sweaty palms, blotchy skin, heart beating in your ear; it really is a case of mind over matter.
Nora Zabarah Pucci of Zarucci Bridal believes as an entrepreneur you’re always out of your comfort zone. “You have already chosen a lifestyle that keeps you on rocky waters every day. You have to continue to be creative and be different; you have to stand out and you can’t do that by being part of the norm.”
Susan Richards, CFO and Founder of Numbercrunch, has the best analogy: “I can't say I've ever really thought of my comfort zone. High heels are not comfortable but yet I often wear them. When an opportunity presents itself I tend to think it's a sign that I'm meant to say yes. That doesn't mean I'm always comfortable in every moment, I've just become pretty comfortable with experiencing discomfort. It passes, just like sore feet.”
Whatever we think of comfort zones, we need to work at finding that sweet spot that works for us as individuals; that will give us just enough discomfort to allow us to grow without being overwhelmed.
“Courage is going forward in the face of fear and if we are going to change the landscape of leadership roles to ensure it is well represented by women- we need many more women to take courageous leaps.”