15 Dec Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
Through the years I’ve seen many Consultants who find it difficult to move outside their comfort zones. One former colleague of mine serves as a good example of the problem. We often discussed his career plans, and whether he should pursue a career opportunity that was presented to
him. His decision was always the same – he stayed where he was because he felt comfortable in his role. This colleague is an incredibly talented leader who for many years worked in a very small company. To grow, he knew he needed to move into a different role in a larger Consultancy firm, but the decision to do this was too challenging for him. Recently, he did take the plunge. His only regret is that he did not do it sooner.
All of us have a comfort zone. There is a certain temperature at which we feel the most comfortable. There is a way of life in which we feel at ease. There are people with whom we feel most comfortable. There are work situations that are more comfortable than others. When we find ourselves outside our comfort zone, we feel uncomfortable, and out of place. Our natural inclination is to seek comfort. We feel safe within the confines of our comfort zone. The problem is that our comfort zone can also prevent us from our highest levels of capability.
We sometimes hear Consultants who complain about their current work environment and company policy, but don’t take action to make any changes in their life. Fear of failure is the most common reason that people give when they avoid moving outside their comfort zone. It can feel safer to stay where we are rather than move into a new situation where we risk criticism and external judgment. Failure is also part of the leadership growth experience. The hard knocks, the disappointments, and the losses give us obstacles we learn to overcom. While we may wish that we did not have to weather these storms, they are what make us strong. They give us maturity, and teach us to be accountable..
When you know you are stuck in your comfort zone, you have made a big step in recognizing the problem. Moving out of your comfort zone can seem challenging. Taking small steps to change allows you to stretch your comfort zone slowly. This will make it less uncomfortable and frightening. Think about the last time you moved outside your comfort zone but, in retrospect, were glad you did. Make a list of new things you want to do, and just start with one of them. Take one step in a new direction every day, and take action.
As an example, many technical Consultants are afraid of public speaking and turn down invitations because of their fear. Yet this is a critical skill for Consultant leaders, who often have to present their ideas or new initiatives to their team, and to upper management. An effective presentation can have a very positive impact in helping you as a leader to achieve your goals. So to move outside your comfort zone, you could volunteer to do a short presentation to a small group. Need more help? Ask your Supervisor if your company would sponsor your attendance a public speaking course (such as Toastmasters) to help you build your confidence. In doing this, you have made a commitment to yourself and your team to improve yourself. Do your homework on how to give a presentation and take the plunge.
What are you waiting for? Go get uncomfortable, feel the fear, and take that small step to move outside your comfort zone.
Dave Tuazon is a Senior Consultant for Seed Analytics, an SAP Services Partner, and global provider of solutions for SAP Data Governance and SAP Data Migration.