Oh! It feels so good to curl up in that comfort zone. Just like a Snuggie advertised on TV – convenient, warm, cozy…. Comfort zones, and Snuggies, often get a bad rap. Yet when used well, they can serve several valuable purposes. They provide a break from the stresses and pressures of life. But one day you wake up and ask yourself, “What am I doing? I’m sitting in my house wearing a Snuggie! Somebody call an ambulance!”
How do you know when you’re in a comfort zone that is no longer serving you? You’re bored, restless, procrastinating or resisting (and maybe you’re really wearing a Snuggie)! How do you get out of it, especially when it’s so easy and nice? Sometimes, all it takes is a little stretching…
Start by imagining a new comfort zone. What is the next level you’d like to achieve? Stepping out of your comfort zone is only uncomfortable at first. Breaking out of the old also means creating the new. A new comfort zone means you’ll soon be comfortable at a new level. What is one area of growth on which you’d like to focus? Networking? Marketing? Servicing? Productivity? Organization? Pick one and start small. You only need to stretch a little to get you started.
Break it down before you build it back up. What underlies your procrastination? Too often, we build up a negative expectation about stepping out of a comfort zone that is 10 times harsher than reality. Take organization, for example. “My messy desk will take days to organize and I just don’t have that kind of time.” The comfort zone is that you’ve tolerated a messy desk even though you know it makes you less productive, even chaotic. Comfort breeds complacency. So break it down before you build it back up: Days? Will it really take days to organize? How long will it realistically take? Dismantle your unrealistic expectation or perception. Then, build it back up: Choose to spend only a half hour cleaning up your desk. Commit to keeping it clean for one week. Accomplishment breeds sustainability.
Attitude: What’s your attitude about stretching into this new comfort zone? Let’s say it’s the task of cold-calling. Break it down! What language do you use? I often hear these statements from new clients:
“Oh, this is going to be really hard!”
“I hate doing this!”
“I have to get this done and I don’t want to!”
Be aware of your language. Words are powerful. Try an experiment. For every negative statement you make about a task you perceive as unpleasant, change it to its opposite for one week:
“Oh! This is going to be really easy!”
“I love doing this!”
“I want to get this done and I don’t have to!”
See what happens and enjoy the results.
Fear: Fear is very effective at keeping you in a comfort zone that no longer serves you… Fear of failure, of success, of rejection, of pain, of the unfamiliar…Face fear with facts. Let’s say you’ve chosen to create a new comfort zone in the area of networking. Your current comfort zone is that you don’t do it much because it’s uncomfortable. Break it down! What’s not comfortable? Walking into a room alone? Starting a conversation? Talking about yourself and what do you do? Identify it, then look at the facts. If it’s walking in alone, you won’t remain alone for long – it’s a networking event! People are open to talking. Or, invite a friend to join you. If it’s starting a conversation, begin with simply, “Hi, I’m _________ (insert your name here!)”. The person will respond to you. Build up those networking skills and create a new level of comfort. Ask a friend to help you hone your elevator speech. Read an article about how to be a successful networker.
Remember -- start with a small step that stretches you a little. Let it be challenging enough to show that your commitment to growth has paid off. Stay focused on one task or area. Small steps are achievable steps and get you used to accomplishment. Accomplishing new tasks that seem a little daunting or scary helps you build confidence and create a new, higher level of comfort. Enjoy your new comfort zone and Happy Stretching!
Barbara Heenan, CPC, ACC, ELI-MP
Fresh Company Coaching & Consulting