This weekend we’re going camping. That’s nothing new for us – we take a 3-day weekend nearly once a month and go to some awesome places with great friends. We have a beautiful caravan which makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable. But this weekend, in preparation for a weekend at Moreton Island in May (where we can’t take the caravan), we’re camping in swags. This is putting me totally out of my comfort zone, and I don’t like it! I’m worried about my boys being cold at night; I’m concerned there are going to be many things we need but will forget; I don’t know what food to take because the portable fridge is much smaller than the one in the caravan; and don’t even get me started on dressing, showering and toileting! But one little part of my brain is telling me it’s all going to be okay and by Sunday night I’ll wonder what all the worry was about!
That got me thinking about business. Having a comfort zone isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It protects us from taking on more stress and anxiety than we’re equipped to deal with. But if we stay in our comfort zone, does that mean that our business is not growing and evolving with our customers’ needs? Does it mean that all our grand ideas in our Business Plan are going to stay as plans and never turn into reality? Will it stop our business from thriving? Beyond our comfort zone is where we can grow, learn and develop in a way that expands our horizons beyond what we ever thought possible.
How do get out of your comfort zone …
Talk to someone new. As an introvert, I find this difficult. But once I get over my initial trepidation, I often find myself really enjoying the experience, and usually learn something from it.
Look for different perspectives. We can all get a little tunnel visioned in how we think and do things, both in business and in life. Just because that’s the way we’ve always done it doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Neither is necessarily right or wrong, they’re just different.
Are you afraid of what others may think or concerned about letting people down? Nobody is perfect and if you wait for perfection, you’ll probably be waiting a very long time! Striving for perfection can put a lot of pressure and stress on you and hold you back. Let it go.
It’s often fear that’s holding us back. What are you afraid of? Write down your fears and put a strategy in place to overcome them. I know, easier said than done, right? My biggest fear in business is networking. It shouldn’t be, because it helped launch my business and was a highly successful strategy for me. I did a lot of networking during the early stages of growing my business and found that I actually quite enjoyed it! But not having done it for a few years now, I’m back to that initial fear and just can’t bring myself to do it again. How can I overcome this? As a bookkeeper and an “A” type personality, I’m great at following instructions and sticking to the plan. With networking, even a structured networking event, it just doesn’t work with my personality. Instead of feeling pressured to meet everybody in the room, I need to focus on one or two people who I could hit it off with, and get to know them. This isn’t always easy at a noisy and crowded event, so the ultimate goal would be to arrange a follow-up meeting in a more comfortable setting.
Whether you realise it or not, what you do is noticed by others. This is your chance to become a great role model for other business owners who may be experiencing your same struggle.
There are usually no regrets when you venture out of your comfort zone. I used to be a professional pianist. I did pretty much all that I could do within the industry – teaching, theatre, bands, orchestras, private functions, solo performance. It was a lot of hard work and my achievements were remarkable. Now I play for myself for enjoyment and people often ask me why I no longer perform or teach. I have absolutely no regrets for no longer playing professionally, because I held nothing back and there are no “what if” or “if only” moments.
Being in your comfort zone often means that you may be complying with the norms and doing what everyone else is doing. By stepping out of your comfort zone you may have the opportunity to define yourself for who you are, not for who others are.
Find a mentor or coach. It doesn’t have to be a professional business coach, it could be a business colleague or insightful friend. This person can help you identify gaps between how you’d naturally and comfortably behave and how you need to behave in a new situation to be effective. They can hold you accountable and help you along when things get tough.
Don’t be afraid of trying something new. You may find you’re more resilient, capable and courageous than you thought; you can rise to any challenge presented, and become more excited about the new opportunities presented to you.
Take a risk. With risk comes the chance of failure. But it also comes with the chance of greatness, so go for it! With some time, effort, strategy and determination you’ll get there. After all, outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens!