Early in my career, I was an executive in a nearly $2 billion company and had all I could ever want in a job. But pretty soon, things started to feel way too comfortable and I didn’t feel like I was continuing to grow personally. That’s when an opportunity presented itself that would allow me to move into the C-suite at a software technology company that had less than $10 million in revenue and would require a move from my hometown.
We are all creatures of habit and thrive on the predictable and comfortable to minimize stress. And for me, this was going to be a risk, one that was going to take me squarely out of my comfort zone. But I knew one thing: If I chose to follow my fears and stick with only the familiar, I’d be destined to fall behind everyone else willing to take a chance and step outside of what was comfortable.
I decided to go for it.
Fast forward a few years and the new company that felt like a risk had doubled in size. I was able to exit the company and go on to serve in C-level roles at two other software companies.
Had I not taken that chance, I would have never experienced the success that came with its subsequent opportunities. And every challenge that came after that initial leap of faith seemed far less stressful and made me a better person, personally and professionally.
So, what’s the secret to leaving your comfort zone? Here are four tips to help move you into a world of adventure and opportunity:
1. Find your “zone of courage.”
Your zone of courage lies just outside your comfort zone. If you’re not ready to take a big leap, take a baby step. You’ve got to start somewhere. The zone of courage contains much less predictability than your comfort zone, but it could also contain opportunities for personal and professional growth.
The thought of leaving home and family and entering a much smaller company in a field I had no experience in was almost terrifying. But I knew that the role would prepare me for much bigger roles in the future, and the timing was right in my life to make a change.
2. Avoid the “zone of terror.”
Beyond your zone of courage lies another zone: the zone of terror, which is overwhelming and a place you want to avoid. The key to success is finding that area outside your comfort zone and outside the terror zone. It’s the sweet spot that allows you to move forward at a pace that allows you to grow but doesn’t paralyze you with fear.
If I had thought any of the changes I made in my life were truly terrifying, I would have been frozen and they never would have happened.
3. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
You can play it safe and always do the predictable thing, or you can push the envelope a bit and go for maximal growth. Moving out of your comfort zone is bound to make you feel a little exposed and that’s a crucial part of the process.
You’re going to feel afraid. But moving forward—even while knowing that failure is a possibility—helps you set new and higher bars for your goals and move into your zone of courage at the same time.
4. Take it one step at a time.
You might think that sounds less than ambitious, but trust me, moving out of your comfort zone doesn’t happen all at once. With every move you make, take time to evaluate where you are and plan where you want to go next. Then take your next step in your new direction.
That’s how you develop momentum and keep yourself moving on to greater opportunities, and further out of your comfort zone.
We often start the day surrounded by the familiar comforts of home and family. It’s our job as humans to walk out the front door, shake it up a bit and grow. Ready to make your first move?