If you landed on this blog, you are likely someone who is looking to improve themselves in any way possible.
There is one thing that ranks above all as a catalyst to growth and improvement…and you’ll naturally dislike the answer. Through personal experience, excerpts in books, and advice from mentors years ahead of me, the best way to grow is to get out of your comfort zone.
Not what you wanted to hear? Well, sorry, but to grow you have to push yourself and expand your limits. Your muscles grow because of the strain and breakdown you put on them through exercise. You have to do this as well in other areas of your life.
Let’s find out how.
Finding Your Comfort Zone
Comfort is the enemy of improvement. When you are comfortable, you get complacent and stay stagnant.
Who wants that?
Most don’t inherently want to remain stagnant and people may think they are pushing themselves, but are they really though?
“Hard work” is different from person to person, and one’s comfort zone is different from another’s comfort zone. Finding your comfort zone needs to come from an internal reflection.
We’ll use the gym example again. Let’s say you are an experienced runner. You can easily run a 6-minute mile.
Your friend, who isn’t as experienced or in shape as you, can also run a 6-minute mile. For him, that is pushing the absolute limits of his speed (his comfort zone).
When you finish running, he is winded and you are not. A 6-minute mile is pushing his comfort zone but is well within yours to the point where you are not challenged.
Over time, if you two kept aiming for 6-minute miles, you would stay stagnant, and this would eventually become easy to your friend because he kept pushing himself past his comfort zone.
This can happen in your career too. If you stop learning and avoid getting uncomfortable, your rate of growth will be slower than it can be and may even go backward.
Why Pushing Your Comfort Zone Works
Like any other act, doing something again and again will lead to that act becoming normal and easy to someone. When you first drove a car, you were probably terrified and stressing over all the moving components of the cars and roads at once.
How about now? Now, driving is second nature to you because you have done it so many times.
Your comfort zone is the same way. Doing something that is hard for you over and over again will eventually lead to that thing becoming easy and natural to you.
Public speaking is a common fear for the majority of folks. Getting up on stage to talk in front of a crowd would definitely qualify as uncomfortable. The first 1, 5,10 times you speak, you may be nervous and inexperienced at delivering and speaking fluidly.
After pushing past your comfort level in public speaking time after time, you’ll find that your comfort level will start expanding.
Here are some milestones you could see as your comfort level starts growing:
- Zone 1: I can’t speak in front of anyone
- Zone 2: I can speak, but only in front of a small crowd and only if it’s less than 5 minutes
- Zone 3: I can speak for 10 minutes now if I needed to
- Zone 4: I can speak to any sized crowd for any amount of time now. This is easy!
Areas Where You Can Push Past Your Comfort Zone
There is a comfort zone in every aspect of your life and you should get into the habit of pushing past your comfort levels in as many areas as possible in order to grow in as many areas as possible.
Here are the common areas that working professionals can look to improve upon:
- Health and Fitness
- Money and Finances
How to Push Through Your Comfort Zone
To push past your comfort zone, simply do what is uncomfortable to you. You can start with small discomforts and gradually work your way into larger discomforts as this becomes a habit to you.
Let’s walk through some examples and scenarios from the list above on ways you can push through and expand your comfort zone.
Learning should be life-long pursuit you go after. Graduating from college is only the beginning of your learning journey.
If you want to get on the fast-track to growth, keep pushing yourself to learn. Learn new topics and learn with more depth in topics you already know about.
It is easy to rest on the laurels of knowledge you accumulated from your classes, internships, or full-time positions. Avoid this and expand your knowledge and skill set.
- Learn a new skill
- Master a skill you are already familiar with
- Advance your education with a certification such as the CPA of CFA licensing
There are many times at the start of a career where you face a metaphorical fork in the road. One path can lead to one lifestyle and the other path can lead to a completely different lifestyle.
Maybe one path has lower growth prospects but is familiar to you. The other path has greater prospects for a career, but you would have no idea how to go down it.
Embrace the discomfort and choose the path with greater prospects. The learning curve will be tough, but trust me it will be worth it.
- Choose the uncommon path with better career prospects
- Take on more important projects and assignments
- Push to go the extra mile to innovate and over deliver on your duties
Health and Fitness
Health and fitness are things that I personally hold high in importance in my life. Keeping my mind and body sharp and at peak levels carries over into my career.
Ways to push your fitness comfort levels include:
- Actually exercising if you don’t currently do do
- Exercising for longer periods and with harder intensity
- Tiring different types of exercise. If you usually weight lift, try yoga
For diet, you can push your comfort levels in many ways too:
- Cut unhealthy foods from your diet
- Eat more greens and nutrition-dense foods
- Cut back on caffeine
Maybe you lean more towards introversion and you like to keep to yourself. Taking leaps in your professional career will ultimately involve the help of others. Get out of your comfort zone and build relationships to network and expand your connections.
- Meet with a new person every week for lunch at work or on campus
- Call your friends and family more often than you usually do to check in and say hello
- Engage in necessary tough conversations. Don’t stray away from them and don’t be passive-aggressive
Money and Finances
On the path of professional and personal development, you’ll want to keep your money and finances in check. By staying organized and disciplined in this area, it’ll be one less thing to worry about and will allow you to focus on other things.
- Save 10% more than you usually do each month
- If you eat out 5 times a week, cut that down to 2 times a week
- Prioritize what monthly subscription services are truly necessary and cancel those that aren’t
Sticking With it and Not Burning Out – Learn to Love it
As the name would imply, getting uncomfortable is never going to be something you want to do. The best way to do it is to do it often and learn to love it.
Seek out change. Seek out discomfort. Doing so will make you strong and resilient in the mind and your horizons will expand on whatever it is that you are working on.
Early on in my first major full-time position, I felt that I was inadequate, inexperienced and that I honestly got lucky in being there.
Because of that, I winced whenever I was assigned a big project or task. I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t know how to do it and was scared of that being exposed. I had full on imposter syndrome.
Situations like these were external forces to get me out of my comfort zone.
After settling into my position, I found that being assigned a big project, while painful at the time of working on it, made me more competent and confident on the other side. With each project, my knowledge grew and my comfort zone widened.
I saw the growth and I learned to love the challenge. Learning to embrace discomfort will give you the mindset to keep pushing yourself just a little farther than you did the day before.
Seeking discomfort is never going to be fun and it is always going to be a work in progress. Once something of discomfort becomes comfortable, you’ll push on to the level above that and the process starts again.
Embracing change and embracing challenges has helped me take the largest leaps in my development. Since I have seen the results of those efforts, I now try to find any way possible to get uncomfortable.
You can do the same. You’ll start to pick up momentum, see progress, and level up.