How Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone Can Improve Your Career

How Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone Can Improve Your Career

By their nature, comfort zones feel safe and relaxing; yet many professionals who have made it to the top see them as hazardous to career success.

What’s the harm in hanging out in your comfort zone? Well, as Bill Harrison has said, you can’t grow until you branch out. Harrison was JP Morgan’s CEO for years. He credits an uncomfortable, tricky managerial promotion that took him far beyond his comfort zone for propelling him to the C-suite.

Harrison’s belief that comfort zones should be stretched is supported by science. During one experiment led by researchers from Cornell University and The University of Chicago, participants were asked to engage in improvisational acting classes. Those whose classes were uncomfortable or awkward were more likely to report that the experience helped them grow.

These are all good reasons for stepping out of your comfort zone. But how exactly can your willingness to move out of your wheelhouse impact you from a job perspective?

It can reveal talents you weren’t aware of.

When you deliberately remove yourself from settings you know well, you force yourself to tap into skills that you’ve rarely or never developed. This allows you to make self-discoveries that could be pertinent to your career.

Say you took an overnight Yellowstone River Rafting trip alone. You’d be grouped with strangers and asked to participate in an activity that required your attention. You might find that you have the ability to motivate others through humor and empathy. Afterward, you could work on honing those abilities further to make yourself more valuable at work and become a leader.

It can put you in front of opportunities.

Your comfort zone probably feels like a pair of fuzzy slippers. However, fuzzy slippers make you want to stop moving, not move more. The only way to get rewards is to take a few calculated risks like taking off those slippers and putting on different shoes.

Randstad’s CEO of human resources, Sander van ’t Noordende, recommends taking one risk daily. Why? He knows the value that can come from trying something untested. He once embarked on an intimidating cold call only to find that the prospective buyer was interested. From that point, he says he shifted his perspective on staying in his comfort zone. After all, opportunities generally won’t come your way. You have to look for them.

things I wish I'd known

It can keep you innovating.

Worried that you might feel a little fear and anxiousness when moving outside your comfort zone? You probably will. Most people have a sense of trepidation, but that’s not a bad thing. Harvard Business School research shows that as long as you are in control of the move and feel a sense of ownership, your anxiety can become the springboard for creativity.

The secret is to lean into your unease to prompt your imagination to go into growth overdrive. This isn’t unlike what happens when you have a big deadline looming and suddenly get a spark of inspiration. The inspiration comes from the fear of not getting everything done and it grows as you embrace it.

Can it be challenging to poke your head out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself? Absolutely. Nevertheless, it’s the right thing to do for the health of your career.

This guest post was authored by Kenny Straus and Patrick Sipp

Kenny Straus and Patrick Sipp of Flying Pig Adventures have been getting their clients back into the outdoors, where the spray of the river, the warmth of the sunshine, and the immensity of the world around them is clear and present. Kenny and Patrick are both family men who have turned their passion for the outdoors into a gateway for their guests to experience an adventure unlike anything else.

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