The topic of comfort zones has been widely discussed in media, with lots of TEDx talks, articles and publications. Everyone is saying that “you have to overcome your personal barriers”. Everyone experienced being in the comfort zone. It’s personal; what for some seems to be a goal and an aspiration, for others can turn out to be a comfy place.
Or it may be the opposite - despite feeling comfy deeply inside, you may have a feeling that you could be missing something? The famous comfort zone is a state in which we stay within a familiar context of structures, borders, and emotions. We know what to expect, the things to do seem so natural to us that they become habit and we feel like everything is under control (who doesn’t like that feeling?). So we live in a safe bubble. For some people it’s a synonym of safety, for others boredom, stagnation or even regression.
Why would I get out of my comfort zone?
The media is screaming about it so much, that for me personally, the “getting out of your comfort zone” expression has become a bit empty and grandiloquent. It doesn’t mean anything by itself. It has a meaning once you can feel it on your skin, once you cross a border of unknown experiences and personal fears, curiosity and uncomfortable thrill at the same time. OK, but why all of this? Isn’t better to stay comfy wherever you are?
3 main reasons I perceive:
1. New experiences
Curiosity, the will to learn new things, and experiencing something new are main reasons for me. It’s not about going from one extreme to another and dropping everything what you’ve built so far. It’s about constantly trying (even small) new things, choosing paths we haven’t chosen so far. Why? To develop ourselves, bring us somewhere else, or expand our horizons. By the way, we can also find out something new about ourselves (however pretentious it sounds) and prove to ourselves that we can do more than we ever expected. If the argument of experiencing new things doesn’t speak to you, think about how at the end of life, wouldn’t it be much cooler to have more diverse and exciting memories and stories to share?
2. While living in the bubble, the air will start running out
If we’re always surrounded by familiarity, we create a kind of bubble around us, bringing us to stagnation. Sure, it’s great to have some (healthy) daily habits and rituals, but if everyday situations don’t surprise us anymore and every element s becomes unbearably predictable, then what are we actually bringing to our lives? How can we develop relationships or careers in such circumstances? If nothing excites us, we will finally stop being exciting for others.
3. New perspectives
I can tell from my experience that once I decided to change one thing in my life, it usually unexpectedly opened another door in a different aspect of my life. Have you watched the movie “YES MAN”? The main character, played by Jim Carrey, is an embittered middle aged and generally unhappy guy, who wasn’t surprised by anything anymore, until he decided to change it and start saying YES to everything happening in his life. It’s not a masterpiece movie in itself, but I love the concept and for that it’s worth watching.
What is getting out of the comfort zone in a professional context?
For me, switching from the standard office job to remote work was a big change into the unknown. I had no idea what to expect and despite the fact that I wanted to do it for a long time, I hesitated for many months before I finally took that step. In actuality, different circumstances in my private life pushed me to make final decision, but everyone has a different path that leads them to change. However, remote work isn’t for everyone and even if you have a “standard” job, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep getting out of your comfort zone!
What can getting out of the comfort zone mean for others?
1. Changing jobs for one with more responsibilities and demands, that requires upgrading your skills and learning new things.
2. Changing industries (e.g. we always used to work in marketing for IT but suddenly we decide to change and do marketing for a beauty brand).
3. Moving to a different country for living
4. Switching for completely different position (e.g. switching from marketing to coding - I know cases like that!)
5. Leading a completely new project (within the current position).
6. Collaboration with clients/colleagues from a new country, working with new cultures, outside of native language.
7. Business travels to new places.
8. Public speaking (if no or weak experience with that before).
9. Leaving a steady job, starting your own business, a freelance job or even remote work!
10. ...Everything that’s new that we say YES to!
My getting out of the comfort zone
Before I switched work models and started freelancing (which lead to working with Wings4U) I thought that the biggest challenge would be headaches related to taxes, accounting, and of course getting enough freelance gigs to be able to earn a certain amount of money! I was afraid of the lack of stability at beginning of this new style of work. On the other hand, I had a picture in my head that (apart from headaches mentioned above) this new style of work could be a comfy bubble, as finally I would be able to work however, wherever, and whenever I wanted to! While it’s partially true, it turned out that the scariest headaches were piece of cake to deal with. Apart from dropping a regular job and starting self-employment itself, since I’ve started working with Wings4U, I’ve had completely different challenges that pushed me to get out of my private comfort zone. Here are few of them:
1. Working 100% in English
While I felt comfortable with English because I was already using it at home, I’m not a native speaker... I used to work in English occasionally, but then suddenly it became my everyday life and I like it.
2. Video conferences with people around the world
Now when I type it, it doesn’t even sound like a challenge because it’s part of my daily work, but I remember myself doing it for the first time - I was so stressed!
3. Travelling to new countries to meet people I’ve never met before; that’s the best part!
One of the best moments is when you finally meet the people you’ve been working together with over Skype with for months; but instead now you are gathered all together!
4. Management of 100% remote teams located in different time zones
Let’s agree, even if you have tons of experience related to team management from regular jobs, managing remote teams is something else. I am still learning, making mistakes, and improving.
5. New kinds of projects and responsibilities - the best way to never get bored of what you do professionally!
For some people, the things I mentioned above may be even boring, for some others it might seem new and exciting. When I was experiencing those things for the first time, it was a gradual process of getting me past my barriers. And I think that’s the point - to focus on breaking our own limits, and not to compare them to others. Sometimes when we have to face something new, there may appear a thought in back of our mind: Gosshh what am I doing here? Why am I doing this?. But once we manage a situation, we can build on it and add it to collection of our experiences. And the more we experience,, the more comfortable we feel,, and one day they stop being challenges anymore, which means only one thing…. It’s time to find new ones!
What about your challenges and barriers? Are you about to change something but something is blocking you? Or maybe you surpassed your limits recently? Get loud about it dropping a comment!