By Susan Neustrom
Ahh, your comfort zone. It’s a great place to reside. There are no worries, problems or hassles—just comfort. That is, until you are confronted with change.
Whether you are considering a career or life transition, any kind of personal or professional change requires you to step outside your comfort zone.
And leaving your comfort zone, your personal space where you know what to expect, can be frightening. In fact, fear can stifle growth, halt progress and negatively impact behavior, giving you the feeling of being stuck.
But the comfort zone as you know it is an illusion. Instead, what you believe to be your comfort zone is really habits that you’ve set up to protect yourself against any perceived danger associated with change. You do not want to lose control, and it’s easier to hold on to what you know instead of stepping into the unknown, regardless of how determined you are to make a change. Therefore, developing new habits to keep yourself moving forward is well worth your time and effort. New behavior repeated over and over again helps you maintain control even when everything around you is changing.
Here are three strategies to help you step out of your comfort zone:
1. Create urgency Without a sense of urgency, there is no reason to change. You create urgency by developing a story with a pressing problem and highlighting the benefits of the change outcome you are seeking. Therefore, taking action now instead of later becomes necessary.
2. Move by inches, not feet The view from where you are to where you want to be can be overwhelming. Taking small steps is a comfortable way to make change accessible. Design five-minute actions to inch yourself closer to your goal. Don’t forget to record your movements. By doing this you will see how much you can accomplish through consistent, steady actions.
3. Amplify self-awareness Deep self-awareness opens a window to your thoughts, feelings and actions. Look at yourself objectively by spending 30 minutes each day in reflection, and maintain a journal of your thoughts. In this way, you will reveal a new and hidden you.
When you want to leave your comfort zone, developing movement habits to replace habits no longer serving you enables you to set the wheels in motion to discover a new approach to change.
Susan Neustrom, an adjunct professor in DePaul’s Master of Arts in Educating Adults program in the School for New Learning, has more than 25 years of experience in corporate and nonprofit leadership positions. She is the author of “The Comfort Zone Illusion: Leaving Your Comfort Zone Is Not So Hard After All.”