Going out of your comfort zone – what does it mean?

About 10 years ago I was advised to « go out of my comfort zone », I think it was during my first official yearly performance feedback session. At the time, I had no idea what that meant practically. I was hired to do a certain job and this “out of comfort zone task” wasn’t described to me. As I was new to the company and a lot of things (e.g unwritten rules) were unfamiliar, I didn’t ask what I was expected to do.

Later on I experienced it to be quite a jargon in the company, “everybody” were told to get out of their comfort zone. And I do agree that it is good for development. So what does it mean, really? It could be:

-        Asking for a stretching project, something you would learn from.

–        Applying for a job that you don’t really know how to do (you have 50% of the skills).

–        Going on an expat assignment.

–        Practicing a new way of handling a situation.

–        Using different behaviour techniques with different people (e.g use indirect language when your style is direct).

–        Trying to be extravert when your natural preference is to be introvert.

–        Using language of “feeling” when your inclination is to be rational and showing no emotion.

–        Basically do anything that you do not naturally do.

And what is the effect? You start to see other ways of how things can be solved and handled. You see there are more perspectives, more angles. You may start using the new behaviours you have practiced sometimes, when you see it fit. Maybe you see there is a middle way of two opposites, or that each end of the opposites has its own purpose. Possibly you have increased your repertoire so that you can comfortably move in a wider range of territory, e.g talk with people you didn’t talk with before. Which means that your comfort zone has increased..

On a wider scale, e.g in business; having employees that are willing to increase their scope and see more perspectives, results in a more inclusive environment.

But how long should you stay in the “uncomfortable zone”? Well, you can’t be there all the time, you will exhaust yourself! If you are an emotional person, you can’t stay cool and distant all the time, but you can dip in and out of it, to get the experience. Certain uncomfortable zones become comfortable with time, e.g the challenging project, but it may not be a good idea to always take on a challenging project (possible burnout).

Good luck with your journeys in the lands of uncomfortable zones!

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Reader's Comments »

  1. By Soffia Osk Magnusdottir Dayal on septembre 27, 2011 at 10:02

    Very important, and not much attention given to the value of stretching yourself out of your comfort zone. It can be practically anything.. And you’re right, something that was uncomfortable once, can be quite comfortable now…so we should try to meet new challenges every now and then :) Nice blog and website!