The Keys to Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Maybe it’s networking, or interviewing, or delivering a speech, or delivering bad news to someone, whatever is holding you back from breaking through your comfort zone to reach your career goals – you need to be able to step outside your comfort zone and overcome it.

comfort zoneEasier said than done. But you’re in luck, because as part of ExecuNet’s commitment to connect you with trusted advice you can count on, advice designed to help you make the best decisions for your career, work and life, Professor Andy Molinsky joined us for a session of ExecuNet Master Class and shared techniques to successfully get outside one’s, enticing but ultimately restricting, comfort zone. What he shared will help anyone who is avoiding, procrastinating, passing the buck, telling themself something isn’t important when they know it is, or going with less effective options simply because they aren’t as scary.

Conventional wisdom about comfort zones is with enough inspiration, anyone can stretch outside their comfort zone, and all it takes is a deep breath and a leap.

Is this really true?

According to Professor Molinsky, it’s more complicated than that. He puts forward that there’s plenty of background work that needs to get done before one can do more than imagine taking the leap. Until that prep work is done the vicious cycle of avoidance – anxiety, avoidance, short-term relief, even more anxiety next time – will continue.

It’s so hard to act outside your comfort zone because of these factors:

  • Authenticity – This doesn’t feel natural. This is not me!
  • Likeability – They won’t like me.
  • Competence – I’m not good at this, so I’m going to look like a fool.
  • Resentment – I’m annoyed I have to do this.
  • Morality – I feel like I’m doing something wrong.

These are powerful obstacles! Very few people spontaneously leap outside their comfort zone. To leap requires considerable strategy and deliberation. Molinsky declares anyone can do it with effort, persistence, a plan, and a keen understanding of the challenges. You’ve got to pick your moments because one cannot live outside their comfort zone, but you do need to have the ability to make a leap when it’s in your best interests to do so.

Molinsky’s research identified what he calls three key tools to breaking the cycle of avoidance.

Conviction: A deep sense of purpose. It’s the reason why you need to step outside your comfort zone when every instinct says no. Conviction is usually related to goals of a professional or personal nature. Professionally, you must make yourself understand your professional goals will only be reached through this undesirable action. Personally, you may have a cause that you are invested in and is counting on you to do this.

Customization: Putting a little bit of yourself into the situation to improve your comfort level. That could be through body language, using props, staging the context to your advantage, using language that you believe in, or timing when you are most comfortable. Not all of these apply to all situations, but you can always find a way to customize your leap outside your comfort zone to your advantage.

Clarity: An honest, balanced, even-handed perspective on the challenges you face when acting outside your comfort zone. Allowing yourself to go from “I’ll never be able to do this” to “There are parts I struggle with but I’m better at some of it and perhaps I won’t feel fake after a few more tries.” Clarity is allowing yourself to appreciate missteps are inevitable and part of the learning process – just don’t obsess on the worst-case scenario.

Having conviction, customization and clarity help break the cycle of avoidance and lead to self-discovery. Listen to the recording of the Master Class to hear Professor Molinsky explain this in much greater detail and to his responses to questions from members who attended the live event.

I look forward to seeing you outside your comfort zone!

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson is ExecuNet's president and chief economist. An Arjay Miller Scholar, Mark received his MBA from Stanford University and a BA in economics from Yale University. He joined ExecuNet in 1993, with extensive marketing and new product and business development experience, having served as president and founder of A&M Associates, an investment management firm. Mark's corporate leadership experience includes several senior marketing and financial positions with RCA Global Communications (a GE subsidiary) and American Can Company.

1 Reply to "The Keys to Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone"

  • Pegotty Cooper
    November 26, 2017 (1:13 pm)

    In getting outside of your comfort zone, many people automatically run into a wall of resistance which designed to keep you safe in all of those areas you described in your article. I have found that having a collaborator or a good thinking partner or coach can remind you of your purpose, your “Why” when the naysayers in your head start shouting “NO”!