In the third of a three-part series, Nick Humphrey outlines the strategies and techniques for expanding your comfort zone.
A critical step in expanding your comfort zone is self-awareness. If you find yourself making up excuses or rationalising your discomfort, it may be that you are masking your fears . Be honest with yourself, what are you afraid of? A big part of pushing boundaries is confronting your fears and tackling them head on.
Some examples of rationalising not doing things include:
Ask yourself, if I was completely comfortable and at ease doing that thing would I enjoy it? Would it advance my career? Would it be amazing? Would it make my work-place a better place to be? If the answer is yes, then stop making excuses and face up to your fear and take it on.
Find a Mentor
A mentor, whether a professional coach or trusted colleague, can provide useful inspiration and guidance to help push through your boundaries. They can identify gaps between how you behave in your comfort zone versus the way you need to act outside that zone to be truly effective. They can also support you when the going gets tough and you feel like giving in. They can also make sure you retain your own style and personality as you push through the challenges.
Build a plan
The next step is to build a plan to help tackle your fear or discomfort. Rather than just jumping in, it is better if you strategise your attack. As part of your planning, ensure you factor in time to do research, to do some practice and get some training.
You need to specifically identify what is challenging for you about a particular situation. Regardless of whether you are uncomfortable about networking, participating in meetings or facing conflict, you need to develop a plan that suits your personality and situation.
Take small steps
Pushing outside your comfort zone can be terrifying. Don’t be afraid to start small, particularly if it is a fear you have had for many years. So if you are afraid of public speaking, probably best not to start by signing-up to give a TED talk or a keynote speech at a symposium of 100 peers! Start small, somewhere where you are comfortable with the audience, with the topic and with the place. Give a small presentation to your colleagues at your own office on a topic you know inside out.
Do everyday things differently
“You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.” – Will Rogers
Try and do everyday things a bit differently. Wear bright ties, take a different route to work, try a new type of food. Do something new like yoga, boxing or rock climbing. Learn a new language. Take a course on photography, cooking, philosophy or acting. You may not always enjoy the experience but it will give you a fresh perspective and take you out of your comfort zone, even just a little bit.
Embrace your fear
“The trick is to not let it immobilize you, but instead, use it as a driving force to take you where you want to go.” – Jacob Sokol
Another strategy is to not only face your fear that is stopping you from getting into your growth zone, but embrace it.
Remember fear and excitement are really “two sides of the same coin” . Both produce the same high-energy feeling: excitement makes it a positive experience, whereas fear transforms the energy into a negative one. So next time you are filled with terror about speaking in public, use that excitement and pumped-up feeling to give your best presentation.
Facing any fear (such as jumping out of a plane, swimming with sharks or going bungee jumping) will always help you to build confidence and expand your comfort zone. Consider, however, that pushing the boundaries is more about self-awareness of your fears (eg, fear of speaking in public or networking) and you should tackle that head on by adopting a tailored plan, including getting appropriate training or mentoring.
About the author
Nick Humphrey is the managing partner of Hamilton Locke. He is the Chairman of the Australian Growth Company Awards and author of a number of best-selling books on business and leadership. His latest book is Maverick Executive: strategies for Driving Clarity, Effectiveness and Focus, published by Wolters Kluwer.
 Andy Molinsky, “Get out of your comfort zone: a guide for the terrified,” 13 December 2013, Harvard Business Review
 Rich Presta, “How your comfort zone can keep you stuck in your driving fears,” 10 September 2010, Driving Fear Help, http://drivingfearhelp.com/comfort-zone/, pg 1