As the New Year beds in and we take stock of our lives, we start to wonder if we want a repeat of the year just gone or if we want something different. If you have the back to work blues or can’t face another year of school gates and the PTA then chances are it’s time for a change.
Maybe you feel called to step up into a leadership role at work; want to find a completely new career direction or dream of starting your own business. These goals all pull you with the thrill of possibility.
But, crucially, they also involve taking a step into the unknown, stepping out of your comfort zone, and that’s why, at first glance they can seem so difficult, daunting and nigh on impossible to achieve.
From Comfort Zone to Learning Zone
In our comfort zone we feel comfortable, here it’s easy and we think we have it covered. Typically we perform well; feel confident and have worked hard to get where we are now. But if we stay locked into our comfort zone we risk limiting ourselves; we end up playing safe, not moving forward in our life and not realising our fullest potential.
When we step outside of our comfort zone we begin to feel uneasy. We can get anxious and fearful because we are stepping outside of the psychological boundaries we have created for ourselves. Our gremlin fears and doubts awaken and threaten to thwart our progress, as explored in an earlier post here.
This is where coaching can be really effective to help us manage these fears and stay on course as we move forward. Coaching helps us to recognise that as we step out of our comfort zone we step into the learning zone. Here we get to learn more about ourselves and our capabilities, as we try new things we grow, and with this growth comes discomfort until we adjust psychologically over time to our new reality.
We need to reassure ourselves that it’s supposed to be uncomfortable’ when we are in the learning zone and that these feelings won’t last forever. So, with that awareness in mind, what can we do to move beyond our comfort zones?
Walking my talk
The best way to illustrate the ‘how’ is with an example from my own life.
Last September I started thinking about enrolling in an advanced coaching course to deepen my skills and, more importantly, gain my International Coaching Federation (ICF) accreditation. This would further my long term goal to expand my business to work with emerging leaders in organisations and businesses alongside supporting professional mums with their career transitions.
So far, so simple.
However, when I first downloaded the Certification paperwork I felt so daunted by the process – the hefty financial investment; number of hours of study; number of clients expected to work with; technological issues and logistics of how to fit all this in alongside my existing day job/ business/ voluntary work and family commitments that I literally shut the paperwork in a drawer and didn’t look at it again for a good few weeks.
But something in me had been awakened. Alongside my gremlin fears of ‘Can I really do this?’; ‘Am I good enough?’ and ‘Where is all this going to take me?’ – I also recognised that beyond these fears was the next step on my business journey – and, deep down, my instincts were saying the time was right to step up and out.
Climbing a Mountain
It felt like standing at the bottom of a mountain and looking up at the enormity of how far I had to climb. But how do you climb a mountain? You keep your eyes down and focused on the path ahead and take one step at a time. So that’s what I did.
I started to take tiny steps towards my goal. Each individual element that had seemed so scary and insurmountable when seen as a whole, I took on one at a time. I spoke with my brother and organised a loan; I investigated technology to record my coaching sessions; I looked at my work timetable and changed my work pattern to accommodate the course; I found a coach to support me.
Step by step I found myself starting to climb that mountain and feeling more sure footed as I went. With each small step my confidence has grown, I start the course next month and now I’m ready to embrace the challenge!
Over to you
Where in your life are you being called to make a change but not moving forward? What actions can you take to expand out of your comfort zone and move in the direction of your dreams? I’d love to hear from you.