They call it a “comfort zone” for a reason.
Your comfort zone is as cozy as a fleece blanket, a bowl of ice cream, and any movie written by Nora Ephron. It’s familiar and there is nothing scary about it (unless you are a fellow lactose intolerant and forget to take a Lactaid pill before that bowl of ice cream…) Overall it’s a warm and fuzzy feeling that makes you breathe out a little sigh of “ah yes, that’ll do.”
So why in the world would you think about stepping out of your comfort zone when it’s so, well, comfortable?
Well, there are a bunch of reasons, my friend. But we will stick with three reasons related to your professional life for today because I know you’ve got a lot going on.
My very first trip to spin class will help us illustrate each point. Come on along for some laughs and career lessons!
Lessons Learned from Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
1. Love conquers all
When my wonderful friend, Mel, was celebrating a birthday recently and asked us ladies to join her for spin class at B/Spoke and brunch to celebrate, my first thought was “I love Mel!” My second thought was “I love brunch!” And my third thought was “So spin class you say…”
I’ve never been super into the idea of group exercise and I haven’t even gone to a gym in many years ever since the Battle of Elliptical Hill eventually landed an elliptical machine in my basement.
But as much as my comfort zone was screaming “Nooooooo” I remembered the most important factor in this equation. I love Mel. Couldn’t I be a little brave by stepping out of my comfort zone for her?
The short answer, yes. And it meant something to her that I showed up. Love conquers all, even feeling uncomfortable.
The Career Lesson
Great relationships are built based on mutual support and respect. Much like…. dun, dun, dun…networking!
Networking sounds like a dirty word to some, but in truth, it’s all about connecting with people and showing up.
Sometimes it’s super uncomfortable to show up, like at a networking event or social function where you know no one. Sometimes it’s slightly more comfortable, like when you’re sending an email from your couch in your sweatpants. But either way, when you do it right, networking is a process of building and maintaining relationships.
So when you think about networking, think about showing your professional love by showing up. It might push you out of your comfort zone a bit to do things outside of your normal schedule, or go somewhere you’ve never been, but all of this strengthens your professional relationships.
2. The Definition of Insanity
While I’m generally moderately active according to my Fitbit and worn-out sneakers, leading up to spin class I had been enjoying a very sedentary and cheese-filled holiday season.
I knew that I need to kick myself back into gear, start drinking more water than mimosas, and get a little more balance back onto the “YOLO vs Healthy Living” scale.
But as everyone knows it’s hard to break a habit, especially a delicious and comfortable one. While I was curbing my mimosa consumption for responsible reasons, I wasn’t putting a lot of effort into the “moving” part of this healthy living journey.
So I had a choice. I could assume that I would get back into shape by way of magic and wishful thinking, or I could do something about it.
Of course, changing things up and going to one spin class isn’t going to solve everything, but doing something different did inspire me to a) go back to spin class again, b) keep it up with my other wellness goals, and c) attempt a new type of exercise at least once a month. (Each of which will be documented here for laughs and oddball connections back to career development.)
The Career Lesson
The win here is two-fold. Stepping out of your comfort zone can help you make a change and it can inspire you to try more new things.
Is it scary to think about changing jobs or changing career paths all together? Of course it is! Is it scary to ask for the promotion or test out your skills on a new project? For sure. But staying cozy in your blanket of a “just okay” job is not going to change anything. If you want a change, you need to change.
When stepping out of your comfort zone in your career, you’ll find that the first step is the hardest one. After each time you put yourself out there to take on new projects at the office, or volunteer in your community doing work you’re interested in, or have that first networking call, it’s going to get easier to keep on trying new things. You’ll find it’s not that scary after all, and in fact the scarier option is staying still.
3. Why Fit In When You Were Born To Stand Out
Time to talk about the fluorescent orange tank top.
I had no idea what I was getting into with a spin class so I asked a coworker/ awesome spin instructor what I should wear. She suggested a tank top and workout leggings. To which I replied “Perfect, that’s my comfort wardrobe! You hear that comfort zone, I’m stepping right INTO you.”
What my friends and coworkers failed to mention though is that spin class is very dark and includes a light show component (??). Also, the instructor calls out members of the class throughout to inspire you and push you to try harder.
So, when you wear a fluorescent orange tank top in a dark room full of strangers wearing gray and black… you’re going to stand out. Especially when the instructor asks if anyone is new and you enthusiastically raise your hand assuming since this is January you will be one of several newbies. But you’re not. Just you, orange baby.
But when you are stepping out of your comfort zone you might as well go all in and be yourself in the process. I love that tank top, and I WAS new. So I decided to own it. My name got called out many times during the class but that was actually a good thing because it helped me improve my form, inspired me to turn the resistance crank a little more, and kept me moving.
So while I know I started this article with “don’t wear orange to spin class,” I might backpedal on that one. (Pun intended)
The Career Lesson
I’m sure my orange-clad self looked like I didn’t know what I was doing, because I didn’t. Especially when I could not get my feet clipped out of the bike and my friend Laura had to yank my gigantic feet out of the shoes so I could get off the bike for the stretching portion of class…
But that’s fine. No one really cared, though I’m sure it gave a couple of people a good chuckle! And if they did get all judgy about it, that’s weird.
Every single human being on this planet is different. We all bring our own experiences, style, sense of humor, book smarts, street smarts, and personalities to the table. And that’s amazing!
So when you are stepping out of your comfort zone in your career, remember you are bringing with you all of your individual awesome. The world doesn’t need more robots, we have plenty of those. Be yourself, even if you are feeling uncomfortable, and don’t be afraid to stand out in a crowd. Standing out has made people successful for decades and my crystal ball tells me that trend isn’t going away any time soon.
Get to Stepping!
For as much as I love comfortable, I must say I’ve never once regretted getting a little uncomfortable and trying something new.
So many of the great things in my life came out getting uncomfortable. Moving into my college dorm, online dating, becoming a coach, starting my blog, launching my business, and giving birth… man that last one especially. NOT comfortable. But so worth it.
I hope you take a big deep breath and start stepping out of your comfort zone a lot this year. According to me, and the enthusiastic spin instructor, you can totally do this!
With love (and a need to get some padded bike shorts),