Message from Julie: Escaping Your Not So Comfortable Comfort Zone

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We all have our comfort zones – those habitual ways of responding to a situation, interacting with others, participating in conversations, or dealing with conflict. The problem is way too often those comfort zones aren’t all that comfortable and don’t get us the results we want. Our comfort zones are actually holding us prisoner and inhibiting our progress. 

I was facilitating an Everything DiSC session earlier this month. One of the participants commented that she often wasn’t comfortable speaking up and sharing her ideas during a meeting. Yet staying in her comfort zone and holding back her input was not all that satisfying either. It kept others from seeing what she had to contribute and caused her to feel resentment when someone else got the credit for the idea she had been thinking about. 

Another leader I worked with was quite comfortable taking charge and telling people what to do. Staying in his comfort zone was also causing him discomfort though. His team didn’t feel heard or valued. They complained that he was micromanaging and were beginning to disengage. Motivation was low and turnover was high. 

We all have different comfort zones, and we often don’t realize how uncomfortable they are. We continue to act in the same habitual ways regardless of the response or outcome we are getting. It reminds me of Newton’s first law of physics: An object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. 

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I once heard a speaker comment that the role of a physical therapist is to inflict a level of pain on us that we could not inflict on ourselves to provide us with a greater range of motion. As leaders and team members we often need an outside force to help us through the “pain” of moving outside our comfort zone. 

Here are three things you can do to begin to change those habitual patterns of behavior that are keeping you stuck in your comfort zone. 

  1. Identify those behaviors that are keeping you stuck. Is it a failure to speak up? Shoving conflict under the rug? Talking and telling rather than listening? An unwillingness to listen to others ideas? An inability to make a decision without “all” the information? Then begin to notice when you are engaging in the behavior.
  2. Enlist the help of trusted teammates and colleagues. Pick a habitual way of responding that you want to change and share it with someone you trust who can help hold you accountable. 
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice: Catch yourself behaving in your old patterns (with the help of an outside force if necessary) and practice using the new behavior until it becomes a habit and is part of your new expanded comfort zone.  

If you are serious about expanding your comfort zone as a leader, consider getting insight into your blind spots through a 360-degree leadership assessment, or enlisting an outside force in the form of a coach. Contact me to explore ways that we can assist you and your leaders to break-free from that not so comfortable comfort zone.   

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POSTED ON: Leadership