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How Stepping Out of Comfort Zones Aids Growth and Development

We love our comfort zones. Otherwise the term wouldn’t have the word “comfort” in it. Whether it’s lounging on the couch with the laptop or phone browsing videos, or taking a safe and steady career path doing things we’re OK at, comfort zones are the path of least resistance. We aren’t at risk, we aren’t challenged, we aren’t in danger of disastrous outcomes. But we aren’t growing, learning and improving as much either. And that’s not a good thing for those seeking personal growth and development.  If you’re fine with your routine, that’s okay. No problem. But if you aren’t satisfied with business as usual, if you want to become better and get more out of life? Then you’re going have to go out of your comfort zones. Becoming physically fit, excelling in your career, getting straight As at school, all these require challenges and risks. But the rewards will be worth it.

May the odds be ever in your favor

This isn’t the Hunger Games. Taking a chance by learning new skills, taking on new tasks, or just hitting the gym isn’t exactly like joining a lethal battle royale in a young adult dystopia series. Yes, there are risks, but even if you fail you’ll live. And either way you’ll still experience opportunities for growth and development.  In the corporate world, there are these things called Stretch Assignments. Development exercises in which the risks are controlled. Where the chances of success are high but not certain. So people are free to learn, grow, possibly fail, but overall come out better for it.  As explained by the Harvard Business Review article, the  sweet spot  of development  or high achievers  is when you have a  50-70% chance of success.    You can initiate stretch assignments, going through the corporate training process as HBR describes. Or you can do it informally, asking peers and colleagues to show you the ropes. Then you can ask for tasks with gradually increasing levels of difficulty and sophistication. In time you’ll get the hang of it. Maybe even become quite proficient and get recognized for it.  If you have more time, consider joining workshops where you can get expert advice and guidance. You can learn in a proper environment and get certified for it too.  

Meet New Friends and Colleagues to Collaborate With 

Experimenting in the presence of old colleagues gives you a relaxed environment. You can try things out comfortably with people who won’t judge you. But there’s something to be said about going out of your social comfort zone as well. You can meet new people and find out what they have to offer. In turn, it’s not like you’re a spring chicken, chances are you have much to contribute as well and they’ll appreciate it. Not only are you making new friends and acquaintances, you are also learning and finding opportunities for growth and development.  In a study titled Is the Pain Worth the Gain? The Advantages and Liabilities of Agreeing With Socially Distinct Newcomers (yes that’s a mouthful), researchers found out that diversity does have an impact. When newcomers joined a group, while they were less certain about their performance and effectiveness they outperformed groups that were homogeneous or full of like minded people. So while you and your new group are a bit unsure due to unfamiliarity, performance won’t necessarily worsen. In fact, it might improve because everyone’s less complacent!  The Personality  and Social Psychology  Bulletin also reported a similar study in which groups of people who were familiar and comfortable with each other were less effective in solving murder mysteries than groups with outsiders in them.  While the latter groups were less comfortable with strangers, they also became more meticulous in their analysis. To quote the study: “Adding  an outsider  versus an insider  actually doubled their  chance of arriving at the  correct solution, from 29% to  60%. The work felt harder, but  the outcomes were better.”  

It’s Okay to be Anxious 

We can get anxious when placed in a new environment or situation. There we face challenges we haven’t experienced before. But this anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can be a necessary part of the process in which we learn how to overcome obstacles. As Psychology Today put it, anxiety makes us perform better: “When people felt more anxious they showed greater activation in the performance system of the brain compared to when they felt less anxious. And, this heightened activation as a result of feeling more performance anxiety predicted better, not worse, performance.”  

Take The Plunge

So go ahead. The benefits are objectively and scientifically proven! Try stepping out of your comfort zones and discover what’s out there. Try new things, from hobbies to work-related tasks to new social circles. There are so many benefits for growth and development whether you are an entrepreneur, a startup owner, an employee or Virtual Assistant.  Of course, remember that it’s not all about boosting productivity at work. You want to step out of your comfort zone and ultimately expand it for your own sake, not for your job’s sake. Maintaining health and wellness at work should always be kept in mind and practiced. You need to regenerate your capacity levels, avoid overwork and recharge your energy Finding a balance between this is key. With this, you will be poised to challenge yourself and go on the journey of personal growth and development.