It’s nice to feel comfortable in your job, isn’t it? Knowing you have the skills to perform well and manage daily situations with competence and composure gives you a feeling of contentment and inner security. There’s no stress, no threats and no need to break into a sweat. Unfortunately, staying in your safe zone also restricts your ability to grow.
Stepping out of your comfort zone can be a positive, indeed a necessary step, particularly in the workplace where change and development are the crucial ingredients required for individual career progression, for effective team building and to drive the commercial success of the business as a whole.
Feel the fear and do it anyway
It has been scientifically proven that human performance rises substantially when stress levels increase. When you achieve levels of ‘optimum stress, this slightly uncomfortable state of mind pushes to rise to a challenge, and goals that were hitherto considered just out of reach can now be achieved. While a modicum of stress pushes us to greater heights, too much leads to anxiety overwhelm and performance plummets, as the graph below clearly shows.
Successful business leaders are fully aware of this psychological pattern, and deliberately step out of their comfort zone from time to time to boost their performance, confidence and leadership skills. From deep sea diving to hot air ballooning, public planking to stand-up comedy training, there are countless ways to push yourself into unknown territory and reap the benefits.
But that’s not all. A comfort zone is a naturally elastic concept that can be expanded. As soon as the newly acquired skill or behaviour becomes the new ‘normal’, you will be motivated to take on fresh challenges, perform even greater tasks and learn ever more interesting skills. This boosts your positivity and self-belief further, and so your comfort zone and your ability to step outside it grows further, and the cycle continues.
Interestingly, it’s been repeatedly observed that that going beyond comfortable levels in one area of life can have crossover benefits in other areas too, so the benefits multiply.
What are the business benefits?
In the sphere of work, it’s easy to see how a basic understanding of the above concept underpins many modern theories of team building and leadership development, and there are number of major business benefits to be experienced:
- Productivity gains: When the pressure is piled on at work, you stop messing around and get on with the job in hand. They say there’s nothing that focuses the mind quite like a deadline, and it’s true. Suddenly, your brain is fired up to deal with the challenge ahead, with the result that the output you produce will be of a noticeably higher quality.
- Stress management: Since normal comfort zone behaviour actively steers us away from stressful situations, a suddenly occurring difficulty can send us into a tailspin. Pushing yourself to try new things and accept uncomfortable challenges leads to ‘positive’ stress that builds resilience, so you feel better equipped to deal with a challenge next time.
- Open mindset: Expanding your comfort zone gives you a new perspective. Your mind will be open to new and innovative ways of doing things. Perhaps you have a sudden breakthrough to solve a pesky problem at work, or realise that a system change would vastly improve your team’s output. Stepping outside your comfort zone gives you the creativity and confidence to make positive changes.
- Ripple effect: Stepping outside your comfort zone can have a transformative effect on your entire team. Leading from the front, you might that your new found enthusiasm for stepping into the unknown is contagious, inspiring other team members to do likewise. Why not set your team challenges, tailored to each individual so they can reach ‘optimal anxiety’ and gain the benefits themselves?
How to expand your comfort zone
So, how can you feel the fear and do it anyway, as the famous self-help book advises? And how can you help your team see past the fear factor and take a step into unknown territory? Start with small but meaningful steps such as plucking up the courage to ask for a raise, or enrolling in public speaking classes, to address communications issues.
It might have nothing at all to do with work – how about deliberately embarking on nerve wracking activities such as going online dating, learning to drive or singing in public? Why not take inspiration from this Comfort Zone Challenge Task List or take a 30-day comfort zone challenge?
Team building activities are designed to push mental and physical limits to strengthen participants professionally. With encouragement from their peers, team members gain confidence through new experiences, which builds a culture of calculated risk taking.
Through team activities such as bushcraft adventures, escape room games, charity volunteering and much more besides, employees are required to think outside the box and embrace the uncomfortable and unfamiliar. The result? A team that’s engaged and ready to meet any business challenge, getting things done that they never thought possible.