I cannot say how many times I have encountered a situation that challenges my comfort zone. By comfort zone, I refer to a set of skills, knowledge, and experiences that I feel comfortable in engaging in or performing.
I cannot stress enough how nerve-wracking it is before an interview, presentation, or meeting. That feeling is, I believe, one of the most difficult things to overcome in our lives and it may require a lifelong commitment to learning and personal development.
In this blog, I will describe some of the biggest challenges some of us may face in reference to our comfort zone. I will provide some strategies to expand your comfort zone.
Strategy 1: Practice
I am confident that you have heard that practice makes perfect. This saying, although true, does not really provide the full picture. Moreover, practicing and becoming perfect is easier said and believed than integrated into our behaviours and actions.
From my personal experience, practice increases comfort and knowledge of uncomfortable situations. In many cases, we feel uncomfortable in a situation because we are uncertain of the outcome or what you need to do to achieve that outcome. However, with an orientation towards learning and personal development, ambiguity, uncertainty, and discomfort are only feelings that propel you to make growth choices.
There are three elements of practice:
- The Quantity of Practice: You should seek every opportunity or activity that makes you feel uncomfortable. Moreover, you should sincerely reflect upon the reasons why this opportunity or activity make you feel discomfort. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my biggest fears?
- How can I align some of my strengths with this opportunity/activity?
- What are my expectations for this opportunity/activity?
- What can I learn from this opportunity/activity?
- What do I need to learn these things?
- The Quality of Practice: Let’s face it; we are all extremely busy people. Quality of practice requires us to prioritize opportunities that may be the most conducive to our learning. But how do we delineate beneficial to less beneficial opportunities?
One of my rules in such situations is to examine my opportunities and pick the ones that are growth choices.
In almost every situation, you usually have multiple opportunities and decisions with significantly different learning objectives and outcomes. Usually, you may be more inclined to a particular opportunity or decision because it just “makes sense.” However, at that moment, I would encourage you to reflect upon your expectations, predictions and comfort level with the opportunity or decision. It is likely the case that you feel comfortable with the opportunity or decision, and therefore, may not immediately as much as an opportunity that is novel, ambiguous, unexpected, and uncomfortable.
- The Diversity of Practice: At the same time, you should seek opportunities outside your immediate discipline.
First, you must reflect upon the knowledge, skills, and attributes you have strengthened and use on a daily basis. Second, seek out opportunities where these knowledge, skills, and attributes may not be useful or appropriate. Those opportunities will be the ones that provide you with the most learning because they will expand your comfort zone by increasing the diversity of your experiences.
Strategy 2: Motivation
People are motivated to engage in activities depending on their personality, mentality, and orientation towards life. An adolescent may feel motivated and engaged when playing his ps4. Moreover, a young adult may experience motivated towards certain activities she thinks are conducive towards her career.
There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is guided by external factors such as monetary rewards. These rewards are often considered the outcomes of an activity. For example, if what motivates me to complete my Ph.D. is the three letters with my name (Umair Majid, Ph.D.), then I am extrinsically motivated. The problem with an orientation towards extrinsic motivation it does not provide long-term and sustainable satisfaction in life or your work, and it may fixate you on that outcome while ignoring the learning and personal development that is essential to expanding your comfort zone.
On the other hand, intrinsic motivation is governed by a desire to learn, grow and develop. The focus is on the process and the learning that occurs in the activity. Individuals who are intrinsically motivated to finish their Ph.D., for example, may feel more motivated, engaged, and satisfied with their work and life, in general. In turn, they may also feel more motivated to engage in opportunities an activity beyond their Ph.D. or discipline, and expand their comfort zone. The point here is to orient yourself to an intrinsic motivation that will allow you the capacity, ability, and willingness to privilege learning and personal development over any outcome or objective of an opportunity.
There are definitely many more strategies you can utilize to expand your comfort zone. I have only described two that have worked very well for me. Do you have any strategies you use?
Thank you for reading,