When To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

One of my clients (let’s call him Ty) just hit a major milestone of sorts—he was named one of the top 10 practitioners in his profession by a respected publication. His smiling face is now emblazoned forever with some impressive industry powerhouses.

It was a sweet moment to be sure.

But it was only the latest in a series of similar events, each arising from his initial decision to step out of his comfort zone.

Not blindly, but wisely.

That meant crafting a vision for where he wanted to go, articulating his big idea and enlisting the right help at a number of key junctures.

We made—and followed—a master plan.

Ty’s first step was to start writing for one, then two carefully chosen media sites. He worked with editors to polish his writing which, let’s face it, doesn’t always feel good.

He got better.

He wrote his book, with a coach and editors to push him beyond what he could do on his own.

He found it challenging to get the right media coverage, so he invested in some pros to help and then applied himself to learning how to give good interviews.

He got better.

He traveled to give industry speeches (largely unpaid) and yet he hungered for a bigger platform (not to mention one that would pay him for speaking).

His burning big idea would change and influence countless lives if they could just experience it.

So we got him a specialist coach to help build out a speech around his book, using story and metaphor to make it far better than anything he’d done before. We had it filmed and created a sizzle reel for his new speaker’s bureau to market.

And now, his industry has chosen to recognize him for all that he’s done to educate and influence his peers and their combined audience base.

Icing on the cake.

But here’s his “secret”. At each point, Ty did two key things: 1) he made the decision to push himself out of his comfort zone and 2) he found a coach or expert to teach him what he needed to master.

Anders Ericsson, in his book “Peak: Secrets From The New Science Of Expertise” would call this “purposeful practice”. That includes pushing yourself just enough out of your comfort zone to stretch yourself (push too much and you’ll give up before your breakthrough to the next level). He says it’s not about “trying harder, but trying differently.”

So when should you—like Ty—step out of your own comfort zone?

Easy answer: when what you’ve been doing isn’t getting you what you want.

Harder answer: when you know there is something bigger in store for you—you can literally feel it—but you just can’t see how to get there.

I find there are usually two inflection points where you’re ready to start making a move:

Your business is stalled. You’ve created a set point that you just can’t seem to budge: a revenue plateau; a set of bad-fit clients or work assignments; a strategy that doesn’t seem to be working.

You have a big idea that needs a mindset shift. Maybe you’ve been focused on building clients and revenue, but now you’re ready to build your influence and impact beyond your immediate business.

In both cases, it’s hard to know what to change when you’re firmly entrenched in the status quo.

You may well need a fresh perspective and someone who’s at the right stage of the game to teach you—or lead you—to what you need to learn.

So if you’re feeling like you’re ready to be different, it’s time to do different.

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