5 Tips for Challenging Yourself to Perform Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Here's how you can be the best leader you can be, even in the most uncomfortable conditions.
When you first started your career or entrepreneurship journey, you probably had the importance of developing a growth mindset and getting out of your comfort zone drilled into you. Well, these ideas don’t just apply to the process of getting your career or business off the ground, but also to your ongoing leadership journey.
Here are five tips to help you to be the best leader you can be — even in the most uncomfortable, challenging conditions.
1. Seek discomfort
A comfort zone is the state of mind in which we don’t face any risks or fear because we don’t need to solve any new problems. Humans have evolved to enjoy comfort to help keep us alive — if we’re constantly venturing into the unknown, there’s more chance of us facing life-threatening dangers.
But we don't live in the Stone Age anymore. Public humiliation and difficult board meetings might be unpleasant, but they won’t kill you.
Learning to seek discomfort is the obvious solution, but how exactly can we do it? Here are a few ideas:
- Alter your daily routine in subtle ways. For instance, you can change the way you travel to work or the food you eat for lunch.
- Meet new people. Try to strike up conversations with people from all walks of life, whether you arrange to meet with them online or approach them at in-person events. Even if you’re constantly meeting new people through your work, chances are that they’re quite similar, so branch out from the norm.
- Learn new skills. It doesn’t matter what the skill is as long as it’s new — it could be a foreign language, a musical instrument, a sport or how to code.
Some of these ideas might sound silly or irrelevant to your role as an entrepreneur and leader, but try to see the bigger picture. This is all about rewiring your brain so that facing the unknown no longer scares you — if it does, you can start by practicing in your private life (where the stakes will be much lower if anything goes wrong).
2. Practice leadership in unfamiliar situations
To expand your comfort zone, what could be more important than ensuring you can be an effective leader in multiple scenarios? Try joining a new professional organization or volunteering group to practice flexing your leadership abilities in a new environment.
You can also apply this to your personal life — as we’ve seen already, it can be a great way to “test the waters.” If you typically leave the role of hosting dinner parties to your spouse or let someone else organize the reunions for your college friends, try taking the initiative yourself for one. How easily can your leadership skills adapt?
Obviously, don’t take things too far by asserting your dominance in places where it isn’t wanted.
3. Switch places with others
If you’re the founder and CEO of your company, you probably have a more dynamic and varied work life than most — but in most cases, you’ll still have a clearly defined set of tasks and responsibilities.
To really get out of your comfort zone, try switching places with your employees or managers of certain departments. You’ll learn more about the problems and strengths of your business while also navigating a new environment.
You might think this tactic sounds impractical at best, and absolutely useless at worst, but plenty of companies have implemented it and achieved great results.
Besides, a larger comfort zone isn’t the only benefit that you’ll get from running this little experiment. Vincit USA runs a “CEO of the Day” program once a month and has found it improves customer and employee satisfaction.
4. Mix up your meetings
When it comes to leaving your comfort zone, most people immediately start thinking of fancy, complex solutions. But if you can’t completely reorganize your company structure or personal routine, you can still shake up the way your meetings work.
For instance, why not try letting your employees submit anonymous suggestions beforehand and kickstarting the meeting by responding to them? Anything that keeps you on your toes more than you’d like is a good place to start.
5. Don’t run away from conflict
Except for a (very intimidating) minority, most people don’t like conflict. It’s unpleasant and takes time and energy to sort out, so it’s easy to make excuses to deal with the problem later down the line.
Again, this is something that you can practice in your personal life. Most people are too conflict-avoidant (or preoccupied) to raise issues in their relationships until it comes to breaking point. Practice being a discomfort-seeking leader by identifying and raising potential problems with people in your life before they develop further. Just make sure you’re both on the same page about your aim to seek discomfort.
Become a bulletproof leader
In an ideal world, you'd never have to leave your comfort zone again. The chances of that are slim to none, as so much of life is outside of your control. But you can expand your comfort zone to the point where very few things fall outside of it.
So, what will it be: A life in fear of experiencing anything outside of the ordinary, or readiness to take control of your fate by becoming a leader that can operate in whatever environment they happen to encounter?
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor