In the second of a three-part series, Nick Humphrey explores the benefits of getting out of your comfort zone.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
– Anais Nin
There are a number of benefits of getting out of your comfort zone:
Productivity: Getting out of your comfort zone will drive productivity. Remember back to when you were at school or university, did you find that you worked best when you had to cram for an exam? Do you now find you get things done when someone sets you a tight but achievable timetable? Conversely, do you find that when there is no deadline things seems to drift? That is because comfort kills productivity. Without a sense of urgency that comes from a deadline we do the minimum amount possible, we fall into “cruise mode”.
Immunity: The more often you get out of your comfort zone the easier and easier it becomes. As you step out of your comfort zone, you'll become accustomed to that state of optimal anxiety. The state of constructive discomfort becomes the new norm and you are able to push farther before you hit a new panic state and your performance falls off again.
Creativity: Working outside your comfort zone necessarily involves learning new skills, embracing different experiences and being open to contrarian perspectives. As you push your skills to their limits you will get better at brain storming and problem solving. Trying new things will make you re-consider your previous ideas, particularly where they conflict with your new found knowledge. It will help you to confront “confirmation bias”, the tendency to only notice information that conforms with what you already agree with.
Adaptability: The more often you get out of your comfort zone, the faster you will be able to adapt to change. In particular, change can ambush you. For example, one of your major suppliers goes broke; your biggest customer cancels their account; you are suddenly made redundant; your boss becomes sick and your role is changed to run the company; there is a stock market crash and your business is under pressure; your spouse leaves you. Better to take a few risks in a controlled way to boost your adaptability than be forced into embracing change in an uncontrolled situation.
Empowerment: You will be feeling energised after you push your boundaries and survive. Your confidence will be heightened. Conquering your fear of failure is an empowering experience and you may well feel invincible for a period afterwards!
I was recently skiing with my family in Whistler, Canada. It was a beautiful clear day, there was fresh snow and breath-taking alpine views. My teenage children had found a ten-foot ice chute. Come-on Dad they taunted, you’ll never get better unless you push your boundaries. So off I went, hurtling down the chute. I got air, I was flying. What a thrill!
Then whack, I unceremoniously crash-landed at the speed of a freight train into the packed ice at the bottom. A trip to the doctor, some x-rays and my little exercise in pushing the boundaries had given me three bruised ribs, a bruise on my thigh the size of a dinner plate and a rather large dent to my ego. Where had I gone wrong? Where were the baby-steps? Where was the coaching? The practising? I had ignored all my own rules and literally plunged off a cliff without a plan and paid the price.
About the author
Nick Humphrey is the managing partner of Hamilton Locke. He is the Chairman of the Australian Growth Company Awards and author of a number of best-selling books on business and leadership. His latest book is Maverick Executive: strategies for Driving Clarity, Effectiveness and Focus, published by Wolters Kluwer.
 Alina Tugend, “Tiptoeing out of ones’ comfort zone (and of course, back in),” The New York Times, 11 Feb 2011 pg 1, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/12/your-money/12shortcuts.html?_r=0
 Alan Henry, “The science of breaking out of your comfort zone (and why you should),” 3 July 2013, Life Hacker, lifehacker.com http://lifehacker.com/the-science-of-breaking-out-of-your-comfort-zone-and-w-656426705
 Judith M. Barwick, “Danger in the Comfort Zone,” American Management Association, 1991 as quoted Alina Tugend, “Tiptoeing out of one’s comfort zone (and of course, back in),” The New York Times, 11 Feb 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/12/your-money/12shortcuts.html?_r=0