If you’d told me 10 years ago that one day I’d be publicly sharing my deepest thoughts with tens of thousands of people, putting videos of myself on the internet, and contacting total strangers to pitch collaborations, guess what I would have said…
I would have called you crazy. I’d have asked if you’d been smoking something you shouldn’t have. I would have noted that stuff like that is way out of my comfort zone. I could NEVER do that. Way too much exposure. Way too scary and stressful. I’m an introvert for goodness sake!
And yet, here I am today, doing all these things that are way out of my comfort zone and actually doing them quite happily.
So what happened?
How I got out of my comfort zone
Well, I was faced with the dilemma that many highly sensitive introverts are quite familiar with.
Many of us want work that lets us hole up at home, engage in deep pondering, and use our creativity to help other people. But in order to actually make a living doing such work, you have to share your creations with other people. Real live people! Not imaginary ones.
You have to put yourself out there, be the centre of attention, make yourself vulnerable, and all that other jazz we’d rather avoid like the plague.
But you gotta do it, because unpublished articles hidden in your desk drawer aren’t going to feed the kids!
So getting out of your comfort zone and ‘putting yourself out there’ is a necessary evil, but geez, does it really have to be so daunting? Isn’t there a way to do it that’s not quite so overwhelming?
Well, yes, there is!
And although this is largely ignored in the ‘hustle yourself to success’ world of online business, it’s actually important to be mindful of how exactly you go about expanding your comfort zone so as not to destroy your health and well-being in the process.
Highly sensitive introverts are more vulnerable to stress and its unpleasant consequences than the general population and too much hustling can actually end up hindering you more than helping.
So here are three tips for getting out of your comfort zone while maintaining your sanity and continuing to enjoy your creative endeavours.
3 tips for getting out of your comfort zone
1. Tip-toe out of your comfort zone – no need for giant leaps!
Imagine that you had agoraphobia and you were terrified of leaving your house. Now, if you wanted to work on overcoming your phobia, you’d probably pick something like taking one step out the front door to start. The next day you would do two steps, then three, then four, and so on. You wouldn’t start by booking a flight to Timbuktu, right?
Well, the same exact logic applies to professional comfort zones. I didn’t start my creative career by posting videos on the internet for tens of thousands of people to see. Instead, it progressed something like this:
- I used to write technical reports in my corporate job. This got me used to people reading my writing and giving me feedback, albeit on a small-scale and in a very non-personal setting.
- My husband and I were renovating a fixer-upper and I started a blog to document our progress. The blog gained some traction and it got me used to sharing my writing with strangers. The topic was still superficial though, so it wasn’t that big of a stretch.
- Eventually, I started my current website, Solutions To All Your Problems, which includes posts on some highly personal topics. This work has acclimated me to share my unfiltered thoughts and opinions, and over time, sharing them with a much larger audience.
- About a year ago, I created and started selling an e-book bundle about overcoming anxiety as a highly sensitive introvert. This process got me comfortable with selling my services and asking people to pay for my advice.
- And most recently, I created an online course with video lessons. This experience forced me to get over my fear of appearing on camera (Yes, it was very awkward at first!).
In hindsight, I feel like I’ve come a long way from where I started, but in truth, I never stretched my comfort zone terribly far at once. I was always just focused on the next logical step – inching out of my comfort zone just a bit further than before. I never took giant leaps.
So here’s my advice to you: Have a vision for where you’d maybe like to be in a year, five years, 10 years. But today, just focus on the very next step in front of you. That’s the only step you have to take today. And once you have tackled that one, the next one will seem much more doable.
2. Go For A Mix Of Comfortable And Uncomfortable
Here’s one thing you don’t want to do: Spend so much time outside your comfort zone that your whole career starts feeling… well… uncomfortable. The point is to get out of your comfort zone so that you can make a living doing what you love. The point is NOT to spend all your time doing things that drain you.
An easy way to keep tabs on this is to make lists of the kinds of tasks that are comfortable and energizing and the kinds of tasks that are uncomfortable and draining.
To get your wheels turning, here’s a sample of what goes on my lists:
Comfortable and energizing
- Content creation
- Strategic planning
- Web design
- Responding to readers
Uncomfortable and draining
- Sending mass emails
- New technology
Your lists may look completely different from mine, but the important thing is to make sure you maintain a steady balance of tasks from both categories.
Maybe you are at a phase in your business where it’s necessary to do some networking in order to reach your goals. But that doesn’t mean you should devote all of your time to networking. Focus is great, but focusing too much on draining tasks will inevitably lead to burnout. So always make sure to leave at least some room for those tasks that led you to your career in the first place.
3. Monitor Your Progress
So how do you know when you are striking a good balance? Well, here are a few questions to ask:
Are you making progress toward reaching your goals?
The first bit to consider is whether you are getting what you want out of your career (and life in general).
- If yes, you must be pushing yourself in at least some of the right ways.
- If no, maybe it’s time to open the front door just a sliver and take a couple of carefully considered steps outside.
Are you able to easily bounce back and recover after stepping outside your comfort zone?
Life isn’t just about the hustle and achievement and it’s important to make sure you’re not pushing your highly sensitive self so much that it ends up hurting more than helping.
If you can take yourself temporarily outside your comfort zone and easily recover your zen equilibrium afterwards, then you’re probably okay.
But if you can’t seem to shake the stress, it might be a sign that you’ve stepped too far too fast and you might need to take some time to rest and reflect before you try forging ahead again.
Your career doesn’t have to be a rat-race. Instead, I like to compare it to marathon training.
You push yourself when it counts, but you take all the time you need to rest before the race day and recover afterwards.
And enjoy the scenery along the way!
Featured image by Priscilla Du Preez
Do you make stepping out of your comfort zone a priority? Let us know in the comments below.