Are you stuck in the ‘comfort zone’? If you perform your role with ease, rarely feel challenged or feel like nothing’s changing, then the answer is almost certainly yes.
Before you can break out of the ‘comfort zone’, into the infinitely more satisfying ‘learning zone’, you need to understand what might be keeping you in ‘stuck’ mode.
1. You think you’re not ready
In the face of a challenging new opportunity, even the bravest soul can become a masterful excuse-maker. “I’m not ready for that yet” is a classic example of an excuse you might give yourself for why you shouldn’t go for that promotion, attend that networking event or volunteer for a speaking role at the next departmental meeting. Tell yourself that it’s through doing something new that you’ll learn and gain valuable experience.
Your new mantra doesn’t have to mean saying “yes” to absolutely everything. In the webinar Steps to stepping up, Pippa Isbell advises that you should spend time figuring out what you want from your career – the types of skills you want to cultivate, the people you want to meet and the diversity of roles you’d like to perform. “Know where you want to go, and position yourself to get there.”
2. You focus too much on the bigger picture
So you know that you want to make department head within the next five years. Great, you’ve a solid long-term goal to work towards. But often you’ll be so focussed on that overall goal, you’ll fail to see the opportunities that will put you on that trajectory. Plot out the many versions of the story that a rise to department head from your current position could look like, and turn them into mini, achievable and timely goals.
3. You catastrophise
You’ve completed a piece of work and you catch your boss frowning as she flicks through. It doesn’t occur to you that your boss might have forgotten her glasses today, or has a headache, or simply rests into a frown when concentrating. Ask yourself truthfully whether you’re in a pessimistic or optimistic frame of mind, and keep a cool, logical head as you consider the many benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone.
4. You give yourself negative messages
Someone else is better than you. You’re just not good enough to make the grade. You’re only getting the task because nobody else was available. Any of these limiting, self-sabotaging beliefs sound familiar? Get to know this voice in your head. Note down what it says and examine the circumstances under which it pipes up. Is it always the same sort of message in the same sort of situation? Once you know it well, challenge it. Add “because” to its statements and only allow them to be completed if you have concrete evidence, verifiable by a third party, of its assertions.
5. You don’t share your dreams with people who can help
Among your boss’s many attributes is a sixth sense; a psychic ability to know what you want out of your career and how they can help you along the way. Right? Obviously not, but in sitting around waiting for a leg up the ladder you might as well be in that mind-set. Over half (53%) of everywomanNetwork members have never initiated a conversation with the boss about their career goals. Sharing these needn’t mean that you have to announce your decision to make CEO by your next big birthday; but if your boss doesn’t know that you’re desperate to get more exposure to sales pitches or expand your network into new territories, how are they supposed to help? “Most bosses will happily help you move on, grow and develop,” says Pippa. “If you don’t believe that, put yourself in the shoes of a boss: would you hold somebody else back behind you? Ask for what you want, being as specific as possible; if the answer is “no”, then find out what it would take for the answer to be “yes” next time.”
6. You’re blind to opportunity
Blue car syndrome (purchase a blue car; start seeing blue cars everywhere you go) describes the phenomenon whereby the thing you open your mind to, becomes the very thing you find wherever you look. Once you’ve worked out your goals and aspirations, and the types of opportunities that can move you along your way, you’ll be much more likely to spot them when they appear. Spend some time researching the types of things you’d like to get involved in, now or in the future, to aid goal completion. Stay attuned to company and industry news and events, and lean on the savviest members of your network.
7. You don’t push yourself forward
All the groundwork in the world isn’t going to propel you forwards if you sit on that research and knowledge, waiting for someone – a boss, sponsor or some career saviour you’ve yet to meet – to come along and drop an opportunity in your lap. Make yourself visible. Volunteer for carefully chosen projects; attend training in whatever form it presents itself – formal courses, everywomanNetwork webinars, reading around subjects as diverse as confidence, leadership and personal brand.
Learn more about the comfort zone, and take a quiz to help you discover more about your own personal reasons for staying safe, in the everywomanNetwork workbook Step up! Are you ready to put yourself forward at work?