Learning to stretch outside your comfort zone is critical for learning and growing, advancing in your job and career, and achieving your personal and professional goals. But is it always the case that you need to step outside your comfort zone to be successful? Are there situations when it makes sense to stay right where you are?
Having spoken with people from a range of occupations about this exact topic over the past year, my resounding answer is yes. There are times when you actually don’t need to give the speech, make the point, or take the chance. But to figure that out, it’s important to ask yourself a series of questions to assess whether staying inside your comfort zone is sensible or just a rationalization.
Have you prepared well enough? When you’re going to step out of your comfort zone in a situation that’s meaningful, you need to have a good chance for success. Whether it’s speaking up in a meeting or giving a keynote address at a conference, you want to say something worthwhile, and not fumble your words.
You can never fully prepare for something you’ve never done before, but you shouldn’t wing it, either. So the question to ask is whether you’ve prepared enough. Have you studied how to be successful in this situation? Have you watched and learned from others? Have you practiced in less-consequential versions of the situation you’re going to be trying out? Learning to act outside your comfort zone is a skill — one you can get better at with practice. So if the answer to this question is no, you haven’t prepared enough, it might make sense to put the situation on the back burner until you have.
Is the situation in question something you actually care about? There are many situations in life that are outside our comfort zones but that may not be important to us.