You’ve heard the saying a trillion times: “Fake it until you make it.” I prefer to embrace “Practice until you become it.” The distance between where you are and where you want to be is called “the gap.” The space between the gap and what you want is called the comfort zone. You begin at your starting point (where you are now), begin your journey and then hit your first obstacle (fear, uncertainty, “I don’t know”). Then you keeping moving and hit your second obstacle (“I am a fraud”, “I am incapable”) and that is the point where we see people typically get sucked into the comfort trap. They find all the “evidence” of why they have little worth, aren’t capable and thus should stay “safe” and remain exactly where they are.

Author Neale Donald Walsch says, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Yet many of us prefer not to get out of our comfort zones. Why should we? It’s comfortable in there and it has served us oh so well for many years, right? Outside “the box” is too painful and scary; we know, we’ve been out there before.

id-10021769Yes, you’ve been hurt, burned and taken to the proverbial cleaners. But those challenging experiences also had benefits. If you really power down and reflect, you’ll realize you’ve learned from them and grown through them.

But the comfort zone doesn’t allow for you to see that growth – to fail forward. To stretch. But as leaders (and we are all leaders), we know discomfort is our greatest teacher.

It doesn’t have to be a massive dive into the deep end, though. It can be one small step at a time, and the easiest way we have found is with goal setting. That is how you begin a safe process of putting one foot in front of the other on your way out of the comfort zone.

The lie of the comfort zone is that it really is NOT that comfortable. Most people are bored, anxious, untrusting or frustrated in their own comfort zones. That is when you know you need to step out to step into the next (best) version of yourself.

The five-step process to stretch out of your comfort zone:

  1. Step 1Vision Board. There is no better way to get your juices flowing toward what you want (versus focusing on what you don’t want) than to start dreaming about who you want to be in one year. What do you want your day-to-day job to look like? What do you want to be making in personal income? What are three words that describe your office environment? Your home? Your relationships? Your health? Your body? Your spirituality? The greatest free online course I have ever taken on vision boards is from Christine Kane; follow the link (how to make a vision board) to download your free PDF workshop.
  2. Step 2Written Goals. Put pen to paper with written goals. Email us for a copy of “The Team Empowerment Goal Setting Workshop.” A Harvard MBA study 50 years ago found that the top 3% of wage earners in a Harvard class were those who had written goals; those with specific written goals had the greatest financial gains over a lifetime. Goals that are typed out do not impress your subconscious mind; it is surprising how often that, in writing them down, the act of declaration makes them so much stronger.
  3. Step 3Accountability. Share your goals with someone else and make a pact to meet on a weekly basis, same place and same time. This person can be a personal or professional acquaintance. Consider some statistics from the American Society of Training & Development on the probability of completing a goal if you:
  • hear an idea – 10%
  • decide when you will do it – 40%
  • plan how you will do it – 50%
  • commit to someone else that you will do it – 65%
  • have a specific accountability appointment with the person you’ve committed to – 95%
  1. Step 421-Day Mindset Detox. The biggest stumbling block to getting closer to your truth is the mindset of lack. Things are scattered, splattered and covered; that is how we typically operate. Distractions serve our procrastination really well. When you have a limiting thought, ask yourself if you are coming from Camp Scarcity or Planet Abundance. Every quarter we conduct a “21-Day Mindset Detox” to support getting out of our comfort zone and moving closer to what we really want in this life. Here is a sample of Molly’s:
    1. No media, social and news
    2. Start each day with 11 minutes of meditation visualizing what I really want
    3. One hour walk outside listening to an empowering podcast (my favorite is “Magic Lessons” by Elizabeth Gilbert
    4. Journaling every night before bed
      1. What I am grateful for
      2. Reflecting on what I did to push myself farther out of my comfort zone
    5. Setting my intentions for where I want to push myself tomorrow
    6. A quick closing meditation/prayer: “I’m thankful for today, I’m hopeful for tomorrow. Please send me your brightest angels to help me show up tomorrow as the best version of me.”
  1. Step 5 – Self-Check-In Session. Before you even get started, put a recurring appointment on your calendar for every 90 days to check in on your progress, and to redefine and reset new goals.

It’s really this simple. Stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t have to be a massive overhaul. It’s about progress, not perfection, toward what you want. Don’t make it into an unachievable, overwhelming project.

Every morning when I walk down my stairs to begin my day, the first thing that greets me at the bottom of the stairs is a powerful plaque that strokes me square in my intentional gut: “What ONE thing are you going to do today that takes you outside your comfort zone?” That reminder pushes me to stretch one step closer to what I really want when I don’t want to have that crucial conversation with a colleague or client. Or when I put off making follow-up calls. Or when I don’t want to put the time into writing to get blog posts to our editor.

What are you going to do today that will stretch you out of your comfort zone?

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