Pushing Past Your Comfort Zone

August 2017

young fitness woman runner stretching legs on city road

Source: Thinkstock

Every year I do something that pulls me so far beyond my comfort zone that I eventually ponder my own mortality. This year, it’s hiking in highly remote sections of the Southwest where the terrain can be tough and the weather deadly.

That is, after all, why I sign on to do these things. If  you don’t have days that scare the hell out of you—that push you past your comfort zone—you are not taking enough risks to grow as a person and as a professional.

Prepare, plain and simple

The first thing anyone must do regularly is define what constitutes a stretch goal. It changes as we change. Is this something, on or off the clock, that you want to do for the first time or to do extremely well? Once decided, outline the steps and time needed to get there.

Sound like common sense? Sure. But we all get busy and look for shortcuts. That’s why I put myself through periodic physical challenges—to keep me from cheating on training and from staying comfortable. At work, we should all strive to do something new or different to stay competitive in our fields or find new ways to solve old problems. We typically don’t because it’s much easier to always chose the path of least resistance. It’s safer, if also boring. (By the way, this goes for your content marketing too.)

Do more and dig deeper

My last epic hike did not go as well as intended. And it was my fault for not thoroughly investing in the preparation. This time will be different. For starters, I’m signing up for a navigation class to reduce the risk of getting lost when there are no trails and no cell service.

I’m also currently undergoing assisted stretching sessions. This physical therapy hybrid involves safe, deep stretches to gain greater flexibility. On my own, I could never get where I need to go. Same for careers: Everyone needs experts in other areas to show us what’s possible. Or not.

Be flexible with goal-setting…to a point

I used to run marathons, and I learned from  this guy to actually have three goals for any race. The first is to finish in the time you train for. The second is to finish faster should you find mental and physical reserves you didn’t know you had. The third is the bottom-line time that will keep you going when you realize those times are no longer possible.

At work, aim high. Think big. Really big. But then set more realistic goals in case it takes longer to get there. That should provide some comfort when times get tough.