Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone
Okay, so last week I did something that was a bit out of the ordinary for me. I went along to a local business conference to try to promote some of my freelance writing services. This was a huge step outside of my usual comfort zone.
I only just found out about the event the week before, and even up until the day before I still wasn’t sure whether to attend or not. I’ve been to business conferences before, as part of my previous job as a digital marketer. My experience back then wasn’t great, as the whole thing seemed very corporate and stuffy, which just isn’t me. Also, I wondered how the heck people could get excited about really dull techy things like SEO and data analytics software. I just felt like a total phony who didn’t belong there.
Anyway, despite my reservations, I decided to go along to this event. What’s the worst that could happen? I hoped that I might meet a few potential clients and business people from my local area. This would be a completely new focus for me, since almost all of my business is done online, with clients from all over the world. It would be a rare chance for me to meet some ‘real’ people instead of staring at a computer screen all day. If the whole thing turned out to be a bummer, then the only thing I would have wasted is a couple of hours of my time.
It was really intimidating walking through the doors, and seeing loads of business suits deep in conversation with each other. I started to wonder whether I really did belong there – I wasn’t dressed in a suit, for a start (I don’t do suits). The first thing I did was find the coffee stand, then grab a seat in the corner so I could watch what was going on and find my bearings.
Almost immediately I found myself chatting with the friendly lady sitting next to me, who also had her own business. We started comparing stories and agreed how difficult it is running a business without any colleagues or network to support you. We came up with the idea of hosting a local networking event or coffee morning for similar people to meet each other and socialise, and to take away some of the loneliness of running a business on your own.
As if by magic, another lady appeared, who is involved in life-coaching and co-ordinating business networking groups. We all swapped email addresses and have already arranged to meet-up at a local networking event in the coming weeks.
I attended a seminar on social media marketing for business. The guy presenting it didn’t really seem to have much useful information, and kept referring back to examples from the 1990s about how NOT to market your business (duh!) I left the seminar thinking I could do a better job than this. BUT it wasn’t a complete waste of time. I did a bit of research and found that there is a company running these seminars regularly all over Scotland. It got my mind working, and I’m now thinking that if I could do a better job than this guy, then why don’t I? I could pitch an idea, put together a presentation, and hey presto. There’s another way I can push myself out of my comfort zone, and earn some cash at the same time!
I really broke out of my comfort zone by taking part in a “speed networking” session with other business people. It was essentially the same as speed dating – we had a minute each to pitch ourselves, then instead of swapping phone numbers, we all swapped business cards. It was such a strange thing for me to have to “sell myself” especially since I’m usually so shy and reserved. But I really surprised myself that I was able to do it. Not only that, but I spoke to at least three potential new business leads that I would never have met otherwise. Whether anything comes of it or not, it was a huge confidence boost for me.
So, what is the point in all this?
I’ve recently learned that breaking out of your comfort zone can lead to great and unexpected opportunities. Yes, you might feel embarrassed or awkward in actually doing whatever it is you’re doing. But the feeling of achievement and satisfaction that you’ve accomplished something more than makes up for it.
Leaving your comfort zone doesn’t have to be a big huge challenge, it can be a small step in the right direction, or something that may seem insignificant but means a lot to you. Previous steps I’ve taken outside of my comfort zone include public speaking, volunteering for a charity, and attending a social event without any alcohol. These may seem silly to most people, but they felt like huge achievements to me.
Doing it for the right reasons
There can, of course, be times when breaking out of your comfort zone can result in feeling overwhelmed. Don’t be pressurised into doing something you don’t want to do, by parents, bosses, partners, or whoever if there’s nothing in it for you.
There are really only two questions to ask yourself when facing a challenge that takes you out of your comfort zone –
– What am I hoping to achieve from this?
– What is the worst that can happen?
If you can clearly define what you’re hoping to achieve by breaking out of your comfort zone, and if it’s something that will somehow benefit your life, then it’s definitely worth taking the risk.
Have you ever pushed yourself outside your comfort zone, and did you have any unexpected results? I would love to hear your story in the comments below.
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