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Philippa White

The International Exchange

Founder and CEO

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Why leaving your professional comfort zone will help advance your career

Philippa White discusses the perils of the comfort zone, and how stepping out of our personal and professional safe places can reap rich rewards. 

There are plenty of opportunities out there to step out of our comfort zones – the trick is grabbing hold of them.

You see, we are all so busy in our professional lives, it’s often difficult to make that jump to do something different; to grow, and to push ourselves.

Our comfort zone is just what it says: a place where life just feels pretty good. There’s no anxiety, we only have to use a limited set of behaviours to perform, and we feel very little sense of risk.

But, living and working within our comfort zone doesn’t really offer much incentive for us to be the best we can be. It simply doesn’t force us to achieve higher and different levels of performance.

Staying in your comfort zone blocks growth and progress.

In fact, I would go as far as saying that staying in your comfort zone blocks growth and progress, and as a result, improvement, achievement, and success becomes just that much more difficult.

By staying ‘safe’ from critics, exposure, and risk, you essentially give up your right and power to be and do your best, plateauing, and in the end, compromising your progress in life and work.

And, who wants that?

I want to urge everyone reading this to find the courage to move intentionally away from that ‘safety cocoon’ and be willing to face the risk of failure. By doing this, you turn your mindset into “growing mode”, which then expands what is possible for you.

Eleanor Roosevelt summed this up perfectly when she said: “Do one thing every day that scares you”. 

If you really do make a conscious effort to leave your comfort zone and take healthy risks in your life, it really will help you to become the best version of yourself and excel professionally.

Here are some tips on how you can leave your professional comfort zone and why:

  • Look for inspiration in the unexpected and the difficult: try doing things differently that will unlock new thinking in you and help you see the world in new ways.

    For example, try reading material outside of your comfort zone, as well as reading things you love.

  • Expand your personal circle: spend as much time as you can with people in professions different from your own. Talking to people in different industries about what they do is fascinating; it opens channels in your thinking you didn’t know were there. Different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds – be they race, nationality, language, and/or upbringing – allow for completely different perspectives and viewpoints.

If you only work with people from the same background, when it comes to tasks like problem solving, it is unlikely you will come up with anything new.

Moreover, it will enable you to empathise more, be more culturally intelligent, and see things in new ways. Expanding your personal circle will literally be your superpower.

Push through boundaries to unlock potential

You’ve got to transcend adversity. A Harvard Business Review article said that one of the most reliable indicators and predictors of true leadership is the ability to take something from the most challenging of circumstances and learn from difficult events.

The skills needed to transcend adversity and emerge stronger and more determined than ever are the same ones that make for extraordinary leaders. 

So, open your mind, grow, push yourself out of that challenging situation. You’ll be amazed at what happens.

Be brave and dare to be different

Challenge the status quo. Don’t conform. Defy convention.

Leadership actually means finding a new direction, doing things differently, and leading the way. We know that companies need to change – especially now. That’s the very thing that will ensure their survival.

“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity”. Rollo May

If the status quo makes you uneasy, you see opportunity in doing things differently, and you believe you can make a difference, then being brave and daring to push the envelope will make you a better leader.

“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity”. Rollo May

Be constantly curious to be constantly inspired

As children, we’re naturally curious – it’s how we grow and learn. But then, as we get older, the sense of wonder starts to escape us. Don’t let it! Curiosity is a powerful tool. 

Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Paul Smith all share a similar trait: curiosity.

So listen without judgement, ask lots (and I mean lots) of questions, look for opportunities to be surprised, make time for curiosity, and be fully present.

It’s a wonderful world out there, just waiting to be discovered! 

Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Paul Smith all share a similar trait: curiosity.

So, if you’re wondering how to boost your career or your life, moving out of your comfort zone is a crucial step. It will allow you to experience new challenges, new cultures, connect with unusual people, and be in tune with your own values. 

To discover your true potential and who you are, you need to go out into the world. You need to push yourself in new ways, and you’ll be amazed at what happens as a result. 

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Philippa White

Founder and CEO

Read more from Philippa White

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