When the previous (older) version of you no longer resonates with you
There's a funny thing that happens as we move forward in our lives and work: we change, we shift, we grow. We discover and learn new things. We abandon parts of ourselves that weren't really a match. We let go of hands that weren't meant to hold ours for as long as they did. We go down new paths we didn't plan to take.
The human need for growth and transformation is lifelong and only ends once the journey of life is complete (see post on self-actualization). I have noticed that this need usually manifests itself as an itch. A seemingly innocuous itch that signals a void. At first you may ignore it, but as you grow and change, it becomes more and more noticeable, to the point that it becomes easier to deal with than to ignore.
It was the spring of 2000 and I had just completed my assignments at the headquarters of a Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company. I felt happy and accomplished, but I was beginning to think about my next career move. I had been turned down for a Managing Director position in a European subsidiary because I did not have an MBA. Meanwhile, my husband was offered a job in the U.S. and within 48 hours we decided to buy a one-way ticket to New York. At the height of my career in drug development, I had just made the decision to become an unemployed housewife with the ambition of attending New York University to get an MBA. Those of you who read me regularly know that the prospect of taking this G-math admission test was no picnic. I had to break down deep-rooted mental barriers that my math skills were deficient, as assessed by Fräulein Heinzius, my elementary school headmistress (see post on personal leadership, see post on growth mindset and neuroplasticity).
Major signs that you have outgrown your life
Growing out of things is a natural part of life and may take many forms: your favorite sweatshirt no longer fits or feels good, you are bored with your life or career, you are interested in new and different things, your routines and habits no longer make sense, you no longer relate to the people around you, you have new goals. You want to move and escape from your current environment…What you used to love has become a source of tension that no longer suits you.
Growing is hard, but it is necessary when you have outgrown your life. Stepping out of your ‘comfort zone’ requires taking risks by leaving the known and the familiar behind. It also requires embracing vulnerability because all growth may result in failure, which can be terrifying. I faced multiple challenges: to give up my status as an independent and valued professional for that of a housewife under the administrative guardianship of my husband (for visa, travel, and sustenance), to expose myself to a new culture and educational system with the risk of failure. However, the alternative would have been far worse, because staying stagnant is soul-crushing. Knowing that you may go further but choosing to stay where you are leads to depression – always!
Here's a scary but sobering thought: what if, at the end of your life, you realized that you had played it safe but hadn't fulfilled your dreams? How would you feel about having that regret?
Useful mental tricks when your safety net is slipping away from under your feet
Surprisingly, stepping out of our comfort zone can be difficult but is not necessarily uncomfortable. Being stuck in a comfort zone that no longer suits your needs is far more uncomfortable than finding a new level of comfort.
Thirteen members of the ‘Forbes coaches council’ were asked to weigh in on how to overcome mental barriers to getting out of one’s comfort zone. Here is a summary of the most useful tips:
• Find a compelling reason
Take the time to build a compelling reason to do so and imagine the outcome. Marinate in that visual, idea or thought long enough to build a solid momentum that will propel you to inspired action.
• Revisit your greatest accomplishments
Success is often the result of courage. When we revisit our greatest accomplishments, we remember that courage is what got us there. Moving forward in faith and facing fear is not easy, but it helps us to realize what we are truly made of.
• Reframe what it means to be comfortable
The world is changing fast, and comfort zones are no longer an option. How do you feel when you are in your comfort zone? Safe? Secure? Bored? Inflexible? Stagnant? What if your comfort zone is also your ‘failure zone’ because nothing changes? Reframe the word "comfort" to mean growth, learning or purpose and watch what changes.
• Take one small step
Thinking about taking the tiniest steps tricks the brain into taking action. Take a goal and break it down into small steps. Focus on one step at a time. This approach will boost your confidence and motivate you to persevere to ultimately achieve the desired result.
• Compare the worst and best possible outcomes
Ask yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?" Then, "What's the best-case scenario of what could happen?" These two questions should help you identify potential causes of failure and deal with any fear or discomfort, then channel your energy into successfully exploring any new experience.
• Act as if you’re comfortable and just do it
All the pep talks and classes under the sun won't be sufficient to get you out of your comfort zone. The best way to accomplish this feat is to act like you are someone else who you know would have no problem taking this step. The reality is that once you do it and see that you can do it, the rest comes naturally. But you need that initial push, and that’s how you’ll get there.
To conclude, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein
“A ship is always safe at shore – but that is not what ships are built for.” – Albert Einstein