Step Out of the Zone


How often have you stepped out of your comfort zone this year?




tightrope walker

It’s something that doesn’t come easily to many of us, yet it can be enriching and very worthwhile.

Personally, stepping out of your comfort zone can allow you to see the world from a different perspective. It can give you confidence, or it can bring an experience that means you will never, ever do that again. But either way you can say you’ve tried, and if you’ve failed it’s something you can look back on and shrug off. You never know how things will go unless you try… you may have a hidden talent, or a secret passion just waiting to be found. Or you may find that something you’ve been putting off was actually great.

I wanted to dye my hair a ‘weird’ colour for years, but I always put it off… I was employed, it was not ‘professional’, was ‘too old’, and what would other people think? Then earlier this year I realised no-one else would care, and if they did why would I bother about it anyway? So I dyed my hair green, and I wish I’d done it years ago. I like it, I don’t really care now if other people don’t and most people have complimented me on it. What a waste of all those years worrying!

Why waste time just because something makes you uncomfortable… life is very boring if you don’t stretch yourself once in a while.

hair dye

It’s the same for work.

When you are a freelance it’s very easy to stick with what you know. You feel safe doing what you do, and when you live as a freelance safe can sometimes feel good. Hell, why rock the boat when, unlike your salaried friends, you don’t always know where the next pay cheque is coming from.

But sometimes safe can be boring, and can actually stand in the way of professional freedom and achievement. For example, years ago I was asked to run a family history night-class. It was scary and I’d not run a class before – unless you can count teaching bored university students how to research and use the library’s facilities as running a class. But I said yes (then panicked), and ended up writing my own ten-week ‘family history for beginners’ class. It was hard work, but I’m so glad I did it. For the few years it was running I learned a lot about how to (and how not to) talk to a class full of adult learners, and I learnt as much from them as they did from me. It was a leap into the unknown, but I now know I can teach.

But moving out of your comfort zone needn’t be as drastic as jumping into teaching. It can be as small as saying yes to a project you would normally pass over. Now I’m not saying jump at a job that you are not qualified to do, but I’ll bet there’s been a job over the last year that you’ve said no to because you ‘don’t usually do that kind of thing’? Hell, if I got a penny for every time I’ve passed up a job like that I’d be able to afford a Starbucks Espresso Frappuccino by now.

When you are about to avoid jumping out of your professional comfort zone, ask yourself why:

Do you feel that someone else would be more up to the job (the client has asked YOU, so they obviously think you are up to it).

Do you think that you would be rubbish at it (why do you think that? How different from your other work is it really?).

Is it because you’ve never done that specific type of work before? (if so, and you are qualified, what is there to lose? You might love it, and the experience will be good for you; you might hate it, so notch it up to experience and you know to decline work like that in the future).

Is it just because your confidence is low? (in that case you have more to gain by doing the job than you have by not doing it).

Is it just because you are a scaredy cat? (just admit it, we all behave like that occasionally… give yourself a good talking to).

Unless there is a really good (valid) reason not to take that leap, then why not do it. If not, you risk stagnating and being very good at your job, but also being bored out of your brains. We take the freelance life to be able to live a fulfilling work existence; never changing your routine is bad for you.

worry shock stepping out of comfort zone
Don’t worry Margo, it’s really not that big a deal.

So next time you get the chance to wave goodbye to the cosy, safe humdrum life don’t just say no straight away. Have a really good think about why you might not do it; what would happen if you did and hated it (what’s the worse that could happen); what would happen if you did and loved it (how might it  enrich your life) and what would happen if you didn’t do it ( is there anything else better on the horizon?). Then make your decision.

This weekend I’m attending pantomime rehearsals. I’m producing my second panto. It’s a huge task – co-ordinating roughly 50 people from now until mid-December. I jumped in at the deep end – in 2012 I hopped out of my comfort zone and said yes to a friend… I ended up producing not only my first pantomime, but my first production. Ever. I survived and have produced and worked in other capacities on roughly ten productions since (I’ve actually lost count). I love it and if I hadn’t have said yes I would still be just another onlooker. Safe, yes… but not half as much fun!

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