In 2016 Annual Conference, Dick Pope/Polk County Chapter, Professional Development

Blogger: Erin Knothe (Dick Pope/Polk County Chapter)

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and into a More Balanced, Purposeful Career & Life
Presented by: Jessica Lawlor, Communications Consultant, and Founder, Get Gutsy Blog

The mindset blogger, freelancer and yoga instructor Jessica Lawlor lives by is inspired by Neale Donald Walsch’s quotations, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

The internet and the bookstore are filled with articles and books centered around work-life balance, but few of us feel like we’ve actually achieved it. How do you feel on a daily basis? How would you like to feel?

A study in 1908 found that relative comfort created a steady level of performance. Comfort is acceptable, but pushing outside of what your regular actions can result in great performance. Stepping outside your comfort zone to live a life that makes you happy is what Jessica calls, “Getting gusty.” To do this, search for optimal anxiety, which is finding the right level of pushing yourself to be better without pushing too far and feeling terrified. Benefits of pushing yourself include being more productive, dealing with change better, handling change easier in the future, and being more creative.

Jessica shared five things to know about stepping out of your comfort zone.

  1. It means getting uncomfortable.

  • You can feel rewarded when you do something that makes you uncomfortable.

  1. It doesn’t mean doing something crazy.

  • Jessica shared how she took trapeze lessons so she could write about the experience for her first blog post. While she did step outside her comfort zone, she realized small things you do on a daily basis, like meeting someone new at a conference, can qualify.

  1. You need support.

  2. You have to get out of your own way.

  • Think of the quotation, “If we would only see that all limitations are self imposed and chosen out of fear, we would leap at once.”

  1. It’s not easy.

Stepping outside the comfort zone looks different to everyone. How do you know if you’re pushing far enough? The quotation, “If it scares you it might be a good thing to try.”, is a good way to think about your actions.

Jessica cautioned that some of the tips for stepping outside our comfort zone might not fit everyone, but use what works for you. Here are her 10 tips.

  1. Be present.

  • Instead of worrying about things that have happened or things that are to come, embrace the present.

  • Tools, like the meditation app Calm, or classes, like yoga, can help you focus.

  1. Big goals, small steps. (Work backwards)

  • Listing out steps and setting deadlines can make goals achievable.

  1. Develop a beginner’s mindset.

  • Jessica used the example of her sister trying yoga for the first time to explain how beginners are generally wide-eyed and open to believing that possibilities are endless. How can we bring the same mindset to things we do every day? What if you applied that to hobbies, relationships, work?

  1. Practice energy management.

  • Energy management is doing things at the time of day that matches your energy level. For example, you might feel the most awake and energized in the morning, so use that time to do important work and leave your time in the afternoon for menial tasks. For effective energy management:

    • Experiment to discover the times you’re most productive.

    • Accept that you only have so much energy in a given day.

    • Be strict with your schedule.

  1. Form and stick with habits.

  • It takes 66 days to form a habit, so stick with it.

  1. Say no. (Create a reverse to-do list.)

  • By creating a reverse to-do list, you can see what you are eliminating out of your life. You can still use those “no’s” to create other opportunities. For example, Jessica receives emails asking advice on various topics, so sometimes she’ll write a blog post about the topic. She’s still helping the person, but she’s being resourceful with her time.

  1. Find someone to hold you accountable.

  • Accountability buddy – one person to check in with you to make sure you’re on track.

  • Mastermind group – four or five people to help you make decisions or garner ideas.

  1. Let go of what no longer serves you.

  • Protect your energy.

  • For Jessica, her goals related to this tip are avoiding:

    • Doing things the way they’ve always been done

    • Feeling like I need to follow a certain path just because that’s what’s expected of me

    • Overscheduling myself

    • Being a slave to my inbox

  1. Trust your instincts and LISTEN.

  • Sometimes events unfold that make life difficult. Take a step back and slow down to get back on the right track.

  1. Celebrate your wins.

  • Acknowledge the good that you’ve done. If you’re climbing a mountain, stop and take in the view instead of planning of climbing the next mountain. Similarly, take the time to celebrate and enjoy your victories when you’ve worked hard. Leaders especially can benefit from acknowledging the work of their team.

Jessica closed with the caveat that the aforementioned tips are simply tips. It’s up to you to do the hard work and figure out what stepping out of your comfort zone looks like.

Her final inspirational quotation from Margaret Shepard summed up what it takes to step outside your comfort zone: “Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.”

LawlorlJessica Lawlor is the communications consultant behind and founder of Get Gutsy Blog. She is a communications professional, writer, personal branding expert and speaker in the Philadelphia area. After six years in the corporate PR world, Jessica left her job to run her own communications agency, blog/brand and teach yoga. She blogs about getting gutsy: stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes your truly happy.


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