Working outside your comfort zone

Photo copyright Nick Fraioli

Where’s the boundary between testing your comfort zone and being reckless? And in professional life, is it a good idea to work beyond your comfort zone or to play to your strengths?

These were some of the questions I toyed with after trying ziplining – something I ordinarily wouldn’t have signed up to do. In addition to traversing nine ziplines, we walked on rope ladders between trees (in the picture above) and rappeled.  (A plug for the zipline company – Kohala Zipline – they had a very well run operation and I always felt quite safe, despite the fact that I was in the treetops. I highly recommend it.)

It got me thinking about the benefits of stretching outside of my comfort zone, and how they might apply to my professional life as well as my personal one.

Obviously there’s a balance between trying new things and sticking to your strengths. Particularly in today’s technology marketing environment, you have to constantly try new things, because the ‘new reality’ of marketing is constantly changing:  social networks, video, screencasts, infographics, e-books and blogs are all relatively recent phenomena. Yet none of us can afford to spend all of our time trying out new things, or we’d never get anything done.

The trick is finding the right balance of doing what is proven and we’re good at, and  developing new skills. I’ve decided to intentionally build ‘comfort-zone stretchers’ into my professional life, so I can keep learning new techniques and gain proficiency on those techniques before my clients need them.  I’ll use this blog to report on my progress, and I’d be interested to hear of what others are trying.

Strategies for expanding the comfort zone (beyond ziplining):

  • Take a class or attend a webinar. Get something actionable from the class and try it out.  MarketingProfs is a great resource for this type of development.
  • Take a class in something outside your usual field or expertise.  The new perspective is valuable.
  • Use a different part of your brain than you normally work with. Learn a foreign language, or do something artistic. If you’re a word person, try a new graphics program.
  • Do something that makes you a little nervous – like public speaking, performing, publishing – in a safe environment.

2 Comments on “Working outside your comfort zone

  1. Anne, social media was that expansion for me. It’s still content but very different than what I was used to. The rewards are great so far but I’m still learning, and being a “learner” keeps my work fresh. I actually feel much more creative and more of a “marketer” than just a writer. So I completely agree with your advice. Thanks!

    • Good point — social media is a constant comfort zone expander because as soon as you’re comfortable with one set of tools, you have to learn others. (Pinterest, anyone?) And, for those of us who focus on words, the use of graphics is getting more critical all the time.

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