A Coaching Power Tool Created by Anant Sharma
(Executive Coach, INDIA)
We have all heard of this term, Comfort Zone, and all are all too familiar with this as well. One just needs to look at the various stages of our own lives to see this at work and how this acts as a barrier to Growth.
- When the child steps out of the house to attend nursery school for the very first time
- The child is changing school (parents relocating or any other reason)
- The child, now grown-up has applied for a job. He gets the job but he needs to relocate away from friends & family
- When in the job he is trying for a higher position with more responsibilities and perks
In all the above examples the individual (in this case the child) was not comfortable doing what he/she eventually did or had to do. At the same time in all of these examples, growth happened only when he/she stepped out of the comfort zone. In some cases stepping out of the comfort zone is forced by external factors – going to school for the first time or changing schools. In some cases, the move to step out is self-motivated – getting a job or getting a larger position/role in the organization.
In each case without stepping out of the comfort zone things don’t happen, one does not grow. What is constant in all these examples is
1. As human beings we tend to remain enveloped in our comfort zones
2. We grow only when we step out of our comfort zones
3. We have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones – for some it comes easily for some it is very difficult indeed
Growth is something that the Creator hard-wired into the Universe when He created it. We just have to look around our surroundings to understand this
- A child grows from a fetus to a newborn to a child, adolescent, young man, old man
- A tiny seed turns into a sapling which eventually will turn into the bigger plant/tree
- A giant oak tree starts the journey as a humble acorn
- Similarly, have a look at any of the top CEOs/Political leaders and trace their past, the one thing which will be common to all is Growth. With very few exceptions everyone started small
- So much so that as per the Big Bang Theory, even the Universe is expanding, growing
What this tells us is that growth is inherent in our world, it is very much a part & parcel of everything we are, everything we do, we experience. Even while we are idling around, doing nothing our body will produce millions of cells daily to replace older, dying cells.
What we have seen so far are two things that are diametrically opposite to each other, still, everyone experiences these and goes through the (somewhat) painful process of coming out of the comfort zone to achieve growth. It is not necessarily painful for all, but for some, it becomes a real challenge. What are the factors which make overcoming the comfort zone so daunting? It could be anything among the following factors
- Making mistakes
- Looking stupid
- What will the others say?
Unsure if we really deserve to grow
Unsure of own ability to cope up with increased responsibilities
Simply being lazy – I am happy with what is happening around me, so why bother
All of the above are negative beliefs that hamper growth. The key is to understand not only what these beliefs are but also to figure out a way to work around them. Let’s look at the below picture which amply covers this
So how can one successfully come out of one’s comfort zone to achieve Growth? There are multiple ways this can be achieved and given below are a few examples
- Take the first step. This is often the most difficult, but one needs a conscious effort to do this. The first few lines of a story are the most difficult to write, but after that, it does not appear so difficult after all
- Put yourself in a new environment. This can start with something that doesn’t present any real threat. Like eating in a different restaurant, trying a new cuisine or attending a concert
- Do not pick a safe choice. Whenever making a decision, chances are there will be a tried & tested, “safe” option, and then there will be the other option that makes one uncomfortable. The uncomfortable choice is the one that will have the most learning
- Take a different route home. Driving or walking back home from work we usually tend to stick to one route only. This can be an easy way to start doing things you are not comfortable doing. Later on, more drastic things can be tried
- Making a snap decision. Choosing not-so-important things like which movie to watch or which restaurant to go to, make a decision which you usually would not make. Without overthinking it too much
- Consider points of view from others around you. This helps in making an informed decision at the same time helping you understand your own beliefs
- Start saying “yes” more. Even if you think you are not 100% ready for something – a new job role or a new project, saying yes can open doors to something which has till now been completely unexplored
- Volunteer. It would be more helpful if volunteering is done in fields you are not familiar with. This would help in learning something new as well
- Do something you are afraid to do. If looking at anything gives you this feeling of fear, do it. That is the only way you conquer fear
- Allow others to decide for you. And then respect the decision and follow it. This could be small things like deciding on the next holiday destination to delegating more often in the office
All of us have had the experience of our own comfort zones and at different stages of our lives, we had to make a call to step out of the comfort zone for growth. Our comfort zones are a result of our beliefs, which in turn could be due to what we experience while growing up. It is also a result of what we see around us while growing up, and then when we start a career.
In my case, at work initially, I was completely in my comfort zone. I was in my home town, was doing a job I liked and the people around me were familiar, spoke the same language, and laughed at the same jokes. Then the company I was working for folded up and I was forced to look for a new job. I was jolted out of my comfort zone by the realities of life and I did not like that one bit.
This led me to an entirely new city in a different part of the country far away from home (and comforts). It did not stop there, I was relocating again a year later and then again after one year. Just when it seemed things were settling, I had another stint at relocation for a period of two years. Relocation is not just getting used to a new place, it is also getting used to the new team members, new colleagues, new work culture, and a new language (yes, in India there is a different native language in each state).
Now when I look back I have worked in five different cities, have had team members of six different nationalities, have done seven different roles (in my current organization), and have had managers from eight different nationalities. I call this the 5-6-7-8 of my working life. Initially, at each change, I was torn between my comfort zone and growth. However, I soon realized leaving my comfort zone leads to growth and now I actually look forward to this. Case in point, my coaching journey.
As we have seen, more often than not all of us are stuck in our comfort zones including our clients. They are often having the same set of fears leaving their comfort zones as described earlier in this document. It is the job of a coach to ensure the client moves from being in an “uncomfortable” position to a position where he/she is not uncomfortable. What is important and needs to be always remembered is each client has had a unique journey. Each client has a different definition and experience of a comfort zone. Therefore for each client, a different approach may be needed.
Before we can proceed ahead with the client, there must be enough trust established between the coach & the client. This will help the client in openly sharing his/her points of view on which subsequent actions can be based. Our clients have all the answers within them, as coaches, it is our job to make them look inside and search for the right answer.
Create a trusting space
- Make the client understand that whatever is discussed is strictly confidential & between the coach & client only
- Always focus on what is important for the client in his/her forward movement
- Prepare in advance & focus on the session
- Give ample space to the client to talk, reflect and think
- Be curious, listen attentively, and be empathetic
- The coaching session belongs to the client so he needs to get space to talk more, 80% for the client and 20% for the coach
Understand what is comfortable and what is not by asking powerful questions
- What is the motivation behind making this change?
- How comfortable are you in making the change?
- What feels uncomfortable about making the change
- What would it look like once this is completed, how does that feel
- What does staying in your comfort zone give you
- What would happen if you do not act, OR what would it look like if you act and get what you want
- Think of a time when you did have to leave your comfort zone, how did that turn out
- Where are you once this change is completed
- Who are the people you are with
- What does a perfect situation look like in the current context if there is no fear of change?
- What is stopping you from moving forward?
- What do you think you can give up to achieve this goal?
- What would it take to move forward?
- What could be the first step in moving forward
- How can you make sure the timelines are met?
- What structures can you put in place to ensure the goal is met?
- How will you get to know the goal is achieved?
- How will you celebrate once the goal is achieved?
The first step is usually the toughest one and once you start, things begin to fall in place, and with that, the client gains confidence. It is extremely important therefore to encourage the client in making smaller, realistic goals that can be achieved without much difficulty. As these smaller goals are achieved, the bigger goal will not appear daunting. As coaches, it is our job to make sure at proper intervals we keep acknowledging the progress our client is making.
The journey from comfort zone to growth is one of the most amazing journeys and all the resources needed to complete this journey are within the client’s reach. As coaches, we just need to show them what they are capable of.