“You need to have conviction, that deep sense of purpose, to give yourself permission to act against the grain of your personality.”
READ ON TO DISCOVER:
The five roadblocks that keep us in our comfort zone
Why courage lies in a psychological middle ground between extreme possibilities
The three best things you can do to push yourself into new territory
Andy Molinsky is a professor, speaker, and author whose work helps people develop the insights and courage necessary to act outside their personal and cultural comfort zones in work and in life. Isaac Lidsky is a speaker, entrepreneur, and author of Eyes Wide Open: Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities in a World That Can’t See Clearly. The two recently sat down to discuss why stepping outside our comfort zones is so difficult, and what we can do to give ourselves a courageous push.
Isaac: Tell us about what you study.
Andy: Sure. My new book, Reach, is about acting outside your comfort zone. In whatever profession we’re in, we all face situations that are outside our comfort zones, that we often avoid. Things like making small talk with people you don’t know, or speaking up when you’re fairly reticent, or pitching and promoting yourself if you’re modest, or delivering bad news when you’re a people-pleaser. We can avoid these situations or we can procrastinate, but to achieve our goals, these everyday acts of courage are critical.
Isaac: I’m particularly interested in this first piece of building up the courage, getting to the mental place to take that step [outside the comfort zone].
Andy: I’ve studied and spoken with people from many different professions and walks of life. These are managers, executives, and entrepreneurs. They’re doctors, police officers, rabbis, priests, even a goat farmer. I wanted to see if I could come up with some generalizations that apply across many different contexts. What I found was a couple of things.
[Regarding] the “Why is it so hard?” piece… I found that there are five different psychological roadblocks we face: we are worried that [by] acting outside our comfort zone, we’ll feel inauthentic. “This doesn’t feel like me.”
We’re worried about our likeability, that “People won’t like this version of me.” We’re worried about our competence, which is on display when you’re a fish out of water doing something that’s outside your comfort zone. You worry that you’ll fall flat on your face, that others will see that.
Some people feel resentful. “Why do I have to do this? Why does this matter?” I talk to a lot of introverts who say, “Why can’t the quality of my work stand for itself? Why do I have to make chit chat, and why does that enable me to progress at the firm?”
Then, morality. Some people, in certain circumstances, face a morality barrier, in the sense that acting outside their comfort zone is against their ethics.