Eight Small Steps to Move Outside Your Comfort Zone

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference when I struck up a conversation with an older businessman. As we talked about the economy, I mentioned how it was really important for people to constantly adapt in an ever-changing world.

The businessman turned to me with a surprised look. “I’ve been with my wife for forty years, and I’ve worked at my company for the same amount of time. I know just about everything there is to know about what’s important in my life. I don’t really think stepping out of my comfort zone will teach me anything new that actually matters.”

I disagree. The world around you is always changing. People change. Businesses change. What helps people make more money and lead better lives is their ability to discover and adapt to these changes. To do this, you need to step outside your comfort zone.

It isn’t easy – after all, we’re creatures of habit. We don’t like change. With that in mind, let’s start small. Here are eight baby steps to help you move out your comfort zone.

  1. Reconnect with an old friend: It’s hard to meet good people, so try to stay in touch with those you already know. Once a month, pull out your Rolodex and find someone interesting that you haven’t touched base with in awhile. Call them and ask them out to lunch. If they aren’t available, try someone else. Meeting long-lost people is a great way to have new conversations – and who knows, you might even rekindle an amazing friendship or a business connection.
  2. Join a Group: A few years ago, I bumped into an old friend who was part of a basketball league. It didn’t seem like my kind of thing but I decided to give it a shot. I ended up a making a bunch of new friends and getting a great new exercise routine. Ask your friends what they were currently involved in. If that doesn’t work, take a look online (www.meetup.com is a great resource) and find some groups that interest you. You’ll be glad you did.
  3. Contact Someone Random: I’m not saying to just start spamming or telemarketing random people, but perhaps there’s someone you admire to whom you’d like to reach out. One of my friends, an aspiring economist, wrote a letter to Nobel Prize Winner Milton Friedman and actually got a personal response. Don’t be afraid to reach out; after all, what do you have to lose?
  4. Try working with different people: At work, that might mean getting involved in a project with a new group. This is a great way to improve your interpersonal skills while getting to know new people. Note: don’t rush into doing this if it will hurt your long-term career prospects.
  5. Take a walk: I personally love walking. It allows me to exercise, reflect on life, and get in touch with nature. The next time you feel like plopping on the couch and watching TV, try taking a walk instead. Let the fresh air clear your head, give you some new perspectives, and hey, maybe even some great business ideas!
  6. Ask how others are doing: The best conversations come up when you try to learn about other people. It gives them a chance to talk about their lives and gives you a chance to learn. It strengthens relationships and makes you more empathetic. Best of all, it doesn’t cost you anything but a little bit of time. In short, it’s a great way to build your personal brand at almost no cost. This is one thing I don’t do often enough and am actively working to fix.
  7. Spend more time around kids: A few months ago, I was telling my little cousins about a social gaming business idea. The business model was targeted at young children and I wanted to get their feedback. I was really excited about the concept, but five minutes in my cousin interrupted me. “That’s stupid,” he exclaimed. My immediate reaction was frustration. How was telling me that my idea was stupid constructive in any way. Kids say the darndest things! But then I realized that many of my friends and colleagues may have actually felt the same way, but they just didn’t say it with the same bluntness. The great part is that this bluntness often help us realize basic truths about the world and about ourselves.
  8. Volunteer: It amazes me how much better we feel when we do something selfless. Volunteering gives us purpose and direction in life, and often helps us better understand ourselves and what is truly important to us. Not a bad return on investment…especially when the goal was to help others!

How do you plan to step outside your comfort zone? Please share in the comments

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