The BLOG: Voices

The sky is not the limit: Explore the space outside your comfort zone

It’s not easy to stretch outside your comfort zone. After all, it’s called a comfort zone for a reason. Outside your comfort zone is pain. And you’re built to avoid pain.

It’s only natural to resist the things that don’t line up with your personality and preferences. You could call this one of the default settings of being human. And so we tend to surround ourselves with people who help us avoid the pain of the stretch. It usually takes a dramatic shift in our circumstances (marriage, career transition, children, relocation, illness, etc.) to press the urgency of growing beyond our comfort zones.

But what if you didn’t wait for the pain? What if, instead, you and I pursued pain as a priority?

Pursue pain to grow and you might:

— Invite negative feedback and be curious about it rather than defensive.
— Be transparent about difficult thoughts and feelings.
— Build relationships with people who view the world differently that you do.
— Read books and articles that challenge your thinking.
— Take a class.
— Help someone without expecting anything in return.
— Slow down.
— Say “yes” to something scary.
— Stop doing something distracting or start doing something important.
— Network with successful people.
— Forgive someone.
— Engage in a difficult conversation.
— Speak up for truth and justice.
— Stop talking to make room for dialogue and understanding.
— Meet regularly with a mentor who provides coaching.
— Cast a bold personal vision.
— Practice.
— Really think through an issue.
— Tell someone how you feel.

Which item on that list would cause you to grow through pain? What else would you put on the list? And what’s stopping you from doing it?

Many people provide one of the following excuses:

— I don’t need to do it.
— I don’t want to do it.
— I can’t do it.
— I won’t do it.

Are you too old, too rich, too cozy or too lazy? Are you too shackled, too bruised, too tired or too defeated? Are you too confused, too certain, too smart or too experienced?

So am I.

I suppose we could just stay with what we’re currently doing, how we’re currently behaving, with the people currently around us. Maybe the results that we’re getting are good enough. But think about the potential that we’d forfeit in our relationships, our work, our communities and our own maturity. Think about the problems we wouldn’t solve, the people we wouldn’t impact and the opportunity we wouldn’t create.

Don’t tell me that the sky is the limit when I know there are footsteps on the moon. – Paul Brandt

Matt Norman

Matt Norman

Matt Norman is president of Norman & Associates, which is the largest provider of Dale Carnegie Training programs in North America. He is the author of several articles published by Dale Carnegie Training and Training Magazine on organizational effectiveness and personal growth. He blogs weekly at