I awoke this grey winter morning feeling as dreary as the weather outside. I had a meeting with my staff to prepare for a critical client presentation—our relationship depended on it.
With the meeting about to start, I couldn’t get my head in the game. My emotions were raw and on the surface. I was feeling guilty for not having it together—and embarrassed to let my staff and management see that my personal drama was affecting how I show up.
Everything changed when I went through my second divorce. It felt impossible to manage the roller coaster of emotions in my private life while maintaining a steady-state at work. I started to second guess all of my decisions. I retreated into what felt comfortable—what I had done before successfully and could do again with no concerns about failing or disappointing. I didn’t feel safe beyond my comfort zone.
For the first time colleagues saw a woman in a private heartache and they didn’t know what to do with me. This went on for months and no one was happy. My team floundered without their leader. Management was supportive and understanding for a while; then business decisions had to be made. Most of all—I was not happy with me.
It was a deep rut and I didn’t know how to pull myself out. My personal struggles were affecting my career. What I knew for sure was I could lose more than my marriage if I kept spiraling down this rabbit-hole. It was time to get some help.
What I learned from my first coach was life-changing and comfort zone-expanding. She shared practical tips, which I practiced and integrated into my life. I felt supported. I began to heal. I felt comfortable again stretching beyond what was easy to reach. As my team witnessed this change, they became curious about the process.
So began my passion for coaching—I started by helping others to grow a new comfort zone.
3 Techniques to Help When You Retreat to Your Comfort Zone
- Know that you don’t have to do this alone. Reaching out for help can be scary and way beyond what’s comfortable. Telling someone you don’t know your deepest, darkest secrets about how you feel and what you’re really thinking can hold you back from taking the action you need to take. Trust that you will feel better when you find someone safe to talk with, who will hold the space for you to share, cry and eventually heal. That’s when you start to grow and your comfort zone grows with you. I start by telling women why I do what I do and a bit of my story, so she knows I’ve been where she is. I create a safe space for her to open up and explore the possibilities that stepping beyond what’s comfortable can hold.
- Remember a time when you did it successfully before. Often we just need a reminder that we’ve lived outside our comfort zone before and the emotional upheaval we’re feeling right now is causing us to fall back into old patterns and habits. It’s like muscle memory. Here’s a suggestion I share with clients to help them exercise their comfort zone muscle: Think back to when you felt in control and brave, able to take a risk and reap the reward for your success. How did that feel? Sit with that feeling again. Write about it in every detail—what you were doing, who was with you when you did this, what you were wearing, what you were saying, how you felt when you succeeded. Getting back into that feeling of exhilaration and positive energy makes it easier to step out of your comfort zone again. You’ve done it before—you can do it again. It reassures you that you’ve got this.
- Test the waters before jumping into the ocean. Baby steps are the best way to explore doing something that doesn’t feel comfortable. Course correction from a baby step is easier, and less risky, than from a giant leap into a big pond.Try this: Decide what it is you want to do—describe the big hairy audacious thing you want to accomplish that has your knees knocking. Now, break it down into small chunks. Tackle one small chunk at a time. Baby steps. Get one done—celebrate the accomplishment—and move on to the next one. Before you know it, you’ve completed that big hairy thing and you’ve stretched more than you thought you could reach. Your comfort zone is now bigger and you’re more confident about stepping beyond it.
I have found that healing things in my personal life helps me become better in my professional life.
You can find more from Maria at www.YourSafeHarborCoaching.com