Yesterday I had a conversation about a potential project I was hoping to pass along to a friend. She told me she had thought about the assignment – ghostwriting a book – and decided it was “outside her comfort zone.” Now, she has several very valid reasons for not wanting to take on a new project right now, ailing parents who require a significant portion of her time, for example. These reasons I could accept. But not being willing to step outside her comfort zone to try something new that would expand her business potential seems to me to be an all too common mistake among many self-employed people and small business owners.
I often see instances of people not being willing to try something new. They cling to what they know, even when what they know isn’t working very well for them. They’re certain that if they just keep beating that dead horse long enough, things will turn around. Or, if things are going okay, they still hesitate to try something that may make things even better. They cling to their comfort zone, unwilling to take a risk, even if a risk/reward analysis would show them that the risk is relatively little and the potential reward is significant.
Certainly, 13 years ago when I first thought about taking on book-length ghostwriting projects, the idea was daunting. Could I really do this? Could I write a whole book, given that the longest piece I’d ever written was my master’s thesis? While the idea made me nervous, at the same time continuing to stick with short writing projects that I’d always done was not an inviting prospect. It was time for something new, so I crawled out on that limb. Luckily, the limb held and I found myself with a new skill that has been both intellectually and financially rewarding.
My question to you is this: Do you want to live your whole career inside your comfort zone? I realize everyone has different levels of risk tolerance based on the financial demands of their lives. And if you’re totally happy and your financial needs are being met by staying within your current comfort zone, then you may have little motivation to try something outside your comfort zone. But if you do step outside that zone and succeed, you will find that great satisfaction comes from conquering your fears and expanding your comfort zone.
I respect my friend’s decision not to proceed because I do know that her life is very hectic right now and the timing is probably not right for this particular project. But what I wanted to say to her is that your comfort zone is not a static thing. It can change and grow and as it grows, so do you. So the next time you find yourself turning down an opportunity because it is outside your comfort zone, first carefully consider whether your comfort zone isn’t really more of a trap than something that brings you comfort.