Breaking Out of Career Comfort Zones

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Do you wish for success, only to watch others get the promotion, the dream job, the new career you wish you had? Do other people seem to get all the breaks while you stay stuck in the same place?
Professional career trainer Joe Gilliam believes that success eludes many professionals because they’ve gotten too cozy in their comfort zones. A motivational speaker and author of the audio CD series, The Winner In You, Gilliam explains how our comfort zones can keep us from making important life changes that could lead us to success.
“Where you are now is your comfort zone,” he says. “Oh sure, you may say you don’t like it, you may wish for more — you may be tired of what you’re doing, but you stay because it’s comfortable where you are. All around your comfort zone is a barrier, ” Gilliam continues. “Change is what you do when you step beyond the barrier of your comfort zone.”
6 Barriers that Trap in Your Comfort Zone
Here are six specific barriers that work to keep you in the perceived safety of your comfort zones and a solution for breaking beyond each barrier:
BARRIER 1: The best I could do.
EXAMPLE: You tell yourself, “I never wanted to be in sales. I wanted to be a pilot, but this was the best I could do.”
SOLUTION: Just because that was the best you could do at that given point in your life doesn’t mean that’s where you have to stay now. “You have the power to make changes that can alter your future,” Gilliam notes. “Start making lists of things you want to do and be in your future — and dream big!”
BARRIER 2: The “talks a lot” barrier.
EXAMPLE: Millions of wannabe writers talk endlessly about the great book they’re going to write. The problem is they do more talking than writing! Soon they’ve talked their book away and no longer have the desire to put it on paper.
SOLUTION: Make a commitment to talk about your dream no more than one hour a week, and only then to people who can actually help you achieve it. However, you can talk about what you’ve actually done toward your dream all you want.
BARRIER 3: Psychology of entitlement.
EXAMPLE: You believe, “I deserve it. They owe it to me. I’m entitled to it.” Because you feel so entitled, it’s likely that you’re not putting in the work necessary to achieve whatever it is you want.
SOLUTION: Be aware that your feeling of entitlement will cripple your chances for success. “You have to have internal drive to reach your goal,” Gilliam declares. “You can’t wait for someone to hand it to you.”
BARRIER 4: Afraid to fail.
EXAMPLE: You’ve hated your management job for years and long to own your own business, but you’ve never tried because you’re afraid you won’t be successful.
SOLUTION: First, realize that this is the No. 1 barrier that keeps people stuck inside their comfort zones. But studies of highly successful people show that they actually experience far more failures than those less successful! “The difference is, they refuse to be defeated by setbacks, disappointments or failures. They never stop pursuing their dreams,” Gilliam notes. “Unsuccessful people give up early and settle for less.”
BARRIER 5: “Can’t decide” barrier.
EXAMPLE: You work at a job below your potential because you just can’t decide what great career to go after — and you don’t want to pick the wrong one and miss a fantastic opportunity.
SOLUTION: Understand that indecision is keeping you from taking action. Missed opportunities only limit you if you dwell upon those in the past instead of looking for the ones ahead. “Opportunities are not being rationed,” Gilliam says.
BARRIER 6: Procrastination (a.k.a. Living in Somedayland)
EXAMPLE: You swear you’re going to make a major career change someday, but first you’ve got to get all your credit cards paid off. Or lose 30 pounds. Or get your kids through school. There’s always a “but first” or “if” or “Someday, I’ll ..” in your statements about your goals.
SOLUTION: Stop putting off your dreams. Focus on what’s really important to you — and make that your first priority. “Don’t end up as a person with a ‘but first …’ complex,” Gilliam advises. “Many people live a steady diet of ‘if’ and ‘but’s. If ‘if’ and ‘but’s were candy and nuts, some people would have Christmas every day!”
Moving Beyond Your Barriers
How do you get past these powerful barriers and venture out of your comfort zone? Gilliam prescribes a four-step process:
  1. Identify the barrier or barriers that are holding you back, then ask yourself what that barrier is protecting you from.
  1. On a sheet of paper, write down hardest thing you’ll have to overcome to move past your barrier.
  1. Now write the worst that could happen if you leave your comfort zone and fail at whatever it is you want to achieve.
  1. Finally, describe in detail the best thing that could happen if you leave your comfort zone and succeed in realizing your dream.
“Which side of that barrier do you really want to be on?” Gilliam asks. “This is the time to be brutally honest with yourself. Take a look at where you are and what’s keeping you from going after your dreams.”

“If you don’t stretch beyond your comfort zone, you’re going to be in the same place tomorrow and the next day and the next. It’s not easy to come out of your comfort zone — but your comfort has a price,” he concludes.

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