Five ways to thrive when you’re outside your comfort zone

It’s life-affirming to do something novel or unexpected: going out on your own as a solopreneur, joining a startup as an early team member, or moving to a new city, for example.

Once you’ve embarked on a new adventure, you may feel moments (or longer stretches) of doubt. That’s normal, of course. The good news? There are plenty of strategies that you can implement to help you thrive when feeling outside of your comfort zone. It’s time to find out how brave you truly are.

Recognize that risk is opportunity

On his podcast, “Startup Handmedowns”—for founders to learn from founders—Ranbir Arora speaks to entrepreneurs and successful leaders.

“Entrepreneurs definitely tackle fear and risk in a different way,” says the WeWork South Bank member and founder of Sweatcoin, an app that converts your physical steps into currency. “They perceive risk as opportunities once they quantify it. And they are not afraid of failing. They know that when you fail, you can learn from the key failures as you get out of it, which gives them the encouragement to try again.”

Entrepreneurs who view failures as learning opportunities are training their brains to feel more confident taking action outside their comfort zones. When they take a risk, they receive positive reinforcement—either they succeed or they acquire more information about what they’re doing.

“Entrepreneurs definitely have a different mindset as to how they approach challenges,” says Arora.

Take care of your biggest asset

You are your most important business asset. So, it’s important to practice good self-care when you’re outside your comfort zone. Inventory what activities are most relaxing for you and what you can do that’s restorative, whether you have a free 20 minutes, 40 minutes, or two hours. It may be helpful to schedule “leisure time” in your planner and observe that appointment like you would a session with a business coach.

According to Dominique Gagnon, the founder of Act of Creation, a branding and business development agency for new food brands, “I think what carries me through is the basics: good sleep, friends, and family to make me laugh and relax, and my ‘self-soothing’ tricks.”

The WeWork Berkeley member’s tricks include cooking new recipes, long baths with wine, and Saturday mornings at the farmers’ market.

Know who’s on your team

When you’re outside your comfort zone, it’s a perfect time to assemble your “team.” Not your business partners or employees per se, but rather, who is going to root for you or add levity to your life. It’s a powerful exercise to write down who these people are.

Michelle Mather, a WeWork Custom House member and life coach, says to “Know your advocates. Have people in your life who are in your corner, see your potential, and champion you onward, even if they can’t see your vision. Find these people and make time to be with them. Just having their energy around can keep you moving through any discomfort.”

Create an atmosphere of playfulness and curiosity

“The early part of a startup’s life is just about discovery and finding out about your business,” says Arora. “The reason you get into a startup is to make a huge success out of it, and that can mean making money or working on a passionate cause. What you shouldn’t be too precious on is how you’ll get to that destination. For now, it’s your job to throw spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks.”

Regularly step out of your comfort zone

“You’ll get an answer that resonates with you,” says Mather. “Most recently, for me, it was redefining ‘networking.’ I ask myself, ‘How can I spend time with some really cool people this week, that I haven’t met yet, who seem to be interested in the same things I am? And when I meet and connect with just one or two people, how can I support what they’re up to?’”

Redefining the concept of networking made the act of networking much less daunting. Now, in fact, “It’s actually something I can get excited about,” says Mather.

Photo: Lauren Kallen

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