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Your comfort zone; the place where you feel competent and perform well, but also the place where you can get bored, miss opportunities and learn new things less quickly. When we want to grow, it is necessary to step outside your comfort zone.

Senniger’s comfort-learning-panic zone model shows this clearly. The comfort zone includes all the situations we already know, skills we have learned, and activities that come easily to us. Far outside your comfort zone is your panic zone; this zone includes challenges that are too big and difficult at the time. You don’t have the necessary skills yet, you don’t know where to start and you experience a high degree of stress. The learning zone lies between the comfort zone and the panic zone. This zone includes everything that is challenging; things we haven’t done before, but not impossible to do. When you are in your learning zone, you do not experience fear, but rather focus and positive emotions that come with learning new things.

By being in your learning zone more often, things shift from the learning zone to the comfort zone. Your comfort zone expands that way. Things out of your panic zone, slide into your learning zone. In other words; in your learning zone you push your limits. According to Senniger, you learn best when you alternate between your comfort zone and your learning zone. However, it can be quite difficult to leave your comfort zone (temporarily); our brain is naturally in the ‘protect and avoid’ mode. We often prefer to avoid situations that generate tension, uncertainty or other negative emotions.

With these 3 tips you help yourself to get out of the ‘avoid’ mode and make the step to your learning zone easier:

Be honest with yourself
When a challenging situation arises and you avoid it, look objectively at the reason. If you turn down the opportunity to speak at a conference, is it really because you’re too busy, or actually because it scares you? Or when you don’t confront your colleague about behavior that bothers you, is it because you really believed it would stop, or because you didn’t want to confront your colleague with it? When you take a closer look at the reasons objectively, you discover the real motives behind your choices. In this way you take the first step towards making other choices consciously.
Turn a big deal into a smaller deal. There are often a few things that we find exciting about a situation. That means that there are also things about a situation that we do not find exciting. By focusing on that, you make difficult things easier for yourself. For example, do you find it exciting to network with strangers, except when it is a small group of people? Then don’t address everyone, but focus on 1 or 2 people with whom you experience having a connection. In any challenging situation, there are opportunities to keep one foot in your comfort zone. Recognize these opportunities and take advantage of them.

Take the step
Stepping out of your comfort zone always means a moment when you cross a threshold. The moment you make the choice to do this, you give yourself a goal to work towards. You have made a first victory over yourself and can then focus on achieving success. Therefore, try to ignore your first ‘avoid’ tendency and make the choice to go for something. Share it with others for extra support.

Growing means trial and error
Stepping out of your comfort zone can therefore sometimes be accompanied by certain ‘growing pains’. You take the risk that you may fail, but you also create a chance for great success. By taking small steps and occasionally pushing yourself to do something exciting, you help yourself to reach your full potential.

Good luck!

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