Photo Credit: Chris Geirman,

By nature, we’re creatures of habit and anything that breaks into our habitual routine can induce stress.

What would be the rationale of straying from our comfort zones if it causes stress?

There may be challenges, anxiety, frustration when deterring from the norm… yet there’s tremendous room for growth outside of our comfort zone.

It was IBM CEO Ginni Rometty that said,

“Growth and comfort don’t coexist. That’s true for people, companies, nations.”

Which of course, includes you and your team. As a leader, it takes change to make change for not only yourself, but your team, and potentially your company.

Change Is Difficult

Why’s being uncomfortable so hard?

Stepping outside of your comfort zone means that your likability, competence, and authenticity may be challenged. As a leader, the potential for growth and development of you and your team may outweigh the risk of remaining stagnant. Challenging yourself pushes you to dip into and utilize your knowledge and resources.

Reflect back on the books, podcasts, and all other developmental tools in your kit and use them. What you’re capable of doing and creating may amaze you once you give yourself the freedom to be uncomfortable.

Taking calculated risks and considering their outcome are growth experiences. Even if you make mistakes, or don’t get it right the first time, these experiences are learning lessons that can be used to tap into for the future. These experiences lead us to what works, what doesn’t work and why, and are huge opportunities for learning and growth.

Companies That Challenge Comfort

Companies like Google and Intuit encourage their employees to step out of their comfort zone and make mistakes because of the high risk for innovation and discoveries. Going outside of what we know is where we find “ah-ha!” moments.

We have to break away from our normal doing and thinking to let thoughts we normally push out, seep in instead. Brilliant mistakes have been benefiting our society for centuries (think penicillin and Gore-Tex).

As a leader, lead by example. Encourage your employees to grow and challenge themselves by doing something each day that makes them uncomfortable. It may be as small as having a verbal conversation as opposed to an email or leading a training on a skill where they already excel. Still hesitant? Use simulations in the workplace if necessary.

Growth in Change

Research points to how being uncomfortable by challenging ourselves and trying out new things actually makes us smarter. New ways of thinking and new experiences challenge neurons to grow and create new pathways from the information gathered during these experiences.

Aside from leading by example, be transparent. Encourage communication. Encourage sharing. Strong communication and encouragement on your part as a leader helps you, your team, and your organization grow. By encouraging this new way of thinking, you and your workplace can become a place of higher learning and endless opportunity.  

Start Small

By expanding our comfort zone and trying new experiences we begin to chip away at the line between comfort and discomfort.

Unless it’s against your values or morals, challenge yourself to step outside of what you know and don’t turn down opportunities that are outside your wheelhouse. Try to make small changes that take you out of your everyday routine, yet aren’t too emotionally challenging.

Start the change process by adding a small change to your daily and/or work routine. Try something new—food, music, activities you’ve never done. Undertake a creative project of any kind where your thinking’s channeled in a whole new way.

Add newness to your life. Be open.

 Photo Credit: Chris Geirman,