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A Comfort Zone Dilemma

The terminology of 'stepping out of your comfort zone' is such an overused term.

Along your career journey, you must have heard that you have to step out of your comfort zone to achieve significant milestones and unleash your potential. However, very few would guide you on how to step out of your comfort zone comfortably to make it a sustainable and enjoyable journey.

A conventional way of success formula entails below:

  1. study hard and get good marks to enter a top university;

  2. achieve straight A results and fully engage in extra-curriculum activities to maximise employability.

  3. secure a job in a company paying a good salary and work hard to get a promotion and pay rise year after year until you get to the top.

To achieve all these, you have to constantly step out of your comfort zone to broaden your horizon, conquer those challenges, and win those battles in your career.

However, keep pushing yourself without acknowledging and protecting your boundaries can be reckless and dangerous. It's not a surprise that we have seen a significant increase in physical & mental health problems resulted from professional related pressure for the past few years.

Countless goals, endless action items, and the anxiety to make changes immediately to succeed have made many young professionals' lives stressful and miserable.

You often see many marketing campaigns trying to convey the urgency and the importance of making changes to stay ahead of the competition. However, such campaigns often have their agenda. They don't put young professionals' interests at the centre of what they do. Change takes time, career progression also takes time, and miracle does not happen after one training course or mentoring program. It takes time to practice, to reflect and to improve. The unrealistic expectation that the result would come fast will eventually hit us hard, left us in a dark place feeling demotivated and disappointed.

Yes, we all need to more or less step out of our comfort zone to stay on top of the constantly changing environment, but we need to do it at our own pace strategically. Throw yourself into an uncomfortable situation without proper preparation is irresponsible and will do more harm than good.

Let me share some of my reflections and welcome your thoughts and comments for further discussion.

  • Leverage your strengths and passion, do it step by step – even in baby steps if need to.

  • Constantly observe, reflect, practice, and adjust when you are trying something new.

  • Each step forward is a confidence booster; each step backwards is a learning opportunity.

  • Prepare yourself mentally and physically before taking these steps.

  • There is no need to rush – you have your own pace, and it's not fair to compare your career with anyone else.

  • Apply your critical thinking to tackle biased or misleading information. Step out of your comfort zone comfortably to make it sustainable.

  • Each small win is a win and worth celebrating.

Steven Yu

A thinker and facilitator helping young professionals thrive.

27 Sep 2021


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