This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.
Everyone has a so-called “comfort zone.” You know what I’m talking about: that mental space you live in where there are boundaries and you feel a sense of emotional security with your work and your decision making.
What distinguishes successful people from everyone else is what they do with their comfort zone. There are those who are perfectly happy staying warm and cozy in this safe box they’ve built; and then are those who constantly push and test the limits.
You already know which person goes on to be a successful entrepreneur.
Now I’m not suggesting that the comfort zone is a bad thing. It’s there for a reason: to protect us. Otherwise we all may be jumping off cliffs and out of airplanes. It also protects us from taking on more stress and anxiety than we are equipped to deal with. But eventually the familiar routine of your comfort zone will keep you from learning, and experiencing new things that are potentially good for us. It is also likely to prevent you from building a thriving business.
So how do you know when your comfort zone is holding you back? Here are a few things you may notice:
- Excessive stress
- Anxiety about your situation
- Excuses–lots of them!
- A stagnant, or failing, business
Any of those sound familiar? It’s time for a stretch. Try these baby steps and watch your world grow.
Accept that you are less than perfect.
Are you afraid of what others may think, or of letting someone down? Usually the “rules” we create around how to behave so others will accept us are nothing but self-imposed, ridiculously high standards. Get a little crazy. Do something fun, like dance in the department store (my kids were mortified) or sing at karaoke. Break the illusion of perfection and join the rest of us in the human race.
Break the fear barrier.
So what are you really afraid of? Make a list. Include everything, from fear of spiders to fear of financial devastation. Now make a plan to face your fears one at a time. Begin small. If you have a phobia, for instance, reach out for help to eliminate it. The Emotional Freedom Techniques has an amazing track record of curing phobias. Knock these fears off your list one at a time and celebrate each success.
Get a partner.
There are some things that just aren’t meant to be done alone. For over two years, I’ve had a dream to produce and present an empowering women’s conference. But it remained a dream and nothing more. Then one day my coach said to me, “that’s just not something you take on all by yourself,” and I finally got it. I needed a partner in this endeavor. Sure enough, I found someone within a week and “Make It Happen” is happening this September. It’s amazing how much fun it is to create and I am certainly stretching the limits of my comfort zone. But since I’m no longer alone in this little adventure, I still feel safe (mostly).
Is there something you want to do that just shouldn’t be done alone? Find a buddy and make it happen.
Detach and accept.
Your comfort zone keeps you in a very predictable space: You usually know exactly what’s going to happen. A fear of the unknown will keep you stuck forever. So the trick here is to let go of your expectations and accept the results of your actions. Take risks in measured amounts. If you are designing a new consulting program or rolling out a new product, do it in small bits. Don’t go gangbusters and risk losing it all. Gamble with something you are willing to lose. These losses will teach you something, such as how to make the product better or market it differently. Look forward to the outcome, whatever it is.
Hang out with someone different.
Often we choose our friends and peers based on what we have in common. Instead, try to find someone who’s crazier than you. Choosing the company of people who go farther out on the limb will bring out your adventurous side. Be open-minded and observe the benefits of being more daring.
Imagine your success.
If you spend a few minutes each day visualizing your success you will become more willing to take the risks associated with it. Give your brain a break and daydream a bit. You’ll be amazed at the results.
Now go ahead and break those silly rules–and keep me posted on your success.