What have you been holding back from doing at work because it makes you feel scared or vulnerable? What are you avoiding because you know it’s a challenge? Are you feeling that you’re stuck in your comfort zone?

We are all very familiar with the term ‘comfort zone’ but what exactly is it and what part does it play in developing and sustaining your career confidence? There is actually some science behind the term. Your comfort zone is a behavioural space where what you do and how you do it fits into a pattern and a routine that minimizes stress and risk. It’s safe and provides you with a state of mental security. In this state you get regular happiness, low anxiety and reduced stress which can create a steady level of performance at work. It’s comfortable!!

There is a BUT though, because to be at your best and deliver maximum performance you need a state of relative anxiety. This is a state where your stress levels are slightly higher than normal, known as Optimal Anxiety, and it can be found just outside your comfort zone! It is important to remember that you are not looking for high stress as this can damage performance, you are looking for enough challenge for it to be enjoyable but not where it’s going to be keeping you awake at night!

Benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone

The reason it’s hard to push yourself out of your comfort zone is that it is our natural tendency to seek an anxiety neutral, comfortable place but there are huge benefits to stepping out. You will:

  • Feel more confident about trying new things and it becomes easier to push boundaries. You know that because you have done it once successfully you can do it again.
  • Find it easier to cope with new and unexpected changes at work. Fear and uncertainty are common place in life and work, and knowing you can deal with them, and manage any risk builds both your confidence and resilience.
  • Be better at your job. Comfort kills productivity. A little bit of stress and challenge enables you to learn new skills, be more productive and get a buzz and satisfaction from pushing your personal boundaries.
  • Be able to cope with failure. Failure helps you to learn and develop. By testing your limits and stretching yourself you will build your experience and manage times when things don’t work out successfully.
  • Expand your world. As humans we learn and grow each time we push through a comfort zone, and when you have mastered one there is another one waiting for you!
  • Feel good! When you push through a comfort zone you get a rush of both adrenaline and dopamine which make you feel good and gives you a buzz. They can also spur you on to challenge yourself more and be ambitious with your career.

So lots of great reasons to just do it! Make a list of all the things you would like to do at work. It’s ok to start slowly and take small steps, remember each comfort zone you master takes you to another. making it manageable, and looking for Optimal Anxiety is the key to pushing through the zone. Finally, enjoy the experience – don’t let fear hold you back!

Originally published at www.careertree.org.uk


  • Sarah Archer

    Career Coach

    I specialise in career success through re-energising your career, changing it and building confidence. I'm passionate about helping women, in particular, discover purposeful work that they love. I've helped hundreds of people change career or re-engage with their existing career. I love what I do and I want as many people as possible to discover a career they can love too.