How To Grow Beyond Your Comfort Zone Personally & Professionally

Melissa Bennett-Heinz
LCSW, Gestalt Psychotherapy

Personal Growth

Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “There is one grand lie – that we are limited. The only limits we have are the limits we believe.”  I have learned in growing my business and building the private practice I wanted to have, it can be as abundant as I want. I operated from many limiting beliefs taught by my family, healthcare system, and profession that simply weren’t true. Once I began to challenge my mindset, implement a new strategy, and have it succeed, I began to truly believe I was the only one who could set limits on me. 

 What does “getting outside of your comfort zone” mean?  When venturing out of your comfort zone, you potentially open yourself up to personal growth which allows you to stretch yourself, learn new skills, and develop resilience.It refers to pushing yourself to experience new and unfamiliar situations that challenge your current mindset, beliefs, capabilities, and various levels of comfort. 

There are a few reasons why it is important to get out of your comfort zone.  When you get out of your comfort zone, you expose yourself to opportunities for growth, learning, and personal development. It involves taking risks, facing fear, and embracing feeling uncomfortable to expand your horizons, discover new abilities, and broaden your perspective. When venturing out of your comfort zone, you potentially open yourself up to personal growth which allows you to stretch yourself, learn new skills, and develop resilience. In turn, this promotes self-confidence and boosts overall growth. Leaving your comfort zone often involves confronting fears and navigating unfamiliar landscapes. In doing so, you build courage and the ability to manage and overcome challenges. Continuously pushing your boundaries helps expand your comfort zone over time. It’s like riding a bike, first, it’s hard and scary but over time it is easier and eventually, second nature. Change is inevitable, and by regularly getting out of your comfort zone, you become more adept at embracing and adapting to change. This valuable skill prepares you to thrive in dynamic environments. 

Is it possible to grow without leaving your comfort zone? 

This is a good question and in my own experience, the answer is no. If everything you do is comfortable, easy, and safe, you never have to make any adjustments and changes, you are never challenged in how you’re operating, thinking, and feeling. 

I speak from personal experience. Being a classically trained musician, I have been taught to challenge my comfort zone from a young age and it has become almost second nature for me. I know this is not usual and how fortunate I am indeed. One of the biggest steps I took outside of my comfort zone was when I began to completely restructure my private practice business a few years ago. I transitioned from being an insurance-based business to private pay. This required me to make a lot of changes in how my business was operating which affected every single patient in my practice. I not only had to make the changes, but I also had to inform patients which impacted our relationship. As a therapist, it is my job to always be present in their experience and feelings while simultaneously paying attention (not reacting or responding) to my own and using them to inform my work. This was a time of fear and very high anxiety. Honestly, I was terrified. I had to do a lot of self-coaching, mindfulness meditation, and be willing to feel my fear, breath, and do it anyway. My business and life depended on me making these changes. It was so challenging and you know what, I got through it. My worst fears, in fact, none of my fears, came true. The more I talked about these changes, the easier it has become. I look back now and still feel so proud and amazed at what I did. I had to be willing to look at so much of what was informing my choices and do something that felt so wrong to my system. It wasn’t that it was wrong, it was just what I was programmed to do and the programming was off. 

Five ways to push past your comfort zone, to grow both personally and professionally...

  1. Embrace new challenges by seeking opportunities that appear unfamiliar and may feel daunting. Taking on a new challenge can assist you in acquiring new skills and broaden your perspective. 
  2. Step out of your normal routine by trying a new activity or implementing a different routine from which you are familiar This could include exploring a new hobby or engaging in an activity that frightens you. By doing this, you allow yourself to adapt to change and embrace the unknown.
  3. Seek constructive criticism and feedback. Set your fear aside and ask for feedback from colleagues, mentors, or friends. Constructive criticism can provide you with insights and help to identify areas for improvement. If you are willing to be open to feedback, you can grow both personally and professionally. 
  4. Expand your network. Connect with other people who are diverse and can offer you a different experience and perspective. Attend events, join communities, and engage in conversation with different individuals so that you can broaden your horizons and challenge existing beliefs. 
  5. Set goals outside of your comfort zone and push yourself to be ambitious in a way that you challenge what feels comfortable. These goals should challenge you to try a new skill and take risks. By constantly pushing the boundaries of what you believe is possible, you can achieve remarkable growth. 

The most common barrier that keeps someone from pushing out of their comfort zone is fear of failure. Many people worry about making mistakes, being judged, and not meeting their own or other people’s expectations. This fear holds many people back from taking risks or trying new things. Two, people who lack confidence in themselves also face a barrier to pushing out of their comfort zone. A lack of confidence can make it very difficult to push past your comfort zone. When you doubt your ability or capability or feel uncertain about an outcome, it is very difficult to take on a new challenge. It is important to build confidence through self-reflection, and personal development, and acknowledge wins no matter how small they seem. Lastly, not being willing to challenge feeling uncomfortable. Human beings naturally gravitate towards what feels safe and known. This comfort prevents seeking new experiences and limits growth. The fear of leaving your comfort zone for the unknown keeps people stuck and hinders personal and professional development. 

I love the quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that says, “Do something that scares you every day”.  It is great advice to follow. However, I don’t think we need to take on everything that makes us feel uncomfortable. It is important to make wise choices around what discomfort we challenge. It may indeed be uncomfortable to walk outside at night and that discomfort may be something important to pay attention to especially when it is based on a realistic fear. It might not be safe to walk outside at night. Listen to your gut. Too many times in my work with patients, I hear, “I knew something was not right and I didn’t listen.” Trust your instincts and be discerning. 

If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people...I would love to inspire a movement of courage and bravery in relationships with one another in the world, a place designed to build a connection between people. I felt lonely and isolated for too many years, stuck in my fear, and shame, and entrenched in the hustle culture. I missed out on a lot of connection and joy. I hear so many people express feelings of loneliness, stress, and isolation and I wish I could introduce my patients to each other. What is missing and what has been accentuated with what technology has brought to our lives is connection. We have lost the ability to be present with each other. From sharing such a space or being with another person emerges the possibility of empathy, understanding, and connection — the opposite of loneliness and isolation. In this space, people would take the time to hear another's story, see another human’s eyes, take in body language, notice facial gestures, and stay present in the moment, together. From experiences and connections such as these, people would begin to imagine and remember that while we each have different stories, we experience similar feelings, and, as a result, we would potentially diminish feelings of loneliness and isolation. We would return to a place of togetherness, a sense of community, a feeling that we are not alone, but rather, there is solidarity and unity. 

“There is one grand lie – that we are limited. The only limits we have are the limits we believe.”


Dr. Wayne Dyer