Staying within your “comfort zone” may strike you as a safe choice. After all, why would you voluntarily move into a zone which by definition is uncomfortable and may even be risky and dangerous? The answer is that the area outside your comfort zone is your “Growth Zone” – a place where you can be challenged, where you can learn, and ultimately where you can grow and develop. The Growth Zone requires that you try new behaviors and skills and do things that you haven’t done before. When you embrace the Growth Zone – and embrace discomfort – you will propel your development and your career further. Let me be clear – I am not talking about entering the “panic zone” where you are being asked to do impossible things. I’m talking about stretching into new territories of behaviors and skills where you can expand into your potential. In other words, to be uncomfortable enough to learn but not so uncomfortable that you can’t learn. Step into your Growth Zone.

When you are learning a new skill, you go through four predictable stages. The first stage is unconscious incompetence – you don’t know how bad you are at something. Once you turn your attention to it, you move into conscious incompetence – now you know how bad you are at it. If you actively work to develop the new skill – in other words, if you step into your Growth Zone – you will move into conscious competence where you will have the ability to do it with effort.  Keep going and you will ultimately move into unconscious competence and the new skill will feel natural. Part of the journey from incompetence to competence is accepting and welcoming discomfort, seeing it as a tool to help you grow. As you embrace your Growth Zone, notice how what once was uncomfortable is now comfortable, and celebrate the progress you’re making in creating the career you want.

More information on this tip, and others, can be found in Lead Your Way: Practical Coaching Advice for Creating the Career You Want