You’ve heard it before, “move out of your comfort zone” is the familiar phrase spoken by many entrepreneurs, gurus and mentors. As a small business owner, I’ve come to appreciate the sage advice to move beyond my comfort zone in business, relationships, and life. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working at a non-profit counseling center, I was quickly becoming disillusioned with the amount of time, emotional energy, and effort I was putting in as a counselor for an extremely low income.

I found myself longing to spend more time with my boys and husband but I had student loans, licensing fees and association dues to pay – so I continued to work for the non-profit counseling center.  As I began to entertain the idea of going into private practice, I found all sorts of perfectly good reasons why I should not.

Eventually all the fears I felt about making the change were outweighed by the intense desire to move into my own office and practice Marriage and Family Therapy in my own unique way. I took my first step and sought an office to rent from another therapist by the hour. I began telling everyone I knew I was going into private practice and soon, I took on some clients. It felt so good to meet with clients in an office where I was in charge of how long the session would run, what specific treatment modality to use and what to charge for a session based upon the client’s needs. That was my first step outside my comfort zone.

Fast forwarding to the present moment, I now practice as a therapist and small business coach helping other healing practitioners and creative types start and grow the business of their dreams. Now that I’m working the way I have always wanted, it is an interesting phenomenon that I continue to find myself being lured into keeping things safe and comfortable. I have had to make a conscious effort to push myself beyond my comfort zone each and every day.

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Here are 5 tips to help business owner’s step outside their comfort zone and into the adventure and success zone:

ü  Change your thoughts – Everyone struggles with limiting thought patterns from time to time, but because thoughts drive feelings and behavior, it is important to learn to harness those negative thoughts and replace them with more reality-based, positive thoughts. It is absolutely true that when we choose to pay attention to the positive aspects of life this thought pattern orients our mind-body system toward success-inviting behaviors.

Start by examining those pesky little “what if” questions that creep into our minds. Questions like, “What if I invest in this form of advertising and it doesn’t work? ” “What if I open up my own office and can’t get enough business to pay the rent?”. These are the kind of fear-based questions that will keep you in your comfort zone. Harness those questions and replace them with positive “what if” questions. “What if I wrote some articles about my area of expertise and find I really enjoy it?” “What if spoke at an association meeting and was able to communicate my passion about my work?”

ü   Move through fear with action. Use your fears to challenge yourself to new heights. The best antidote to fear is taking action. Take an adventurous approach to anything you fear. Are you afraid of calling that successful entrepreneur who might be able to help you out? Just do it – jot down a quick script, practice saying it out loud and then pick up that phone and call. Are you afraid to speak in front of groups? Perhaps you could join Toast Masters and learn how to speak in a group where everyone else is also learning. The crazy thing about fear is that it is an emotion that is rarely based in truth. Don’t let some distorted version of reality stop you from making gains, start taking actions and move through the fear.

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ü  Picture yourself reaching that next level of success. The brain can more easily create new neural pathways when we engage as many of the senses as possible, so create a mental movie that is rich in details. What would it look like when you reach that major goal? What kinds of sights, smells, tastes and feelings will you experience once you reach that goal? Take a few 5 minute breaks throughout the day to relax with deep breaths and run your mental movie. The more you picture yourself accomplishing your goal, the more likely you are to move out of your comfort zone to create the new thoughts and behaviors needed to succeed.

ü  Take up a hobby or sport that moves you out of your comfort zone. Some entrepreneurs go sky-diving or wind-surfing – this allows them to experience the mind-body feeling state of doing something new and conquering fear. You do not necessarily need to take up a high-risk hobby or sport to move out of the comfort zone. You could try something as simple as hiking a little longer or higher than usual, taking a sculpting class, painting a picture without being concerned with the outcome or joining a community softball team.The emotional and mental experience of trying a new hobby or sport will translate to an expanded vision for your business. It will make it easier to try new approaches, think new thoughts, and attempt new ways of doing business.

ü  Invest money into your business. When times are tight, our knee-jerk reaction is to tend to cut back on our marketing budget, research and development and new equipment or software. Instead of giving in to the temptation to slash growth-producing spending, find some savvy ways to invest in your business that will signal your own psyche that you are willing to put your money where your mouth is. This moves us out of our comfort zone by growing our faith in ourselves and in our business as well as putting some skin in the game.

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Now, I have moved into yet another adventure zone – I’ve added small business coaching which has taken me out of the comfort zone of simply practicing Marriage and Family Therapy. Now people depend upon me to help them combine their talents, gifts and passion to create the business of their dreams.

An important part of this process is self-discovery. I use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to help people discover their unique personality traits so they can play up their strengths and find ways to work with their weaknesses. Their personality will determine, to some degree, how much risk they are willing to take, how good they are at taking risks and how they can best move out of their own personal comfort zone.

If you need help moving out of your comfort zone, one of the best ways to get support is by hiring a coach, mentor, consultant or an objective person who will help you set new goals and reach for the stars.


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