When to STAY in your comfort zone: lessons from my meeting with TED speaker Susan Cain

Posted on: October 6, 2016

“You need to get out of your comfort zone”.

How often do you get told that by well meaning colleagues?  Frankly, it’s become a cliche.

Of course you need to stretch yourself to develop, but maybe there are times when you need to stay IN your comfort zone?

I recently met TED speaker and bestselling author Susan Cain. Her book Quiet: The Power Of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, explains how introverts can be at a disadvantage in our culture, which values extroversion – and what they can do to thrive.

She explains that we all have “core projects” in our lives – things that we care about and want to make happen. These will mostly play to our innate strengths, but in order to bring them to fruition we need to push ourselves to master skills that do not come easily to us.

As an introvert, researching and writing a book came very easily to her, but when it came to publicising the book through public speaking – including a TED talk – this was way out of her comfort zone.  Through practice and with support she became an accomplished speaker, yet she also says that it’s vital to regularly come back to activities and environments that nourish us – what she calls “restorative niches”.

Do you know what your “restorative niches” are?  If you’ve been in meetings all day, maybe you need to have some quiet time just tidying up your desk and putting things in order. Or on a personal level taking care of yourself physically – a walk in nature, physical activity or a soak in the bath.

When you DO want to stretch yourself think about what support you can get to make the process easier. Terrified of public speaking? Get a coach to help you.  I stretched myself once by signing up for a course on comedy improvisation – the group had lots of professional stand up comedians in it, yet my experience at that time amounted to playing charades in the Brownies when I was 8!

I learnt from our teacher that there is an underlying structure to improvisation and when I learnt this and practised it, I could get up in front of an audience with no script and be funny. I would never have believed that was possible before I took the course.

So, if you’re going for a stretch – get support.  And when you feel stretched enough remember to hop back inside your comfort zone to replenish yourself.