• Sharon Peake

Entering the stretch zone: stepping outside your comfort zone

As professionals, much of the time we naturally operate within a comfort zone of what we know, drawing on our accumulated experience and skills to guide us. Here we are competent and feel at ease with our work. But here we are also less likely to innovate and over time can stagnate.

It is by stepping out of comfort zone, into a stretch zone, where our learning occurs (see image below).

In the stretch zone we expand our knowledge and learning, apply and re-apply lessons, and challenge ourselves. As we are outside our comfort zone it can feel uneasy, and can entail risk, but it can also be energising and provides us with a sense of accomplishment as we grow.

The challenge is to stretch yourself enough, but not too much, which can put you in the ‘panic zone’. In the panic zone one can feel overwhelmed and learning is less likely to occur. Here we become stressed and our energy goes to dealing with our stress and anxiety and prevents us from learning.

The challenge for us all is to find ways to deliberately move ourselves into the stretch zone, to ensure that we continue to learn and grow, and fulfil our potential.

As we focus on our development we should consciously identify new ways to expand our learning and growth. Annual career reviews and development planning sessions are a great time to do this.

Sharon Peake is the founder of Shape Talent Ltd, a gender equality coaching and consulting business established with the sole purpose of accelerating more women into senior leaderships roles in business. We work with organisations to remove the barriers to women’s progression and we work with individual women, helping them to achieve their career potential.

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