The idea of the “comfort zone” originated in 1908, when psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson explained that to maximise performance, we need a state of ‘optimal anxiety’; not too much (or it becomes too stressful), but just enough that it induces enough stress to ensure discomfort.
Comfort zones are meant to be stretched; it’s the only way they grow. And with that in mind, throughout my life, I’ve always tried to push myself to embrace ‘vomit moments’; those times where you really don’t want to do something, but you do it anyway. Here are a few of those moments that have helped me grow and the positive outcomes that came out of stretching my own comfort zone.
1. Moving to New Zealand
In 2009, my wife and I packed our bags and moved to New Zealand. We were leaving good, well-paying jobs and a support network in London to come to a country where we knew no one and didn’t have any kind of security whatsoever.
Fast forward a decade and New Zealand is our home; there is nowhere else in the world we would rather live. If we hadn’t taken the bold step to emigrate, we might never have found out that New Zealand was the best country in the world.
2. Starting Pure SEO
After moving to New Zealand, I had the crazy idea of starting my business. After all, what could possibly go wrong? We had no money, a child on the way and absolutely no network or support in New Zealand. With hindsight, I look back and think how crazy and naïve I must have been to just start.
Today, Pure SEO has over 60 team members and 5 offices over 3 countries. Although it was terrifying starting Pure, it was undoubtedly one of the most valuable and defining things I have ever done in my life.
3. Taking the stage
I am a natural introvert and the idea of getting up in front of big crowds has always terrified me. In the early days, I remember doing an interview with a respected journalist by the name of Gill South. She advised me that one of the things I should consider if I wanted a successful business was to speak at industry events. I took her advice and started doing so. Whilst I still get nervous today, public speaking has been one of the most successful business strategies I have employed.
4. Taking calculated risks
I remember bringing on my first member of staff; there was absolutely no way I could afford her (I barely earned enough to pay myself!). However, I needed to free myself up to grow the business, rather than doing all the work myself. The same was the case with my second member of staff. I distinctly remember sleepless nights worrying where I was going to find the money to pay them.
I think the reason that the business was a success back then is that I put myself into the position of ‘sink or swim’. If I did not make the requisite sales, I would not be able to afford to pay the wages, and ultimately the business would have been a failure.
5. Confronting things head on
Being an introvert, I intrinsically try to avoid conflict. Over the years, I have had people take advantage of this trait. Because of this, I have learnt to stymie this instinctual response and embrace confrontation if it is the right thing to do. This has minimised people taking advantage of my nature too often, allowed me to fire bad clients, and taught me to be a better leader and father.
Although it may not be natural to deliberately embrace discomfort, invariably this is where the magic of growth begins. The next time you’re feeling anxious or find yourself outside your comfort zone, face the fear and do it anyway. More often than not, you’ll find yourself rising to the occasion.