Stepping out of the comfort zone

Tiina Tukia, Marketing and Communications, Ruukki
Jun 14, 2016

“You should step out of your comfort zone”. This is a phrase that I hear often when the discussion is about change or changing the way we work. I use this phrase, too. The amusing thing is that we use it more often when we refer to other people than ourselves. It is like I had nothing to do with it and only others need to do that. Frankly, I have noticed that I am not the only one thinking this way.

After having an interesting discussion at work with my colleague about “stepping out of the comfort zone” I really started to think about it. More specifically, our discussion was really about change, and in my opinion it describes much better what is in the core of “stepping out of the comfort zone”.

I argue that most of us would like to stay inside our comfort zone. This means that we want to be and feel comfortable. And I believe we do that because it is human behaviour. This way we can control the way we work and we know what happens next. We also know how to behave or act and we do not need to put any extra effort on thinking about our next steps – and most importantly, everything goes faster and smoother when there are no unexpected surprises. Who would like to make one's life more complicated? Nobody.

Comfort zone hinders new opportunities and we can't afford that

But there is one big problem with the “comfort zone”; it stops progress and creates a kind of a bird’s nest environment that does not take into account the changing environment around us. And it hinders the great new opportunities that are out there, because we do not even want to try anything new. I do not believe we can afford that. Not as a company or as individuals.

So, let’s start to shake the “comfort zone” a bit: What happens if we step out and start trying new ways of working, or playing with new technology, or learn new tools? Or let’s spend some time in solving the challenges we might have. Or what if we have to say at work: “I do not know” or ask for help from a nearby colleague? I am 100 % sure that nothing negative will happen. On the contrary, many positive things will happen: We learn new ways of working and we realise how good it feels to learn about ideas and use our brains for something new. And most importantly, there is progressiveness and we are part of it, instead of sitting and feeling comfortable in our bird’s nests.

Change is a constant condition and you need to learn how to love it

I know it is not easy to walk the talk. I have personally been fortunate as I had the opportunity to work for a great leader who said sometime in 1990: “Change is a constant condition and you need to learn how to love it”. At that time the pace of change was not the same as in 2016, but he taught me one important thing: Change is not a bad word and we should not be afraid of adapting to change. Now in Ruukki, a few weeks back, I was asked to take part in piloting new technology for Ruukki Construction, and my intuitive answer was an immediate YES. I realised that I wanted to see some change in the way I work, or in the way our company works. So what has happened? Yes, I have been frustrated for a while. And I have been missing my own comfort zone for a while. I often need to ask advice from colleagues in the same group. But on the positive side I realise that I learn new things every day, and this feels inspiring. It is about learning something related to the future, a direction which is always better than looking backwards. At least for me it is.

I hope that I can live my life by keeping my sensors open also going forward. I believe that makes tonnes of sense and it is an investment in myself. This blog post only touched on change related to the working environment. Naturally, stepping out of a comfort zone also relates to our private lives. But that is a different story, and way more complicated. But not impossible.

Tiina Tukia
Marketing and Communications, Ruukki

Contact Tiina on Twitter: @TiinaTukia

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