When we’re kids, we explore our interests and abilities, adopting what we like and leaving what we don’t. In this way, we create our comfort zone, where we find less stress, increased efficiency, and improved confidence. But given today’s fast-paced world and ever-growing opportunities, staying in our comfort zone can limit our perspectives and lead to stagnation, ultimately resulting in a lack of personal and professional growth.
It’s important to be willing to stretch and learn new skills, especially in the tech community. There are countless examples of people who stepped outside of their comfort zone and achieved great success, including Microsoft Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Satya Nadella. I remember reading his book, Hit Refresh, in which he discussed leading different businesses, and breaking out of his comfort zone before becoming Microsoft CEO.
The question I want to address in this post is, How do you break out of your comfort zone?It can be challenging—but also rewarding. It’s definitely a process, so I recommend taking things one step at a time. In my career as a Solution Architect, I’ve discovered some useful tips on going beyond my comfort zone, and I’d like to share some of them with you.
Identify your fears
It’s absolutely natural to be afraid of something unknown to you. So, start by asking yourself: Are you scared of failure, rejection, or the unknown—and why?
Once you’ve identified your fears and the reasons for them, you can work on overcoming those fears. This process may involve small steps outside of your comfort zone, and these don’t need to be perfect on the first try. For example, let’s say you’re a technology expert and you want to teach others about it, but you’re afraid of addressing a large audience. A great way to counter this is to start by teaching a small group of people. You can also join a Microsoft Learning Room and co-present there with other experts.
Set clear goals
Clear goals can provide you with a solid sense of purpose, motivating you to go outside of your comfort zone and take on new challenges. Although there are different frameworks for setting up goals, I recommend that you follow SMART—that is, your goals should be:
Specific. Clearly define what you want to achieve.
Measurable. Set milestones to track your progress and to evaluate when you have achieved them. You can even divide individual goals into smaller milestones, making them less daunting.
Achievable. Be sure your goals are realistic and attainable.
Relevant. Build your goals on professional or personal aspirations to help maintain your motivation.
Time bound. Set deadlines by which to achieve these goals.
Everyone experiences failure at one time or another, and this is to be expected when you venture out of your comfort zone. This is because you’re taking risks and trying out new things. Instead of avoiding failure, embrace it as part of the learning process. In fact, failure can give you valuable feedback and help you identify areas for improvement. Use it as a steppingstone toward great success, as it helps you build resilience and develop a growth mindset.
Surround yourself with supportive people
As a human, it’s important to have a solid support system around you—family, friends, mentors, colleagues, and others. Moving out of your comfort zone can result in many challenges, but people in your support circle can help keep you motivated, boost your confidence, and cheer you on as you overcome obstacles.
As you set your goals, look for people who can provide you with constructive feedback. Seek advice from those with experience in the area you’re pursuing. One place to connect with peers and experts who are exploring technology is the Microsoft Learn Community, where you can engage with others and get guidance on your journey.
Break out of your comfort zone
Saying goodbye to your comfort zone can be scary, but it’s important to do so—for your personal and professional growth. By identifying your fears, setting clear goals, embracing failure, and surrounding yourself with supportive people, you can set yourself up to achieve great success. Ready to explore new tech skills? Microsoft Learn provides you with an opportunity to learn new things every day. Invest your time trying out new technologies, building new skills, and breaking free from your comfort zone. To find out more about how we can learn together, join me in my Learning Room, AI for Everyone.
Meet Arafat Tehsin, Microsoft Learn expert
Arafat Tehsin is a Solution Architect at EY and a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) (AI) in Sydney, Australia. With over a decade of software development experience, he specializes in digital transformation and business automation using innovative technologies. Arafat has a passion for solutions around Azure AI, .NET, and Microsoft Power Platform. He's a speaker at several developer conferences and loves to contribute to the democratization of AI.