The Comfort Zone Trap

You need to talk to your leader about your future opportunities, but before the meeting even starts, you start to catastrophise. Taking on more responsibility would allow you to grow, but you are faced with your own growing imposter syndrome. You want to pursue the next step in your career, but it’s easier to be comfortable in your current role.  

We know that pushing through these fears would benefit us professionally, yet we allow ourselves to be held back by our own personal trepidations. Avoidance is the easiest, and the most reliable choice we can make – why would we choose to feel anxious when we don’t need to?

Whilst it may feel inconvenient, these growth opportunities are essential to our overall happiness and professional success. As we advance in our careers, we are constantly confronted with situations in which we must change our behaviour instead of avoiding the borders of our comfort zone. We need to embrace these moments as critical learning opportunities. How do you challenge the need to stay inside your comfort zone?

Firstly, address and reframe your fears. Do you just not like participating in public speaking, or facilitating team meetings? Or do you not feel psychologically safe within your workplace and put pressure on yourself to perform well? These fears can hold you back from taking risks and making bold decisions, which can limit your potential as a leader. 

Don’t get us wrong – there is no magic cure to overcoming your fears. Yet acknowledgement and subsequent acceptance of their impact on your behaviour is the first step. Once these points are identified, you can create a plan to address these fears and develop strategies to mitigate their effects. (see point two). 

The simple act of confronting your fears head-on and stepping beyond your comfort zone can bring on a newfound sense of confidence which can propel you to become a more effective leader. For example, a study published in the Harvard Business Review found that leaders who were highly self-aware had a direct correlation with their eventual success in the role. 

Next, set yourself challenging but manageable goals. What are the areas where you feel complacent, or where you have not yet developed expertise? This could include mastering a new technology, becoming a mentor for future leaders, or taking on a leadership role in a new project.  

Once you have identified your areas of focus, you can set specific and achievable (S.M.A.R.T) goals that challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone. Earlier in the year, we reflected on S.M.A.R.T. goals and how to set them – read the blog here. 

It’s crucial to set goals that are difficult enough to require enough hard work and dedication, but not so difficult that you become deflated and never achieve them. Forbes found that organisations that set specific and measurable goals are four times more likely to achieve success than those who do not. (1) As a leader, setting challenging goals and working to achieve them can develop new skills and capabilities that benefit both the organisation and your own personal growth.  

Finally, seek feedback from your peers and mentors. Does your understanding of your own comfort zone match what others are experiencing? Feedback is the most valuable tool in your leadership toolbox. It can provide valuable insights into areas where you can improve and provides the opportunity to be held accountable for your own development and growth.  

Feedback should be sought, both in the beginning of your development journey and when you think you’ve achieved your goal. This is reinforced by Harvard Business Review, who found that four out of ten team members are actively disengaged when they receive little or no feedback. (2) Receiving feedback is the driving force for our own development. 

The truth is – imposter syndrome is alive and well. We will always have to step beyond our comfort zones. This is not a task we complete once at the peak of our career, and then never endeavour on again. It is a path we must takeagain, and again, to be effective leaders.  

Stepping beyond our own comfort zones, and getting out of our own way, is vital to our overall happiness and professional success. We are often held back by our fears and avoidance seems to be the easiest option. As leaders, it is our responsibility to push ourselves and those around us to step beyond our comfort zones and achieve our full potential. 


  1. Rampolla, M. (2018, January 9). The Power of Measurable Goals. Forbes. Retrieved from
  2. Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. (2017). The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance. Retrieved from


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