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Learning to step outside your comfort zone is critical.  Change is the greatest constant we face and learning to adapt, evolve and thrive is critical.  Helping clients build cognitive and emotional dexterity in disruptive times is critical to my 3Q work.

I am honoured to have interviewed Professor Andy Molinsky, whose latest book, REACH is an important read that gives the reader strategies to move past his/her comfort zone.

Q & A:  Professor Molinsky |  Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge and Build Confidence 

Q: What’s so difficult about acting outside your comfort zone?

A:  I find 5 specific reasons.  The first is the Authenticity Challenge:  It’s the idea that acting outside your comfort zone can feel fake, foreign, and false.

The second is the Competence Challenge:  In addition to feeling inauthentic, you can also feel like you don’t have the ability to be successful in a situation outside your comfort zone.

The third roadblock is what I call the Resentment Challenge: Even if people logically know that they need to change their behavior to be effective in a new situation, they may feel resentful or frustrated about having to stretch beyond where they’re comfortable.

Roadblock #4 is the Likeability Challenge:  One of the greatest worries people feel when stretching outside their comfort zones is whether people will like this new version of themselves.

Finally, Roadblock #5 is the Morality Challenge:  In certain instances, people can have legitimate concerns about the morality of the behavior they’re about to perform.  Of course, people don’t necessarily experience each of these roadblocks each time they attempt to act outside their comfort zones.  However, even one or two roadblocks can be enough to keep people fully ensconced within their comfort zones.


 Q: What are some of the mistakes we make when learning to move outside of our natural comfort zones?

A:  One of the biggest mistakes I find is having an unrealistic perspective on what getting outside your comfort zone is all about. At the end of my book, I detail a series of “myths” about comfort zones that people can fall prey to. For example, one myth is that “all it takes to get outside your comfort zone is taking a leap.” But this saying is quite misleading because few people truly just spontaneously “leap” outside their comfort zones.  Rather, any leap we take is typically the product of a great deal of thinking, deliberation, and courage. And when people are told to “just take a leap!” – implying that this is all it takes to step outside your comfort zone – it can feel more demoralizing than inspiring.


Q: What’s the best way to build resilience?

A:  Think of building resilience in the way you’d build a muscle.  To build resilience, you want to challenge your abilities, but not strain them.  So, the first key is to find “just right” type situations to practice – where you can work on developing and honing your skills – ideally in a challenging, but not too challenging context. You also want to ideally adopt what psychologist Carol Dweck calls a learning orientation towards the inevitable mistakes you will make, so you see them as an inevitable (and critical) part of the skill-building process, as opposed to evidence of failure.  Finally, find a way to nudge yourself to continue trying whatever behavior you’re afraid of. When you have the chance to do something over and over again – even something scary – it loses some of its power over you – and this “desensitization” effect is another key ingredient in the resilience-building process.


Q: How do you help others learn to step outside their comfort zone?

A:  With my book Reach!  My goal with the book has been to put all my very best thinking into a trusted resource people can keep coming back to.  Also – as I reference in the book, I’ve created a really fun and exciting MBA course based on the book where my students apply the ideas directly to their lives. This course has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done — and has become the perfect living laboratory for developing and testing my ideas.

Learn more: Mastering American Business Culture
Free Download: 10 Cultural Codes From Around The World

Andy Molinsky
is a Professor of Organizational Behavior and Psychology at Brandeis University, and the author of the new book Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge and Build Confidence (Penguin Random House, January 2017)  His first book, Global Dexterity (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013), received the Axiom Award (Silver Medal) for Best Business Book in International Business & Globalization and has been used widely in organizations around the world, Andy is a columnist for Inc.com, a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review and Psychology Today. Visit www.andymolinsky.com  

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