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This one thing is holding you back from becoming a leader

Futurist Merilee Kern asserts, “Once you embrace the unnervingly unfamiliar, you open yourself up to the possibility of accomplishing more than you ever dreamed possible.”

Source | | MERILEE A. KERN

If you are like most individuals, you revel in the ease and relaxation that comes with feeling comfortable at work. Having confidence in your ability to perform a job well—with poise, proficiency, and efficiency—provides feelings of satisfaction and security. What’s more, stress remains at a minimum when you are safely ensconced inside your comfort zone.

Despite these undeniable benefits, there’s also a downside to operating within the constraints of comfort—regardless of the real or perceived environmental controls that mindset affords. Lingering in a psychological state of contentment not only can—but most likely will—inhibit your ability to grow and realize your full potential, both as a business professional and organizationally.

The true nature of business is always evolving and demands flexibility and adaptability to achieve and sustain success in a global marketplace. No type of organization or industry is immune to change, which can present with extreme and unwelcome regularity. Although fluidity ushers in the unforeseen that, in turn, can prompt fear and anxiety, there are a myriad of reasons to embrace the associated discomfort.

Even if the unease you are feeling as a business leader is spurred by something other than an unsolicited or unexpected shift, the upside is its potential to advance your leadership prowess. Sure, stepping outside your comfort zone and facing a challenge can be inherently onerous—even terrifying—but with it comes the promise of leveraging untapped potential.


Whether you take the step on your own or find yourself pushed outside your comfort zone, professional growth inevitably follows. One study by the University of California, Berkeley found that performance is actually enhanced as stress increases. The research revealed that some amounts of acute, short-lived, not chronic, stress “primes the brain for improved performance” and can “push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance.” Read: Stress can prompt the mind to adapt and better rise to a challenge so as to overcome achievement-hindering obstacles.

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