Want to Play Bigger? Redefine Your Comfort Zone and Start Doing Hard Things

Shawn Fink
12 min readNov 8, 2022

What would happen if you were to start taking consistent, braver action?

In your business?

In your creativity?

In your marketing?

I’ll tell you because I see it happening with myself and my clients: You will see momentum and traction in areas your life and work where you weren’t seeing it before.

Every brave action you take is what I call a Brave YES.

Redefine Your Comfort Zone and Start Doing Harder Things

I was not always drawn to the Brave YES Mindset.

In fact, it was my own research and hard work of coping through the fear of doing uncomfortable things over the past decade that led me to start a coaching program to help female creators, thought leaders and creative entrepreneurs Brave UP and take more risks to become more visible and profitable.

My own tendency for the first couple years of my entrepreneurial journey was to stay very, very comfortable. And as long as business was flowing in, that was fine. Until it wasn’t …

Being in the business arena — especially when you need to grow your business — isn’t comfortable. It’s literally where you can get your ass kicked, as Brené Brown has famously said.

But, the truth is, when you are doing hard things that make you feel uncomfortable — ie: taking risks — you are most doing what it takes to grow your authority and your business.

But taking risks doesn’t mean going into panic zone.

In my coaching program, I support my clients as they begin to redefine and stretch their comfort zone.

What is Comfort Zone Theory?

As a culture, we have an obsession with being comfortable. We will spend great amounts of money to maintain our current level of comfort — or to move into an even comfier place of ease and pleasure.

But, comfort is a privilege that is not afforded to all.

I think about this when I see a single mom carrying groceries AND her kiddos off a bus and needing to walk a few blocks home in the rain as I drive by in my warm, clean car.

Comfort is political, as is everything in our lives.

The self-care industry is always, always luring us back into our comfort zones.

The bath commercials.

The cozy decor and blankets.

And, since the pandemic, we’ve even made business-friendly sweats a part of our fashion conversations.

Over and over, the lure of comfort is calling you back, calling you back into your safe place where you know you will not be challenged or experience any discomfort at all.

Feeling safe and secure is important — in fact it’s a basic need — but as female thought leaders, creators and entrepreneurs, we know that powerful progress doesn’t happen in our comfort zones.

The question is will you do the hard things or will you keep pushing them off to stay in your comfort zone?

Your comfort zone is an important place to stop and rest and recover while you are doing hard things but it should not be where you remain forever.

When you have been in your comfort zone too long, you look around and realize nothing much has changed in months or even years.

It’s there, in your comfort zone, you feel safest. You experience that peace you have longed for, where you don’t have have disruptions or conflict — a great idea in theory, but not possible for those of us who are out leading and helping others transform.

It’s easy to believe — because we’ve been conditioned to believe it — that our lives are bad if there is chaos, mess, fear or doubt mixed in, and if we do experience any of that there must be something wrong with us. If we struggle with fear or doubt, we have imposter complex.

And that is simply not true.

As creators, creatives, and leaders we are on a path that leads to chaos, to uncertainty, to doubt and to upheaval — and that is OK.

This is beautifully defined in Buddhism, where there are two defined paths to follow.

The Monk’s Path (or renunciate path): This is the path that leads to silence, stillness and withdrawing from the human experience. This is where you choose long periods of time in hard work and meditation but little else, including little socialization and being in the real world enjoying the human experience. On this path, you do not make waves, you do not weigh in on political conversations, or run a shiny, radiant personal brand. You are hiding. You are avoiding as much suffering as possible.

The Householder’s Path: This is the path that most of us lead, a life with responsibilities, a life with conflict and relationships and imperfect human experiences. On this path, we are taking adventures daily — even if it’s just a heated conversation with loved ones — and we are showing up in our full, authentic radiance. You are taking up space, you are visible, you are putting yourself out there. And, as a result, there will be interactions and conflict and suffering.

If you are a householder trying to live a monk’s path of silence and no disruptions, you are going to fail at both paths.

If you are an entrepreneur who is trying to simultaneously grow your authority, visibility and revenue AND also stay hidden and comfy, you are going to fail at both paths.

In all of this, it’s true that your brain wants you to stay safe and secure and not rock any boats and not disrupt any systems because that will catapult you into the arena of discomfort.

It’s wants you to remain super comfy as if you are a monk hiding on a mountainside, unbothered by the suffering of the world.

After all, there are advantages to staying in your comfort zone, but most of them are illusions.

3 Illusions of Staying in Your Comfort Zone

Illusion One — You are confident. When you are in your comfort zone, it’s safe. It’ familiar. You own it. This gives you a false sense of confidence that you don’t need to make any changes, that all is well. Until it’s not. Until you are facing an experience where you are being called to play bigger and now suddenly you are filled with fear and doubt because you haven’t been accustomed to feeling discomfort.

Illusion Two — You are safe. In the comfort zone you are taking minimal risks and that gives you a feeling of safety. After all, if you keep hiding and playing small, you can’t fail. Except — when you aren’t taking any risks in your business it also means you aren’t challenging yourself, you aren’t growing and THIS is great way to stay stagnant in the long run. Your lack of putting yourself out there will catch up to you eventually. No doubt.

Illusion Three — You are at peace. When you are in your comfort zone, it’s easy to get caught up in only wanting ease and peace because you are not experiencing the discomfort of failure or rejection — or putting yourself out there. This false sense of peace is common. But, often, it’s not really a true feeling of peace because, while you may value slow days and no conflict, you may be feeling a lack of inner peace around your own confidence or money fears. And if you don’t right now, you will.

These illusions make the comfort zone feel like the best place for you but I know from experience that the most joy and momentum in my life and business happens when I stretch out of my comfort zone and redefine it.

Doing Hard Things and Discomfort Avoidance

Author Glennon Doyle is famous for saying We Can Do Hard Things, also the name of her podcast.

And while it is true, it is easier said than done.

One of my favorite coaching conversations is supporting clients who are coping through doing hard things and helping them stay accountable to themselves and not giving up.

This has been a pillar of my work for 10 years.

  • Holding boundaries is not comfortable.
  • Asking for a sale is not comfortable.
  • Being rejected for our work is not comfortable.
  • Getting on stage to speak is not always comfortable.

Much of business and leadership is not comfortable, in fact.

Since we have been conditioned that our comfort is everything and something to maintain constantly, we develop discomfort avoidance, which prevents us from taking important, powerful risks in our life and business.

Discomfort avoidance negatively impacts women entrepreneurs the most by keeping you hiding and avoiding all kinds of actions that might actually move the needle in your business.

In order to be braver, bolder and create more momentum you must become accustomed to feeling small pangs of discomfort.

Discomfort is not your enemy.

Lack of action is.

When your life is at risk, that is something to fear and we would never want that for you.

But doing things that raise your profile or help you set bold business boundaries for more ease are hard — but not life or death decisions.

Taking up space is hard, but nothing to fear.

It’s your thoughts about the discomfort that impact you the most and why my Brave YES Mindset work is so important in the work I do.

When you become at ease with discomfort, you start entering your Expansion Zone.

What it means to Redefine Your Comfort Zone

Just beyond your comfort zone is a space, a space where growth mindset takes over and you realize you can be at ease while stretching, growing and doing new things.

It’s just enough to help you redefine your comfort zone.

It’s not enough to create panic or fear.

I call this the Expansion Zone.

My work as a business strategist and courage coach is about supporting you while you redefine your comfort zone and move into your Expansion Zone.

Not all discomfort is equal.

Some discomfort is unsafe and, as stated above, you should leave that situation immediately.

Other kinds of discomfort, though, will help you take up space, become a bolder leader and expand your visibility in your industry.

That’s the kind of discomfort I work with my clients on coping through and dealing with so that you can take the Brave YES Leaps you want to do in your lifetime and business.

As you set goals to help you play bigger more comfortably you will also be upleveling your power, purpose, and prosperity.

All courage work is connected — every small brave step leads to more confidence, more empowerment — and more revenue.

Steps to Move into YOUR Expansion Zone

Your Expansion Zone — which we will identify during the Bravest Business Year Yet Retreat — will help you stretch, grow, and lean into the grit you need to get to your next level so you can truly play bigger.

There’s some research that says that this is where “optimal anxiety” sets in which is good anxiety.

Robert Yerkes, a celebrated psychologist, began speaking of a behavioral theory whereby, in order to optimize performance, humans must reach a level of stress slightly higher than normal. He referred to this as “Optimal Anxiety” and it seems that this space exists just outside of our comfort zone.

“Anxiety improves performance until a certain optimum level of arousal has been reached. Beyond that point, performance deteriorates as higher levels of anxiety are attained.”

When you are beyond your expansion zone — and into an unsafe space for your mind, body and spirit and anxiety starts to take over- you may have jumped too far and entered the Panic Zone.

What is the Panic Zone?

You might be in the Panic Zone if your fear and anxiety lead to feelings of shutting down, hiding, overwhelm or quitting entirely. This is often when Fight, flight, freeze or fawn takes over in this zone. You may feel tense, fearful, rage, frustration, resentment or a sick feeling in your stomach.

You also may not have the energy to truly handle the enormous change or growth that is required in this zone. It’s best to walk yourself back and take a tiny step into your expansion zone — often called the stretch zone.

The key to moving into your Expansion Zone is to do so while avoiding the panic zone because it’s not where you are going to experience flow and feeling empowered.

6 Steps to Move into Your Expansion Zone

  1. Clarity is essential — Choose “just right” Brave YES goals or intentions that align with you and your values — and your strengths and vision — is a powerful way to upgrade yourself. You should feel grounded and in flow with the stretch goals you set.
  2. Surround yourself with next-level support — I serve as a rumble partner for my clients who are doing new, brave things and it’s an honor. When I am about to take a Brave YES Leap I make sure to have the right support by my side. That means people who care about my wellbeing and aren’t going to let me off the hook.
  3. Uplevel your Resilience. Doing hard things, taking risks means you must be ready for the fallout. There will be discomfort. You must be ready. There are active practices to do daily to improve your resilience.
  4. Boost Your Capacity. Support is one way to be more resilient, as is making sure you are practicing Radical Wellbeing because you won’t take bold action if you are tired, overwhelmed or burned out. You must stabilize yourself and your current life and business circumstances in order to take risks that count.
  5. Develop coping skills for the hard moments. Doing hard things is … hard. There will be discomfort. Knowing what you can do to make those hard things more joyful is one thing — and making sure you know how to work with your emotions is essential. Find someone to talk to about your feelings.
  6. Develop Emotional safety Practices. You don’t have to feel the fear and do it anyway. You can, instead, really work with redefining your comfort zone by making sure you are taking appropriate risks for you and your business.

Ready to Play Bigger?

I don’t see my role as a business strategist AND courage coach to keep you comfortable.

You’ll do that VERY well on your own.

I nearly let a comfort move slide today during a session but a little red flag was going off in my ear … ding, ding, ding.

Here’s a highly successful entrepreneur dealing with what most are dealing with right now — a downturn in traffic and, as a result, sales.

And yet … she’s kind of in a why bother, I can’t do more right now.

Yeah, I get that. We’re tired. No one can afford to hire help but help is what’s needed because your capacity is low. This is a horrible vicious cycle for female entrepreneurs.

Brave visions < low capacity

This is a real problem.

So, I did in the coaching session what I always do.

I caused trouble.

Big trouble.

“I’m going to plant a seed and suggest you think about something bigger, something that will excite you and actually get you feeling motivated.”

She paused. And breathed.

What if … and I went into a bit of Impossible Land for a minute. What if you think … what if you considered …

She was smiling.

She was feeling the call to action.

“That’s not a seed, that’s a bush,” she said.

We’re tired, ya’ll.

  • Tired of playing THEIR game.
  • Tired of not having power.
  • Tired of doing things conventionally.
  • Tired of traveling through the dark valley of irrelevance where only the dancing, shining and brighter objects glisten in the darkness.

It’s going to take UNCONVENTIONAL business strategies — and truly knowing how to position your passion work — to make money and feel in alignment.

I’m not afraid to push you to your edge. If you want soft, you’ll handle that fine on your own.

A Brave YES Business is creating a business for the future, companies where all people are thriving. We simply can’t keep doing business as usual.

Plant those seeds.

Aim higher.

Stretch yourself.

Originally published at https://shawnfink.com on November 8, 2022.



Shawn Fink

I help wholehearted entrepreneurs be #BusinessBrave and start taking up more space and running your biz on your terms.