I love swimming.  I can swim for miles and not feel the pain.  But ask me to do downward dog or some other yoga contortion and my joints creak in protest.

It’s easier – physically and emotionally – to stick with the stuff we know.  It’s comfy in the comfort zone.  Yet, to paraphrase someone clever, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.  If you want to progress beyond the status quo, you have to stretch yourself.

There are lots of reasons for wanting to stretch beyond the comfort zone.

For some, staying the same might not be an option.  Certain workplace environments have an unspoken culture of either: (A) progression and advancement; or (B) leave swiftly by the nearest exit.  Some professional environments, for example, are still built on the premise that equity partnership is the golden egg for which everyone must reach.  Suggesting that you are “quite happy to remain an associate forever thanks very much”, in certain firms might be the career equivalent of sticking pins in your eyes and quacking repeatedly.

Or you might want to progress, or be keen to have a change.  There are a host of reasons why you might wish to push yourself outside your comfort zone: because you aren’t happy with your current role; because you are ready for a new challenge or would like to experience a different culture; because you want to learn a new skill or earn more money or climb the corporate hierarchy; because pushing yourself is just what you do…(The – If you’re not on the edge you’re taking up too much space- mentality).

And stretching is good.  A gentle, controlled, downward dog, where I listen to my body, understand where my niggles and sensitivities are, and am mindful of them, can make me feel great.

It’s the same with personal development.  A supported, controlled, mindful career stretch can be fantastic.  A promotion where:

  • we are trained properly on our new role before we start;
  • we understand exactly what is expected of us, and to whom we should turn for guidance and support; and
  • we have time to gradually adjust,

would be a positive delight (especially if accompanied by a pay rise).  We might not feel any discomfort at all!

But the working world rarely works like that.

My own experience of change, both from my personal career experiences, and from helping individuals within businesses who have transitioned into new roles or environments, is that a big career stretch can all too easily become a stretch too far.  A promotion can become less of a pro and more of a con.  Workplace stress, anxiety, even ill-health, can swiftly take the shine off a minor pay-rise.

A move out of the comfort zone and into the stretch zone is great, but if you keep on stretching, beyond the stretch zone and into the red stress zone, you run the risk of straining, or even snapping.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ve developed a handy pneumonic to help individuals going through a career transition (e.g. promotions, secondments, or stretch assignments) to ensure that they stay in the good stretch zone and out of that over-stretched zone.

I’ll be posting a little more on each of these this week, but they should speak for themselves:

Strength to know when enough is enough.

Talk to others about your worries or problems

Reflect on what you’ve achieved and on your next steps

Emotion, allow it in. Hear your own voice.

Time is in your control. Set your own pace.

Challenge yourself. Embrace the adventure. You can. You will.

Happiness and Health are both things you deserve. Don’t compromise on either.

If you’re going through a career transition and would like to know more about how I can help, or if you’re a business owner or HR Manager and would like to support your staff in dealing with career transitions and progressions, please connect and explain a little more about yourself.

A career stretch doesn’t have to become a stretch too far. #People solutions are my speciality.  Let me help.

Time to grow and time to change? Time to Collaborate.