Staying within our comfort zones is something that we’re all very good at. But will staying comfortable help you in your career? Will it make you more successful in life generally? Yep, the answer is probably not. Sometimes we need to challenge ourselves and step outside our comfort zones to achieve personal and professional growth. Here are three ways you can achieve more success by doing something that challenges you.

  1. Public speaking

For most of us public speaking is an ordeal to be dreaded. Whether it’s giving a presentation at work or a best man’s speech at a wedding, the result is the same: our hearts start to pound, our palms sweat and somehow our voices seem to come out an octave or two higher! But do you remember that compelling speaker you heard at last year’s sales conference? Yes of course you do, because compelling public speakers have an amazing ability to inspire and lead others.

So how can you improve your public speaking skills? Well the first step is to change your mindset. You’re not facing a firing squad. Most of your audience will share your dread of public speaking and will be naturally sympathetic and rooting for you.

Don’t attempt to memorise your speech or read it from a sheet of paper. All that does is make you sound stilted and wooden. Instead memorise the key points and pivot lines only. The pivot lines are those ones that link one idea to another. You’ll then have a more flowing, natural delivery. And practice makes perfect. Practice in front of colleagues, friends, even the mirror as it will give you confidence and will help to ensure familiarity with the content.

  1. Accept critical feedback

The truth sometimes hurts, doesn’t it? Our instinct in the face of critical feedback is usually to get defensive. But when it comes to constructive critical feedback, we need to see it as an opportunity for growth and not as a personal slight. So, next time you’re about to have one of those awkward feedback conversations with your manager, instead of being affronted, take a deep breath, listen and reflect. There may well be some actions in that feedback that will help you to become more successful.

  1. Networking

We all know that networking is a good idea. It gets your brand or product out there and is important in raising your personal profile. But how many of us relish these opportunities? Not many and that is because we find it difficult to approach strangers and start talking. So how can we make it easier on ourselves? Some people have standard topics that they fall back on in these situations – the weather is always a popular choice!

The most successful networkers, however, have a different approach. They ask open-ended questions that naturally get people talking. For example, ‘How long have you been working for ABC Company’ is more likely to generate a fuller response than ‘How long have you worked at ABC Company’ which will result in a one-word response. And a conversation of one-word responses is likely to be, well, short!

In addition, successful networkers always actively listen to others. People naturally like to talk about themselves and so if you are genuinely interested and are listening, then you’re more likely to remembered. And being remembered is after all the name of the game when it comes to successful networking.