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How Far Should You Stretch?

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

Finding Your Home Between Your Comfort Zone & Ambition

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Often introverts spend many languishing years if not decades striving to find our comfort zone, our place where we can embrace our true self with confidence. There, we have shed the negative stereotypes of introversion, we've found our strengths, and we are applying them at work and at home.


We no longer hide our unique qualities, we are proud of them. Furthermore, we can monitor and manage our energy level and take our personal breaks when we need to in order to complete our day without running on empty. We are happy with who we have become. We relish our own private time, perhaps even going out to eat or a movie alone, with a smile of confidence on our faces.



Reaching Contentment

In the Five Phases of Introversion I highlighted for World Introvert Day '22, I call the fourth phase Contentment. Some reach this phase in their twenties but most of us wander a bit until finding this tranquility in our 40s or later. My hope is the blogs, quizzes, books, and resources at Beyond Introversion and elsewhere will help accelerate this journey for you. Nothing commands you to wait to find Contentment.



Peering Beyond

Nothing requires you to move beyond, to the fifth phase of introversion, either. Yet I do believe many introverts are quite ambitious; I suspect more so than some of our fellow extroverts. After all, we must be driven to dodge our own personal demons not to mention the extroverted culture most of us live and work in. Thus, we introverts do indeed have to be driven to survive and thrive in the given society around us. Despite the doubts of others and often our own introspective minds, we do succeed.


So once we achieve Contentment, it should be no surprise we eye the next phase, Flourishing, with zeal and likely some natural trepidation.


Flourishing is when we combine our skills and newfound confidence in who we are with our dreams and ambitions to stretch our comfort zone and grow further, often at personal risk and discomfort. Yet many of us do this just as we have battled and driven forward all our lives.


Suddenly, in Contentment, some of our dreams previously reserved for the gregarious socialites and commanding work leaders appear attainable to us. We realize our authentic strengths and hard-fought confidence can get us there.


Yet, we are tempted to relax and enjoy our newfound peace. Questions swirl through our heads:

Can't I just enjoy my Contentment?

Should I relax or push forward?

How do I stretch if I do want to go further?

And how do I know when I've pushed enough?



CAN'T I JUST ENJOY MY CONTENTMENT?

Absolutely! We can certainly revel in our happy place. We live in a MORE society, but moderation is the key to sustainable joy. Enhancing our authenticity and finding long-sought comfort is a great reward. Use your positive self-talk to celebrate with yourself and with your inner circle. Such self-actualization is very elusive for most people. You are the envy of many. Enjoy who you are and what you do. Relax, exhale, and smile!



HOW DO I KNOW IF I SHOULD RELAX OR PUSH FORWARD?

This is a great time to do a bit of pros/cons analysis. What might you chase? Perhaps you now want to be a team leader or an advocate for others at work or in the community.

  • Who are you chasing this dream for?

  • Why do you yearn for more?

  • What is the reward for the journey and for success?

  • What might the costs be? More stress and tension?

  • Will you have regrets if you don't try?

So, now you can choose to either relish in your Contentment, embrace your comfort zone and wear it with pride. That is perfectly fine. We should enjoy our successful journey and reap our own rewards. Or, perhaps you are ready to stretch kindly.



IF I WANT TO STRETCH FURTHER, HOW?

If you've determined there is a dream worth chasing, pack your bags. Bring your positive mindset, your self-compassion, all the strengths you have embraced and cultivated, along with your patience and fortitude, and stretch kindly. I don't advocate 'leaping' out of your comfort zone, but for 'stretching' your comfort zone. As described in the Growth Rings Model, small incremental steps are easier, build skills and confidence, and best set you up for success.


For example, if you want to get your message out to many, you don't have to immediately pursue a keynote speaker gig. Speak to a few familiar faces (Neighborhood Ring), try podcasts and medium-size groups (Adventure Ring), and with success and extended comfort, you may try larger groups or keynote speaking (Frontier Ring) later.



HOW DO I KNOW WHEN I'M DONE?

This path may be rapid, paced over years, or one in which you decide a midpoint quenches your thirst and further stretching is more overwhelming than you'd like. Perfectly fine.


Gauge yourself along the way. Have you achieved your goals? Have your answers to the bulleted questions above changed? Are you still excited or now exhausted from your journey?