When you grow yourself or others, aim to shoot for what lies outside of your comfort zone, but always remain inside your gift zone. Let me illustrate the difference.
I oversee an organization of around 500 people in three different countries. Growth for me as a leader that keeps me in my gift zone would be leading 1,000 people in seven countries, which would definitely be outside my comfort zone because I have not faced problems at that level. It would however remain within my gift zone: organizational leadership. It would stretch me. Could I do it? I am not sure. But if I choose to continue to grow, I think I have a good shot at it. This is an example of going outside my comfort zone, but staying in my gift zone.
On the other hand, what if I was presented with an opportunity to be the director of a museum? Like the illustration above, I have never done this before either. However, this scenario is not only outside of my comfort zone, this role is beyond my skill set and gift zone. In the first example, in the arena of organizational leadership, I have a foundation from which to leap. However, as the director of a museum, I would have to curate art pieces, understand how to preserve them, and know the clientele of art galleries. Could I pull it off? Or could I succeed without years of investment? Unlikely.
Healthy growth builds on what you know, what you have done, and where your strengths lie. Engaging in something new or gaining experience in an area we know nothing about may make us well-rounded, however in terms of long-term investment, it stunts our momentum. Why? Because we have to start from scratch.
While there are times in life we must begin again, most of the time our leadership should be built on an arc of our gifts and accomplishments. Going outside of our comfort zones while remaining in our gift zone will take us to next levels with more momentum.