Taking the safe route and doing things that we feel comfortable about is always tempting, in both our personal and professional lives. However, it can kill our productivity, growth and success. Stepping out of our comfort zone is important for learning and growing.
But what is a “comfort zone”? Our comfort zone is a behavioral space where our activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk. It provides a state of mental security. Each one of us has our own comfort zone. Being there implies familiarity and safety, and helps us stay emotionally even, free from anxiety and worry to a great degree.
This is why we are often afraid to leave this safe place. Because, in reality, comfort zones are not about comfort, they are about fear. The fear of leaving our secure place, the fear of doing something different, the fear of failing.
Not knowing what’s going to happen next is generally stressful. Uncertainty signals that we’re unsure of our environment, our skills, or both. But uncertainty also signals the brain to kickstart learning, according to a Yale research published in the journal Neuron.
The ability to take risks by stepping outside our comfort zone is the primary way by which we grow, both personally and professionally. Even though it may be uncomfortable to leave our comfort zone, sticking there will not help us reach new heights and goals.
Here are some useful tips to help you step out of your comfort zone and stretch your personal boundaries.
DO EVERYDAY THINGS DIFFERENTLY
An easy way to start is by changing your daily routine and doing small, everyday things differently. For example, take a different route to work. Try ordering another meal in your favourite restaurant or try a new operating system in your work. Recalibrate your reality. Whether the change you decide to make is large or small, make a change in the way you do things on a day-to-day basis. Look for the perspective that comes from any change, even if it’s negative.
STUDY THE THINGS YOU FEAR
Sometimes, we fool ourselves into thinking that we don’t like something or that we’re not comfortable with it. Τhis is our mind’s way of keeping us inside our comfort zone. So, if you find yourself in this place, you could sit down and introspect whether you are really uncomfortable with the things that you think you’re uncomfortable with.
What are the things that you are afraid of doing because of the potential disappointment or failure? Draw a circle and write those things down outside the circle. This process will not only allow you to clearly identify your discomforts but also your comforts. Write these identified comforts inside the circle.
WHAT YOU ARE AIMING TO OVERCOME
Take the list of discomforts and go deeper, having in mind that the primary emotion you are trying to overcome is fear. How does this fear apply uniquely to each situation? Be specific. Are you afraid of speaking in public? Define why. Is it because you are insecure about your knowledge and abilities? Are you insecure about the sound of your voice? Or are you afraid of not being able to catch their attention and get them engaged?
GET COMFORTABLE WITH DISCOMFORT
One way to get outside of your comfort zone is to literally expand it. Make it a goal to avoid running away from discomfort. Let’s stay with the theme of public speaking. If delivering presentations at work makes your hands sweat and your knees buckle, try practicing more often. Join more meetings and speak up. If you practice often enough, it will start to become less uncomfortable.
CONSIDER FAILURE A TEACHER
Nobody enjoys failing. Fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding failure eclipses the motivation to succeed. Begin to treat failure as a teacher and use it to your advantage instead of letting it run your life. What did you learn from the experience? How can you take that lesson to your next venture to increase your chance of success? Don’t forget that many highly successful people failed plenty of times before they succeeded.
TAKE SMALL STEPS GRADUALLY
It takes a lot of courage to break out of your comfort zone. Don’t try to jump outside of it, you will likely become overwhelmed and jump right back in. Take small steps toward the fear you are trying to overcome. If you want to do public speaking, start by taking every opportunity to speak to small groups of people. You can even practice with family and friends.
Trying new things is difficult; if it weren’t, breaking out of our comfort zone would be easy and we’d do it all the time. If you’re not naturally inclined to do all of these, it might seem scary at first. But like most things with life, the more you practice, the better you get at it.