As humans, we seek for comfort, which is also why it’s so hard to let it go. Our comfort zone is our natural, neutral state; a place where stress and anxiety are minimal, where we know what is coming next and can plan accordingly. While staying in our comfort zone can result in consistent, steady performance, stepping out of it can create the conditions for optimal performance.
Comfort zone is a situation where one feels safe or at ease; a place where activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk. Stepping out of this zone, comes with uncertainty, as it never quite sure what will happen and opens up to the possibility of stress and anxiety.
Just like a ship is not designed for the confines of the safe harbor, neither are human beings. We are rather designed to sail the wide-open oceans; to push the boundaries of what we can achieve and to unlock the latent potential. As it has been previously said; following the same routes will not lead to new destinations- Why will they now?
To understand what is inside your comfort zone, you can draw a circle on a piece of paper. Everything you are experiencing in your life right now is inside this circle- this is your comfort zone; your current state of health, your personal fitness; your friendships; your job etc.
Whereas, everything you desire in your life, but do not currently have is just outside the circle, and in order to get it inside you are most probably going to have to do something new or different; meaning that you are going to have to step outside of your comfort zone.
In fact, if we do not take the leap, we can easily miss out on opportunities that can lead to advancement- and while uncomfortable situations can be unpleasant; they are also necessary and may help us develop and grow. Psychologists have previously found that a little anxiety can help us perform at our peak as when we challenge ourselves, we tend to rise to the occasion.
Dealing with uncertainty and change can be daunting in terms of imposed stress; yet, to live a compelling future requires stepping out of the familiar to reach to new horizons. Stepping out of your comfort zone may be paralyzing, but these experiences can both challenge you and help you grow; thus, the best you can do is become familiar with discomfort and unfamiliarity.
Stepping out of your comfort zone: What’s next?
Various theories have pinpointed the existence of various zones other than our Comfort Zone in their models; these are the Fear Zone; the Learning Zone and the Growth Zone; with each one representing progress towards achieving a new mindset.
The Comfort Zone is a place where we feel safe and in control. When faced with a variety of challenges we may have been led you to the Fear Zone. Once faced by the Fear Zone, we may have felt a lack of self-confidence and made an excuse to return to your comfort zone. This is a common mindset and it goes without saying that it is within out nature to want to feel comfortable. However, the so-called Fear Zone is a temporary place that is going to lead to an improved mindset, and once you find the courage and self-belief, you may as well soon find yourself in the Learning Zone which is a place of experience.
This is the place where you are out of your comfort zone but have found a new confidence to deal with challenges and problems head on. Whilst doing this, you will be gaining new skills and experiences that will allow you to expand your comfort zone and begin achieving things you never thought would be possible.
Finally comes the Growth Zone; where you will be living with freedom and a sense of purpose. It is stressed that getting it this place is uncomfortable and takes a lot of resilience. In order to ensure personal growth, it is imperative that we begin to make a change.
A key sign that you have made it to the Growth Zone is that you have a new mindset. At this stage you will be thinking differently and beginning to live with freedom. You will have the motivation to set new goals and objectives that you are confident you will achieve. But also, you will be attracting people who are also experiencing the Growth Zone.
Challenging your comfort zone: 10 key tips to get you started
Breaking out of your comfort zone starts with one first step. Then, taking ‘baby steps’ is a great way to de-sensitize yourself to the feelings of anxiety. Desmond Tutu once wisely said that “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”
Once you have a plan in place, the following tips may assist in taking further action:
#1 Get informed
Become aware of what’s outside of your comfort zone. The more you know about something, the less scary and more powerful you will feel.
#2 Think of your goals
Write down a step-by-step blueprint for how you are going to get out of your comfort zone. Then, create a plan to get to each level. In this plan create benchmarks; mini goals that put you one step closer to pushing past your comfort zone.
#3 Keep a positive mindset
There will be times when you experience a negative outcome. It is a natural part of the process but remind yourself that it is going to happen. In fact, you are being given feedback about how you can do something better.
#4 Coach Yourself
Ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen?” and “What’s the best-case scenario of what could happen?” Both of those questions will help you address any fear or discomfort.
#5 Revisit your accomplishments
It is said that accomplishments are often made because of courage. By revisiting our greatest successes, we remember that courage is what got us there.
#6 Challenge your routine
Try something new once in a while and keep at it until it becomes comfortable. Then think of the next thing that makes you feel uncomfortable to challenge yourself.
#7 Fake it until you make it
Start acting as if you are someone who would have no problem taking this step. The reality is that once you do it and see you can do it; the rest comes naturally.
#8 Get physical
Amy Cuddy has previously focused on embodying the change by either standing in the Wonderwoman/Superman pose or other expansive poses to help increase your sense of power and confidence. The more you improve your body language, the more you will strengthen your confidence for the next steps.
#9 Change your mindset
Replacing disempowering though habits with empowering ones can help us take a new perspective and move to action. For example, start repeating “I am fearless” and envisioning yourself achieving what you fear to reprogram your disempowering thought habit and move forward.
#10 Learn from failures
Keep visualizing the success and in the meantime, don’t forget all valuable lessons learned. Focus on what you learned from every unpleasant experience and how you can take that lesson to the next level in order to increase your chance of success.