“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” Professor Neale Donald Walsch once said, but most people find it hard to detach from the sense of familiar within their personal boundaries. What are the consequences of this tendency for one’s personal development and how can this be overcome?
What is comfort zone?
A comfort zone is a psychological state in which things feel familiar to an individual, so they believe they are in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress.
Comfort zone can be a place of safety, but it keeps you from seizing opportunities for growth, just because it involves something unfamiliar. While a steady level of performance is possible in this zone, it is less likely to achieve major breakthroughs in life.
Why do people prefer their comfort zone?
Life coach Caroline Miller believes that people prefer to ‘live comfortably’ because of the short-term fear of possible risk. Within the comfort zone, our needs are met, while we enjoy zero stress. Our brain is lazy; it does not want to do extra things if it recognizes that the body is surviving. By default, it tries to get you to do what you have always done.
Why do I need to get out of my comfort zone?
Although taking the safe route is always tempting, there are some good reasons why you should sometimes resist that temptation. Getting out of your comfort zone will enable you to:
- Build confidence: When you are nervous, you feel as if the whole world is watching, but the truth is they are not. Confidence is not an inborn talent, it is a skill and is workable. So, the simplest way to develop confidence is to face our fears and take a risk.
- Be more creative and productive: When people are cozy, they tend to do the bare minimum. A little pressure, for example in your workflow, can help your productivity and multitasking upgrade to the next level.
- Be more adaptable to change: Your brain does not like change and is wired to expect the worst, but there are always unexpected things in life that you have not prepared for and you will need to deal. Taking risks helps you respond better to that kind of stress.
- Reach your full potential: If you always go by the book, how will you ever learn what you truly can handle? Uncertainty pushes you to encounter your boundaries, increasing your chances to find out “what you are really made of”.
- Avoid ‘what ifs’: Research suggests that people towards the end of their life tend to regret for the risks they did not take and for opting for the safe route. Those who never take their risks will never know what could happen if they had tried to do things differently.
How can I do it?
- Integrate small or great changes to your daily routine: Drive a different route to work or making the big decision to change your career is the greatest success, even if the attempt fails in the end.
- Take nothing for granted: When you avoid taking your business and relationships for granted, it is much harder to be complacent.
- Move towards your fears: One of the things we tend to do habitually is move away from things we are afraid of. It is normal. However, the fear is the place where you will grow and discover things about yourself you had not imagined. This is why fear is the most ugly yet most beautiful place to be.
- Try something new until you feel comfortable: Set a specific day of the week to try something new. Upon ‘mission is accomplished’, move to the next uncomfortable thing until you acquire the ‘habit’ of being a bit less afraid of change.
- Connect with strangers: Talking to the person next to you at the bus station or opening up a conversation with a colleague with whom you do not normally interact is a great way to overcome shyness with new people and possibly to learn amazing things.
- Say a yes to something you normally would not: Agreeing to something you would not normally consider opens up new pathways and opportunities’ helping you learn something new. For example, undertaking a project at work that you are not 100% sure you can do could enable you to get to know yourself a bit better.
- List your growth goals: Keeping a list of growth goals in a visible area can act as a daily reminder of taking risks to keep you motivated.
- Focus on one fear at time: Do not get overwhelmed by your hesitations. Rationalize your fears and then, choose one fear to confront (for example public speaking) and make firm plans to face it.
- Give up control: This is a special tip for leaders. Hiring someone to do a job you normally do yourself can take you out of the comfort zone, in a more relaxing point of view.
- Tell Yourself, ‘I Am Fearless’: Envision yourself successfully doing or achieving what you fear to get rid of disempowering thoughts, which are toxic for your growth.
Remember, comfort sounds a positive term, but too much comfort can ultimately hurt, as it can take away motivation and the possibility of positive change.
One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.