Whether or not it fits with your personal assessment the simple fact is most of our time is spent living within a personal comfort zone. Why? Well, some of it is practical. We hold down jobs, we study, we raise families. Therefore we tend to live in a given area and we learn the places to shop, to eat, to spend our leisure time. So, why fix what isn’t broken?
As human beings, we’re also designed for personal growth and change. Think about how far we’ve come as a society in the last 200 years. Our lives are barely recognizable by comparison. It shows we can change and we can grow. And we most certainly can step out of our comfort zone. Is it scary? Sometimes painful? Of course. Growth always is. But it’s also well worth it.
Most of us a scared to try new stuff. Yet, anytime we make ourselves step out of or at least stretch our comfort zone a little, we feel great afterwards. This post isn’t about dumping everything that’s comfortable and familiar but it is about helping you get out of that comfort zone a little more often.
Leave Your Comfort Zone
We’ll start by taking a closer look at our comfort zone, how we create it, and why it might be holding us back. Then we’ll look at the possibilities that help us step out of or at least stretch our comfort zone. Then, we’ll wrap things up with ideas about actionable tips and ideas you might care to try.
The Comfort Zone
The comfort zone can be thought of as a place or situation that feels familiar and probably safe. It doesn’t cause us stress or anxiety to do what we’re doing. In other words, it’s where we live without getting uncomfortable, stretching, or growing pains. It’s a place where we feel confident and we know just about all there is to know about it. We in full control or at least we feel that way.
The first step towards stepping out of our comfort zone is realizing it’s there and figuring out what the boundaries of our particular zone are. So, going forward, start to pay attention to what you do because:
- that’s how you’ve always done it
- it’s comfortable
- it’s what you’re used to
- it’s how it’s always been done
Just as important are the things you don’t do or decline. Ask yourself why you’re saying no to a person or opportunity. Is it because it’s not a good fit, or is it because it makes you uncomfortable or you are scared of it?
Why Do We Create Comfort Zones?
We create comfort zones out of necessity. They help us get into routines and limit stress. The end result is a relative increase in productivity and a feeling of safety and stability. In other words, comfort zones are a good thing. We just don’t want to lock ourselves in them. Think of your comfort zone like your house. It’s your safe place. It’s where you sleep and it’s where you spend a good chunk of your time. But imagine how boring life would be if you spent all of it inside your home? What if you never ventured out and had fun and new experiences? Life would be quite boring and you’d be missing out on a lot, wouldn’t you?
Comfort zones are there for a reason. They are important. We wouldn’t want to be homeless and live on the street. It would be incredibly stressful. We need a safe place where we can relax and avoid feeling stressed and anxious. What we don’t want to do is to lock ourselves in that zone and throw away the key.
How Comfort Zones Limit You
Here’s the problem with living only within your comfort zone. Not only is it boring but you’re potentially missing out on fun new stuff and it severely limits you in what you can do. Being stuck with what you can do and where you feel safe, keeps you from reaching your full potential.
We have to get uncomfortable ad sometimes we have to get hurt to grow as human beings. There are plenty of times when you’ve stepped out of your own comfort zone.
- you had to when you started school
- you had to when you started a new job
- you had to when you started a new relationship.
- you had to do it when you moved house
- you had to do it when you got married or had kids
All major life changes require us to step out of our comfort zone. Few of us are the same person we were 10 years ago. But if you are getting a little too comfortable with where you’re at, or a little too scared to try something new and take risks, you may be the same person you were last year or a couple of years ago.
Don’t limit your personal growth and the possibilities of having a fun, exciting, and fulfilling life because you’re stuck and afraid of change. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about being scared. The trick is to go out there and do it anyway. That’s when the real magic happens. That’s when your life starts to change, you start to change, and your feeling of self-worth and self-confidence skyrockets. That change wouldn’t be nearly as meaningful if it wasn’t so hard to bring it about.
Stepping out of your comfort zone isn’t easy. But there’s good news. You don’t have to go way out of it to benefit from it. Making it to the edges of your comfort zone and stretching it just a bit, or stepping out just over the edges or outer limits is all it takes. Let’s call this the Possibilities. It’s the “what if I try,” area of doing a little something that seems a bit intimidating.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re comfortable at your current job and you know how to do every single aspect of it very well. It comes with a steady income that brings financial security and peace of mind. Eventually, though, you would like to be in business for yourself and become your own boss. You want to launch a freelance career and work from home, but right now that’s way out of your comfort zone.
So, start by doing a little work on the side. Get your first client and work in the evenings and on the weekends. Start to get comfortable freelancing and start building your client base and your income. Eventually taking the leap to quit your job and freelance full-time won’t be as scary because you’ve slowly but surely started to expand your comfort zone into the realm of possibility.
Or, what if you’re tired of being overweight and out of shape? You want to work out but the thought of going to the gym scares you to death. Start by doing some workouts at home, or even going for a daily walk. Find a workout buddy, so that when you’re ready to check out a local gym, you don’t have to do it alone. Find a personal trainer to go with you and create a workout program for you. Research local gyms and find one that makes you feel more comfortable. If you’re a woman, you may feel more comfortable and welcome in a women’s only gym for example. Do what it takes to inch your way closer to the day when you will step into a gym and start working out.
In other words, we don’t have to move out of our comfort zone into something completely different and scary. We can bring about a lot of meaningful change and create some wonderful possibilities for ourselves by expanding on and stepping out of the edge of our comfort zone. With that said, let’s take a closer look at this “realm of possibility” and how we can start to tap into it.
The Realm Of Possibility
You’ve heard the expressions “within the realm of possibility” and “beyond the realm of possibility”. The definition is that something is either possible or impossible depending on whether it’s within or beyond. The realm of possibility then is something we can see changing or happening. In our context, it’s the area between our comfort zone and what we believe to be impossible or unreachable.
One of the most important concepts to grasp is that both the comfort zone and the realm of possibility are fluid areas. They can change and expand or sadly contract depending on what your mind can conceive. In the end, it’s all in your head, and that’s a good thing. That means you can take control and shift the borders of both the comfort zone and the realm of possibility at will. In fact, you’ll see in a minute that this is what this whole concept of the realm of possibility is all about. Let’s take a look.
Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Let’s start with some bad news. We can’t actually step out of our comfort zone. As soon as you do something unexpected and scary, it becomes part of what you’re starting to get comfortable with. The good news is that you can stretch it as far as you’d like. The possibility is the tool we use to stretch and expand our comfort zone.
You know there’s no such a thing as a comfort zone. We don’t all walk around with an area mapped off. Instead, it’s a thought construct that helps us understand our limitations and how to get past them. That said, let’s look at how approaching this “realm of possibilities” helps us grow our comfort zone and try new things. How we perceive ourselves and what we think we can accomplish has a lot to do with what we are willing to try.
Daydreaming Has Its Uses
Daydreaming is often viewed negatively. Okay, it may not be the best use of your time while you’re driving or sitting in class, but daydreaming is an important part of personal growth. If you don’t dream and imagine what could be, how do you come up with ideas of what could be possible and then a roadmap and goals to reach it? That’s how you grow fast and build the life of your dreams.
Get Unstuck & Stretch Yourself
Nobody likes to be stuck in traffic or being stuck in a bad relationship, and we certainly don’t like being stuck in a room or worse an elevator. In other words, we don’t like to be physically stuck. It makes us anxious. We even use it as a punishment in the form of prisons. While being physically stuck is very obvious and uncomfortable, being mentally stuck isn’t always as noticeable. It’s just as important to avoid being stuck when it comes to our minds and our personal growth.
It’s important that we stretch ourselves and grow as human beings. We don’t want to stay stuck. When that happens our mental health and the way we feel about ourselves suffers. It’s not just that being stuck makes us feel bad, it also keeps us from reaching our full potential. It keeps us from leading a full and happy life. It keeps us from reaching our goals and then going far beyond our wildest dreams. It keeps us from the excitement and pride we experience when we grow and go further than we ever thought possible.
Self Growth And Self Confidence
There’s an interesting connection between personal growth and self-confidence. We all go through periods in our lives where our self-esteem and our self-confidence are low. It’s not a good feeling. It comes as no surprise that hundreds, if not thousands of books and papers have been written about boosting your confidence. It’s one of the biggest self-help niches. With all this interest in self-confidence and how to make sure we have more of it, this is a great place to show you the connection between personal growth and self-confidence.
Think back for a moment to a time when you experienced a lot of self-growth. It doesn’t matter when it was, or what it was. When you stepped out of your comfort zone and embraced the realm of possibility something interesting happened. Your self-confidence shot way up, didn’t it? There’s something that makes this happen when we are scared and do it anyway. In a small way you may experience this when you get on a roller coaster or jump out of a perfectly good airplane while sky diving. We’re scared to do it – particularly the first time – but incredibly proud of our accomplishment when it’s over.
Now think back on a time when you didn’t experience a lot of self-growth. We all have seasons in our lives where we’re mostly stuck in our comfort zone. Sometimes it’s out of necessity like Covid lockdown! Or, we’re busy raising young children, we’re between jobs, or we are getting over an illness or injury. There are times in our lives where we can stretch and grow. It happens and it’s part of life. The important part is to realize when that time is over. We have to pick ourselves back up and start stretching that comfort zone again. It’s not always easy, but it’s necessary. As you think back on your own experiences or those of loved ones around you that you’ve observed, one thing you notice is that when personal growth comes to a standstill and we are stuck, our self-esteem and self-confidence suffer.
There is a strong connection between growth and self-confidence. When we stretch our comfort zone and experience personal growth, our confidence goes up. When we don’t, it slowly, but surely goes down. If you want to boost your self-confidence and self-esteem then, it’s important to focus on getting out of your comfort zone, do what scares you, and experience that personal growth and the resulting confidence boost for yourself. Use it as motivation to get off the couch and do something. Use it as motivation to dream about what could be possible. Use it as motivation to make a plan and take some massive action.
As you start to stretch your comfort zone and move further and further into the realm of possibility, something interesting happens. Your self-confidence goes up as expected and that in turn fuels your own ability to continue to stretch and grow your comfort zone. It’s a self-propelling cycle. The more you stretch, the more confident you get. The more confidence you have the further you can stretch. Your biggest job is to just get the process started and I have some ideas for you in the last chapter about doing that. For now, make sure you pay attention to this connection between your comfort zone and your self-confidence and self-esteem. Use it and leverage it to fuel your own personal growth. Not growing as a person just isn’t a good option as we’ll discuss next.
Getting Stuck In Our Comfort Zone
There are negative side effects of staying stuck in the comfort zone. Use them as motivation to get going and stretch yourself. Notice them when they start to appear and do something about it. See them in your loved ones and offer help and support so they can grow, get out of their comfort zone and start to feel how wonderful and amazing it is to step into the realm of possibility. In short, use your knowledge of what happens when you get stuck in your comfort zone as fuel to go out there and do it anyway.
Low Self-Esteem And Confidence
When we start to lose confidence in ourselves, we stop taking risks. We stop pushing the borders of our comfort zone even a little. We stay firmly planted where we feel safe and in control. While that may be a comfortable feeling, and fine for a little while, it also causes our self-esteem to drop. We get a lot of pride and feeling of accomplishment out of trying something new or doing something hard. In short getting out of our comfort zone, even just a little, is good for our self-esteem. Of course, the opposite is true as well. When we are stuck in our comfort zone, our self-esteem starts to drop right along with our self-confidence. This in turn makes it harder and harder to step outside the zone. Break this vicious cycle before you head down towards the next set of negative side effects of being stuck.
Depression and Anxiety
Once your self-esteem and your confidence drop lower and lower, you may start to experience depression and/or anxiety. Neither is a comfortable state of mind. You don’t want to get down so low that it’s hard to get out of bed or off the couch. Once depression sets in, it becomes very hard to get out there and approach the borders of your comfort zone. You just don’t have the energy to get out there and do stuff.
With anxiety, you’re in a constant state of high alert. You feel worried and scared, which also makes it harder and harder to have new experiences and grow as a person. While there are certain medical conditions and other factors that can cause and worsen both depression and anxiety, staying inside your comfort zone is one factor and something that’s well inside your own control. Go out there and take action. You’ll feel better for doing so.
When you’re stuck in your comfort zone you’re allowing life to pass you by. You’re missing out on all the fun and exciting stuff. Worst of all, you don’t even notice, because you’re so firmly planted in your own comfort zone that you don’t even realize what’s out there in the realm of possibility.
Tips And Strategies
Now that you have a better idea of the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone and into the realm of possibility, it’s time to get to work and make that happen.
We talked earlier about the fact that we step out of our comfort zone by stretching it into the realm of possibility. In other words, we have to see it, or imagine it before we can make it happen. This is why it’s so important to set aside some time to dream and imagine what’s possible. The best way to make sure that happens is to set aside some time for this purpose.
Find a comfortable and quiet spot and just start letting your imagination run wild. Think about what could be possible. It doesn’t matter if you’re dreaming and plotting about relationships, your living situation, your job, your business, or vacations and hobbies. Make sure you take the time to imagine what may be possible. That’s how you create and start to approach the realm of possibility.
Dip Your Toes
New opportunities present themselves to us all the time and often in new and unexpected ways. When that happens, instead of retreating back to your comfort zone, tell yourself that it’s ok to just try it. You don’t have to commit. You don’t have to jump in all the way. Just dip in your toes. For example, instead of committing to an evening of dinner and drinks with the blind date your friend wants to set up with, meet for coffee. Instead of quitting your job and running your own business, give it a try by freelancing in your free time while continuing to work your day job until you’re sure this is something you want to do.
This idea applies to so many different areas. Whenever you feel yourself getting scared or overwhelmed with new possibilities, tell yourself it’s ok to just give it a try. It may be just what you need to get you to start stretching that comfort zone a little bit.
Sir Richard Branson once said:
“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
Too often we get stuck with issues around things going wrong and making mistakes. We think that we have to know everything there is to know about something before we get started. We feel that we have to know how to do a job before we can take it. We are afraid of failure and won’t let ourselves start a new project until we are sure we have at least the basics covered. Yet that’s not how we learn as children. We don’t take a class on walking or riding a bike. Instead we give it a try and learn as we go.
Why not give yourself that same option. Start getting in the habit of saying yes when opportunity presents itself. Then figure out what you need to know to do the job, finish the project, and get stuff done. It’s a great strategy for constantly pushing your comfort zone and moving further and further into the realm of possibility.
Will you fail every now and then? Of course, but you’ll also learn a lot and you’ll get better at what you’re doing. In the end, that should always be the end goal. Give yourself permission to fail and say “yes” more often.
What’s The Worst That Could Happen?
Often the thing we’re most afraid of and that keeps us firmly in our comfort zone is the unknown. Once we know what we’re dealing with it’s a lot less scary and easier to make a plan and take action. Make this work to your advantage by asking yourself “what’s the worst that could happen”.
This simple mental exercise is often all it takes to get us to start taking action. Imagine the worst possible outcome and then figure out how you would deal with it if it came to that. Suddenly things don’t seem so scary anymore do they?
For example, when you see the cute girl in the coffee shop and you’re debating whether or not to go talk to her. You’re a little intimated and shy about it. Ask yourself what’s the worst possible outcome. It’s simply that she isn’t interested. You’ll be no worse off by asking her out and getting rejected than by not talking to her at all. At the very least, you won’t be wondering about what may have happened if you go talk to her. In other words, you really have nothing to lose and everything to gain. That’s how this particular tip works.
Sometimes a project or task simply seems too big and overwhelming to tackle. You know you should reorganize your closet and get rid of all the stuff that no longer fits or that you don’t wear anymore. It’s such a big job though that you keep putting it off and finding excuses why you don’t have time to tackle it today.
Whenever you find yourself in this type of situation, start breaking the big job down into baby steps. Take it one little step, one little task, and one little action item at a time. With the closet example, start by going through your sock drawer, or sort through you summer t-shirts. You have time for that and it won’t take more than a few minutes to get done. Then keep going and go through your skirts, pants, shoes etc. Before you know it most, if not all of your closet is reorganized.
You can apply the same technique to all sorts of other situations. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the big project at work, break it down into baby steps. The first job will simply be to break it into bite-size chunks. You can do that. Make that list, then start ticking items off a little at a time.
Sink Or Swim
One of the best ways to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in it. In other words, the quickest way to learn French for example is to go to France and start to use it and figure it out. When you have to speak it to get your food, figure out where you need to go and the likes, you learn much faster than from books.
The same holds true in other areas of our lives. When we jump in and it’s sink or swim time, we learn fast. If you’ve had a baby, you know this is true. No matter how much you try to prepare and how many books you read, you’re not really ready for parenting when you bring home your new-born. You learn “on the job” and you learn fast. Why not apply this same strategy to other areas of your life. Make it a habit to jump in and see if you can swim or if you sink.
It’s easy to stay in our comfort zone and not experience any personal growth when there’s no one there to call us out on it. Accountability works. That’s why it’s such a big part of most weight loss and exercise programs. It’s why the most important part of AA is the regular meetings. Accountability works and it can work for you when it comes to stepping out of your comfort zone.
There are a few different ways to make accountability work for you. You can tell people about what you want to accomplish. You can also ask a close friend to call you out when you’ve gotten too comfortable.
Keeping a journal and habit trackers or calendars is another great option to keep yourself accountable. When you know you have to write it down, it gives you just that little bit of extra motivation to take action and stretch outside your comfort zone. Find your own way to hold yourself accountable and make it work.
Hire A Coach
Last but not least, consider hiring a coach. I don’t have to convince you of the benefit of a good coach when it comes to athletics. You may even have had a music teacher or coach in the past that helped you improve your skills. Maybe you even have a personal fitness trainer and nutritionist working with your right now to make improvements to your body. But what about the rest of your life.
When you have big goals to reach in business or in life, and you’re having a hard time making progress and moving far enough outside your comfort zone, hiring a coach – either a life coach or a business coach – is a great way to shortcut the process. They can save you a lot of time and effort by pointing you in the right direction, helping you choose your path, and motivating you to dig deep and stretch further than you thought possible.
I hope you’ve found these simple tips and strategies for stepping outside your comfort zone helpful. Most importantly, I hope you put them to good use. They won’t help until you give them a try and put them to action.