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What exactly does it mean to be in your Comfort Zone?

According to psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson who coined this term, it’s a state of relative comfort where you can expect a certain constant level of performance. Based on this definition you would think that it’s a good thing to be in the comfort zone. However, they also found that a certain level of stress and anxiety is good to improve performance and to put you in the optimal performance zone. As the stress and anxiety increase though, the performance tends to decline. To sum it up, comfort zone is where you experience low levels of stress and anxiety. The darker side of staying in the comfort zone though is lack of motivation and boredom.

Why do you need to step out of it?

There’s tons of research showing that challenging yourself, being comfortable with the uncomfortable is vital to grow and innovate. It’s been said that growth comes when you step outside of what feels safe and secure to you. If as humans we were just comfortable with walking from place to place, we would have never learnt how to fly, right? Getting out of this bubble not only boosts your growth and creativity, it also transforms you from merely surviving to thriving as an individual!

How do you know if you’re in your comfort zone?

To find out, you’ll need to ask yourself some of these thought provoking questions…Are you easily able to do your daily tasks at work? Do you have a certain level of excitement in completing tasks? Are you taking risks and have an element of “the unknowns” in achieving your goals? Have you tried and failed at something recently? Have you challenged yourself lately to do something different or start something new? Once you answer these questions, you’ll know where you stand!

Let’s get real here; it’s just not about comfort. Quite often we decide to stay there due to our fears- fear of the unknowns, fear of what others might think of us, fear of failure.. How do we get past this? Take action and move forward- It’s that simple.

Here are 10 tips to break out of your Comfort Zone and overcome your fears.

Start with being self aware

Being deeply aware of your true self is the first step to any personal transformation journey. It is vital to reflect on what’s important to you, your values, purpose and what legacy you want to leave in this world. Think about what are some things you want to accomplish that are outside of your comfort zone. If you haven’t done so already, spend some time contemplating on it.

Follow the Goldilocks Rule

Humans are wired to love challenges- only if it’s slightly at the edge of their current capabilities. The task should be difficult to perform but not impossible or completely outside of our range. When choosing an activity, make sure to pick something that fits this Goldilocks rule. For a kid, if the puzzle is too challenging or easy, they quickly lose interest. A just-right amount of difficulty in solving the puzzle is the secret sauce to keeping a child engaged with a puzzle. Adults are no different and need that just-right level of challenge to be engaged in a new activity.

Take small incremental steps

Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, any significant goal cannot be accomplished quickly. It takes time and deliberate effort. Create a road map for where you want to be and focus on one step at a time. Taking baby steps and making progress is key to avoiding burnout and abandoning your goals.

Actively seek discomfort

If you don’t actively seek challenges, they will not automatically present themselves to you. It’s our responsibility to pay attention to our surroundings and determine how to best choose growth in various aspects of our lives whether it be personal or professional endeavors. Going the extra mile could be as simple as doing an extra push-up or spending extra time to fine-tune your presentation at work.

Be open to saying “yes” more often

While I agree that it’s important to prioritize and not say “yes” to everything, it has to be a balance. Being open to saying “yes” more often to things that align with your growth journey will only make you a better person. The idea here is to make sure you don’t let fear drive your decisions rather than assessing if an opportunity is the right one for you.

Next time you are asked to lead a workshop or present, take up the offer if it aligns with your goals and don’t hesitate just because you are nervous.

Connect with right people/groups

There are many things in life that are outside of our control, however we all can certainly have a certain level of control over our environment. Choose your environment wisely. Surround yourself with people at work and outside of work who inspire you, motivate you and challenge you to move forward.

Get comfortable with failure

As I’ve mentioned earlier in this blog, we typically like to stay within our comfort zone as we are worried about failure. If there’s one thing that we’ll all experience several times in life with undeniable certainty it’s “Failure”. So, let’s just give ourselves permission to fail and not measure our lives based on our successes but measure it based on who we become in learning from our failures.

Related blog: How to move from Failure to Success: 5 elements of a Successful Failure

Aim for action and not perfection

A lot of times we find ourselves in analysis paralysis mode when it comes to making a decision or moving forward. Trying to be perfect only complicates things when you are stepping into the unknown zone. When treading the uncharted spaces, aiming for action and movement is a good place to start. The idea here is not to minimize perfection or be mediocre rather it’s focusing on taking action and iterating your way to success.

Enjoy the experience

Last but not the least, enjoy the process of learning, being and doing rather than seeing it as a task. Life is too short to only enjoy a few moments of accomplishments, life is about welcoming and enjoying every experience that makes you, you!

Ready to push past your comfort zone? – here are some ideas for you to start.

  1. Write down 3 things you fear doing the most and make a plan to face one of your fears.
  2. Try a new recipe or order something new at a restaurant
  3. Plan a solo vacation trip to a place you’ve never been before
  4. Learn something new (language, recipe, playing an instrument,..it can be anything)
  5. Read a book outside of your regular genre preference
  6. Change up your workout routine and try something challenging
  7. Start a new passion project (start a blog, podcast, design a website…)
  8. Turn off the television or social media for a day (sometimes not taking action also feels uncomfortable!)
  9. Sign up for an online training course (outside of your expertise)
  10. Go for a nature walk to a local park you haven’t visited in a while

As Brene Brown said, “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both.” Make a choice that will change your world for the better!


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