The term “comfort zone” is a pleasant one — it has an indisputable gravitational pull. Too much of a good thing, however, is never actually a good thing in the end. It is often wise to pull back, look at the overall picture, and challenge yourself in a way you wouldn’t necessarily expect.
What if you start to think of the term comfort zone differently? What if it is more like a zone of mediocrity, a dull zone, or a humdrum space? How much pull does it have then? A comfort zone is a safe haven, but not necessarily a place where exhilaration and growth occur. The truth is, while keeping you safe, your comfort zone can also keep you stagnant. But it can be difficult to recognize this problem on your own.
What exactly is the issue with having a comfort zone, then? The underlying problem is that you don’t actually move into new territory by staying in your comfort zone. I have often seen the following anonymous quote about regret: “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.” Experience shows that people will be more disappointed by the things they never actually did than by those things which they tried and failed to do. When you stay in your comfort zone, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to try those new things.
If you want to start to make changes, get out of your comfort zone, and leave regret behind, but are scared to do so, begin your journey by taking the following steps:
1. Decide today that it is okay to feel embarrassed or uncertain. Whatever transition you are making, this is new territory that you have no personal history to help you navigate. Given your lack of experience, how could you possibly expect it to go perfectly? Give yourself permission to feel uncomfortable and afraid as you embark upon something new.
2. Find the humor in the journey you are about to undertake and be willing to laugh about it. If you laugh about the things that make you feel uneasy, it can become a much more pleasant journey rather than an anxiety-ridden roller coaster. Singer Amy Grant nailed it when she said, “More important than talent, strength, or knowledge is the ability to laugh at yourself and enjoy the pursuit of your dreams.”
3. Identify exactly what it is you are afraid of. Owning your fears, instead of letting them own you, is an important step in moving past your limitations. Don’t let the unknown grow into a fear that prevents development. Work to understand your fears and then start to face them.
4. Effectively take risks. Begin with understanding the difference between a calculated risk and a pure gamble. A calculated risk is one where you can identify the odds of certain results and thus make an informed choice. A gamble is leaving a decision completely and utterly up to chance. Be willing to make decisions with calculated risks while walking away from complete gambles.
5. Begin trying new things. The simplest way to challenge yourself and start to move beyond your comfort zone is to take baby steps. For example, trying a new food, visiting a different part of your city, or taking a class in something you were interested in but have never done before are all small ways to step in the right direction. If it helps, start by doing these things with a friend. These small adventures outside your comfort zone will condition you to feel more relaxed with uncertainty. Over time, you can then move on to trying the bigger, calculated risks that you want to take for yourself.
By slowly starting to edge out of your comfort zone, you will learn to manage anxiety, start seeing that all obstacles are not automatically daunting, and become confident that you will not only be able to survive a new experience, but also thrive from it. Take these steps and learn to embrace the experience outside your comfort zone today!