Taking risks and trying new things can feel scary. That’s because your brain is hard wired to keep you safe. You feel a sense of certainty and control while in the comfort zone. Within the comfort zone, you typically aren’t trying anything new or challenging yourself, so it feels familiar, comfortable, and safe. So, when you leave it, anxiety and fear step in. Your brain hasn’t learned these neurological pathways yet. Although it can spiral you into a sense of discomfort and panic, it is for these exact reasons it’s vital to step out of the comfort zone. It gives your brain a chance to build new pathways, and you a chance to build confidence, creativity, resilience.
So, now that we understand what the comfort zone is and why it’s important to leave it, let’s go through some ways to make it happen.
1. Put Your Thoughts in Check
Thoughts are not facts. Feelings are not facts. And yet they constantly dictate our lives. Your mind has trained you to believe that being comfortable is safe, and being uncomfortable is dangerous, or too risky. When in reality, being uncomfortable doesn’t typically mean you are at risk. Trying something new can be scary but it doesn’t have to be risky. So, when your mental and physical alarm system gets set off, it’s important to reality check yourself and realize that you are not at risk. This step can be hard, that’s why starting small is important.
2. Start Small
To allow you to move from the comfort zone through the fear zone and into the learning and growth zones, it’s easiest to start small. This can be as simple as turning off your GPS to a location you are already familiar with, saying hello to a neighbor, or trying a new recipe. Remember to start slow and take lots of reassuring breaths along the way. Reciting affirmations such as “I am stronger than I think,” or “This may feel scary, but I am going to keep going” can help rewire your mind into a sense of safety.
Before you venture out of your comfort zone, it can be powerful to visualize what it may be like. A study once showed that basketball players who used visualization made more baskets (in less attempts) than a control group who did not use the technique. You can start visualization by first picturing what it is you are striving for. From there, layer in the details of what it could be like. Where are you? What are you wearing? Who is with you?
4. Progress over Perfection
Perfectionism and fear of failure can be so stifling that one remains stagnant in the comfort zone. Coming to the realization that we can learn from our mistakes rather than ruminate over them, is a powerful mindset shift. Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from learning a lesson and using it to fuel your success.
5. Stay True to You
The idea here is not to push yourself too hard or change the essence of who you are, but rather to evolve and learn. True happiness comes from within, and when you are constantly trying to be someone different than your true self, it can be very stressful and draining. Instead, leave the comfort zone knowing who you are and stay aligned with your vision and values. All the while, keeping in mind that you are evolving and growing into the most beautiful version of yourself.
Now that you know why and how to leave your comfort zone, the question I leave you with is: what will you do next? The possibilities for growth and expansion are endless!