In our comfort zone, everything feels safe and familiar. Finding the will to leave can be challenging. But the more we stay in our comfort zone, the more opportunities we miss in our personal and professional lives.
Learning how to get out of your comfort zone takes grit and a change of thinking. Each time your comfort zone expands it results in growth, learning, and success.
What is the comfort zone?
The comfort zone is a psychological state in which a person feels at ease because they’re around what they know and not being tested.
Inside the comfort zone, people tend not to seek or engage in new experiences, or take on any risks to avoid anxiety, stress, and uncertainty. They only take part in activities that are familiar, making them feel “in control” of their environment.
Why is it hard to leave your comfort zone?
Finding the motivation to leave your comfort zone can be tough. Here are 3 reasons why you may be hesitating to take the first step.
Fear and uncertainty
In your comfort zone, you feel safe because everything is predictable.
When you think of leaving or expanding your comfort zone, you start to feel uncertainty. And according to Psychology Today, uncertainty equals danger, which makes you fearful.
So even when you know you’ve outgrown your comfort zone and are thinking about stepping out, fear keeps you from going ahead.
A fixed mindset
When you have a fixed mindset, you convince yourself that you don’t have the right skills to succeed in something new. This diminishes your drive to find opportunities to grow and learn new skills.
Instead, you make excuses to stay in your comfort zone like, “I can’t do that” or “that’s not something I’m good at.” This mentality keeps you stuck in the comfort zone as a way to avoid challenges.
Changing our behaviour is difficult because our behaviour is habitual. The more we repeat certain behaviours, the more we get stuck into fixed patterns. A strong willingness to change is needed to set lasting behavioural change.
How anxiety can help you leave your comfort zone
In an experiment performed by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson in 1908, they discovered that mice were more motivated to complete a maze when given mild electrical shocks. However, the mice hid in fear once the shocks became too strong.
According to the Yerkes-Dodson Law, an optimal level of pressure or anxiety increases performance, but only up to a point. Too much pressure has the opposite effect, causing someone to panic.
Trying to go too far outside so increasing your anxiety levels too much can have the same effect, having you moving even further back into your comfort zone.
Instead, the best way to leave your comfort zone is to gradually expand it and find your optimal level of anxiety. Let’s explore some ways to leave your comfort zone.
1. Do one thing you’ve always wanted to
If you have a list of things you’ve always wanted to do whether that’s activities, places you want to visit, career moves you want to make… Challenge yourself by picking one thing you’ve always wanted to do and do it. Break it down into small actionable steps and start the first step today.
2. Start a fitness challenge
Take on a 30-day fitness challenge like running or cycling. Fitness challenges expand your comfort zone as well as improving your health and wellbeing.
Research shows that regular exercise decreases the effects of stress on the body, lowering anxiety levels. This makes it easier for you to try things outside your comfort zone for two reasons:
- Other challenges can feel easier in comparison to such physically demanding challenges
- With reduced stress and anxiety you’ll be in a better headspace to take on and succeed in new challenges.
3. Change up your routine
Building a good routine takes time, often through trial and error. However, sticking with the same routine can often leave us running on autopilot.
Changing up your routine with some spontaneity is a way to escape that, it provides you with new opportunities through meeting new people in new places.
4. Expand your professional skill set
Comfort zones can get in the way of your professional growth. For example, getting too comfortable in a role you’ve outgrown can keep you stuck when you need to move forward in your career.
One way to help you leave your comfort zone is to learn new skills that give you a competitive advantage giving you more confidence, and making you more employable. Use your organisation’s learning and development resources to upskill yourself with in-demand skills in your industry.
5. Choose a fear, and face it
You need to have courage to step out of your comfort zone. This isn’t about eliminating fear, it’s about feeling it but going ahead anyway.
Choose one fear that’s currently stopping you from going after what you want and confront it.
6. Travel somewhere new
Traveling is one of the best ways to step out of your comfort zone. It’s fun, eye-opening to new ways of life and gives a deeper appreciation for nature and the environment.
If you go to the same beach resort every holiday, choose a completely new destination next time you travel.
What happens when you leave your comfort zone?
There’s countless benefits to leaving your comfort zone:
- Increased resilience from continuously overcoming challenges.
- Self-actualisation through realising your talents and potential.
- A boost in self-confidence from seeing you’re capable of achieving more than you thought you could.
- Fewer regrets from actually achieving your goals.