Breaking out of our “Comfort Zones” has become a sort of repeated rite-of-passage. It’s a life cycle we either embrace or resist:
Push Our Limits—Familiarize with the New—Get Comfortable/Complacent…and repeat.
Even the rowdiest, most thrill-seeking adventurers of us all have been told at one point or another to “Get out of your Comfort Zone”! It’s become part of our Pop Culture Lexicon, something we say to others (and to ourselves) to motivate and attempt to inspire.
In fact, it’s become so common that we have all established a gut-response to being told to break free from the comfortable. That response falls somewhere between: “Yeah, man! Seize the day!” and “Don’t tell me how to live my life!”
There is a happy medium in there somewhere. And one that allows for escaping the ordinary, allowing for growth, and ever-expanding our potential…comfortably.
Why Should I?
Being told to leave your comfort zone begs the question, “Why should I? Isn’t what I’m comfortable with good enough?” The problem with “comfortable”, is that comfort breeds complacency which is a more deliberate resistance to self-improvement and growth.
“If you are not moving forward, the world is passing you by.”John C. Maxwell
Fear is often what keeps us ensconced in what we call our comfort zone. Fear of failure, fear of humiliation, any number of False Expectations Appearing Real. Forget fear and embrace the opportunities for failure. Because “if you’re not failing, you’re probably not really moving forward.” John C. Maxwell
1. Complacency Produces Little
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am a strong advocate for being content. I don’t believe in living in a perpetual state of looking for something more. However, contentedness and complacency are not the same thing.
The complacent person has become overly content—to the point of neglect. “A complacent person might be heard saying, ‘Ehh, don’t worry about it!’ — when there really is something to worry about.”
In this state we become careless of ourselves, of our responsibilities, and definitely about future potential. The complacent person produces as little as possible. They wrap themselves in a blanket they call “comfortable”. But, the words “comfort zone” become an excuse for not pushing themselves harder and risking possible failure.
2. You’re Wasting Time and Energy Worrying
Time spent worrying is nothing but wasted time. Avoiding risks and adventures becomes time tainted with regret–wasted time. Energy surrendered to worrying about something instead of diving in becomes wasted energy.
Unbeknownst to you, if you are worrying about something, your body is fighting a battle inside you to counter the negative effects of that anxiety.
“Some symptoms of anxiety are caused by a release of adrenaline which is a hormone inside of the body that is triggered when a person needs energy. The more anxiety you have, the more your body starts to run out of adrenaline before it can make more. Without adrenaline your body may lack energy and lethargy can take place.” (Calm Clinic)
Even if you’re not consumed by anxiety, if you’re providing any space in your mind for that worry to continue, your body will tire more quickly. You are literally wasting energy by thinking about breaking out of your comfort zone instead of just doing it!
3. You’re Missing out on Joy
Reflect for a moment on experiences you’ve had—risks you’ve taken outside your comfort zone that you have loved. Think about what you have learned about yourself from those adventures. How much stronger and more capable are you because you set aside your fears? What amazing memories do you have because you dared to reach beyond what was comfortable?
Adding all those memories together, how much joy would you have missed out on if you had chosen to remain locked inside your comfort zone? Joy can often be found on the other side of the uncomfortable.
How do I Break Out of My Comfort Zone?
1. What’s the Worst that Could Happen?
No, really—don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “what’s the worst that could happen?”. I used this tool to help my children when they faced things that made them feel anxious. All grandiose fantasies of life-ending, apocalyptic, disaster-scenarios aside, visualizing potential problems can be cathartic.
When we visualize potential problems, embarrassments, or failures, we can then ask ourselves, “can I handle that happening”? If we’re being honest, 9 times out of 10, the answer is “yes”. And though hesitation or worry might linger, we can move forward more confidently. We understand that rarely, if ever does the worst-case scenario actually transpire, and if it does, we will make it out on the other side just fine.
For those 1 out of 10 outcomes, where you honestly believe you cannot handle the “worst that could happen”, ask yourself this follow-up question: “is there someone I can depend on to help me if that happens”?
2. Surround Yourself with People You Can Trust
The only people who should be encouraging you to escape your comfort zone are people who have your best interest at heart. They are trying to help you achieve the potential they see in you. A shallow acquaintance who is pushing you for their own entertainment or exploitation should never be a reason to break free from you limitations.
Most of us aren’t natural life-explorers. Our nuclear families have raised us within certain parameters, with hobbies and experiences they are comfortable with. New relationships introduce new experiences, especially during our formative teenage/early adult years. As we get older, and our social circles become more concrete, our exposure to new opportunities and challenges decreases. Opportunities to explore outside our comfort zone become more infrequent.
However, when you surround yourself with friends, co-workers, and family members you can trust with your well-being, you should seize every opportunity they present to expand, explore and grow.
3. Start Small
Start with opportunities for growth that come naturally to you through associates you trust. Getting out of your comfort zone does not mean pushing yourself to extremes, engaging in destructive behaviors, or destroying boundaries. It means, accepting challenges with grace and courage. Stop allowing anxiety or fear of the unknown dictate and control your life.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”Eleanor Roosevelt
Opportunities to stretch beyond what is comfortable will come to you without chasing after them. These opportunities come naturally because they fit your life. They are presented to you from a trustworthy associate, they are an extension of a similar hobby you practice, or they are simply the next logical—albeit unnerving—step in your life’s progression.
Start by seizing those opportunities.
Break into Blessings
Real growth comes from being pushed outside our comfort zone. In addition to growth, a few blessings we can achieve from breaking out of the comfortable include:
- Learning who you are
- Identifying attributes you didn’t know you had
- Meeting new people
- Developing new skills
- Discovering new talents and hobbies
- Building courage and resiliency
- Increasing self-worth
These blessings might lie on the other side of the uncomfortable, but are worth the sacrifice to attain!
Next time you are faced with the choice of accepting or rejecting a challenge that forces you out of your comfort zone, focus on these blessings. Set aside the fear of the unknown, the anxiety of uncertainty, and instead focus on who you can become and what you can achieve.