Almost everyone has something that makes them feel comfortable and stable. Maybe it’s a routine at the gym, or a certain type of person they date. Although it can be reassuring to have some stability in life, when your comfort zone starts to feel confining, it might be time for a change.
A comfort zone is a place where you feel comfortable, but it can also be limiting. Stepping out of your comfort zone can help you grow as a person.
Perhaps you’ve been doing the same job for an extended period of time and the mere prospect of change is enough to make you anxious.
The article lists several ways to challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone. It argues that by doing so, you open yourself up to new opportunities and experiences which can be beneficial.
Actionable Tips from Therapists for Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone:
1. Create Pro and Con Lists for Both Scenarios
A simple way to overcome some of the fear that might be holding you back is to lay the facts out on paper, according to Alyssa Mancao, LCSW, mental-health expert at Ro Mind, a digital mental-health platform for people with anxiety and depression.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be daunting because it comes with anxious thoughts and feelings of uncertainty. However, it can be rewarding in the end.
Outlining the pros and cons on paper can help you understand how much you would benefit from a change. What are the positives to moving forward with something new? What are the negatives to trying something new? Then do the same lists for staying exactly where you are. This objective approach can help you decide when to move on and when to stay.
2. Acknowledge the Inherent Scariness of the Unknown
It is normal to feel nervous about doing something you have never done before, so expect some nerves. As a child you had to learn to walk. This too felt unsafe and new. But once you master a new skill or a new situation you will create a new comfort zone.
It is natural to feel anxious when trying something new, because it is new, novel, or unknown.
3. Break the Action Into Smaller Mini-Goals
Break the process into small goals that you barely notice. In other words, take baby steps.
If you’re looking to up your workout game, start by adding a few extra minutes to your routine.
Add a few more reps or exercises so that you’re physically pushing yourself. Get more comfortable, and then you can take bigger steps, like swapping a new class into your rotation that seems challenging or outside the box.
When golfing every swing driving the ball farther down the fairway is moving you closer to the hole. Forward progress. That is all that is needed.
If you find it difficult to meet new people, you can use the same approach as above. Download a social app like Meetup to see what events are happening in your area. Read about different groups of people and pick one to start emailing to get familiar with the people you’ll meet at the IRL event. With baby steps, you can gradually establish a new routine.
4. If the First Step Still Feels Scary, Try Something Entirely Unrelated (but still outside of your norm)
Doing things that are out of the ordinary can help you become more comfortable with taking risks.
If your goal is to sign up for workout classes at a local gym but you feel like it’s out of reach, try shaking up some other element of your life.
Instead of picking up dinner from a restaurant, you could prepare a meal at home. Or try reading a book that you wouldn’t normally read or look into taking classes for a job-related skill or hobby.
In all of these cases, you’re pushing yourself harder than usual, which can help remind you that you’re someone who can handle taking risks. And that feeling, in turn, can make the goal you originally had for attending the workout class seem less daunting.
5. Consult Friends or Acquaintances Who’ve Taken a Similar Leap
More information will always help you reduce anxiety more than less information.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable about taking a certain step, you could ask someone you trust for advice. This person should have some experience with something similar to what you’re doing, so they can give you an idea of what to expect.
For example if you want to start your own business, talk to others who have already started a business. Learn from the tips for success and where you might find pitfalls.
Learning about the potential risks or changes from people who have already experienced them can help improve confidence.
6. Do Everyday Things Differently
When we shake up our everyday routines we build our confidence that when we can’t follow our routines we will be fine. It is not the end of the world.
If you’re looking for ways to challenge yourself on a daily basis, try turning off your smartphone and television while having dinner, deciding what to wear more quickly, or slowing down to take in the surroundings on a walk.
These changes break you out of old, comfortable routines.
7. Expand Your Professional Skillset
New skills can lead to more creativity, refreshed self-confidence, and increased employability. Skills like public speaking, negotiation, and leadership may be challenging for some people.
Investing in your future can build resilience, personal satisfaction, and open up more opportunities than ever.
8. Try a New Diet
Many people want to reduce their dependence on unhealthy “comfort foods.” Learning new ways to eat and be healthy through whole foods is a great way to improve your health. These new eating skills will make you more active, get your weight under control and lessen your risk for illness and disease.
Once you realize how good you feel with proper nutrition you will be able to pass on those old comfort foods and replace them with new healthy alternatives. Never reward yourself with poor choice foods.
Adhering to a nourishing diet can be as trying as it is gratifying, with self-sufficiency escalating as you accomplished significant objectives en route.
9. Take Workouts to the Next Level
Many people want to be in good shape and stay healthy. Some people want to be able to run a 5K, while others want to be able to complete a triathlon. Exercising and pushing yourself to do more than you are comfortable with is a good way to start working towards your goals.
10. Get Inventive
Invention usually involves some element of risk, since it generally entails doing something that hasn’t been done before. This means that failures are to be expected, and should be seen as opportunities to learn.
Creating something brand new is a good way to train yourself to have a growth mindset. You don’t need to be perfect from the start.
11. Challenge your Beliefs
Expanding your perspective by exploring alternative beliefs can be uncomfortable, but it leads to growth and understanding by pushing against established opinions.
There are many ways to expand your horizons. You can read different genres of books, talk to different types of people, and visit new places. It can be easy to get stuck in our ways, but this can lead to complacency.
12. Practice Honesty
Honesty can help you grow as a person if you use it in the right way. For example, if you’re honest with yourself in a journal or with someone you’re close to, it can make you feel uncomfortable but it can also help you progress.
We can improve our relationships with others by communicating honestly with them. This will help us to understand ourselves better and to create stronger bonds.
Benefits of Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
1. It Can Lower Your Risk of Depression
While it may be uncomfortable to step outside of your comfort zone, doing so can have a positive impact on your mental health.
Learning the skill set to deal with the unknown improves your ability to handle stress this in turn will help protect you from depression and anxiety.
2. It May Improve Your Performance
When you step out of your comfort zone, you may feel some anxiety. Feeling anxious isn’t always a bad thing in some cases it actually makes you preform better.
According to the Yerkes-Dodson law, moderate stress and anxiety are associated with maximum performance. You cannot perform at your best without a moderate amount of discomfort.
Some anxiety can help focus motivation and attention on the task at hand. For example if you have an upcoming test and are nervous about doing well. This anxiety can help you buckle down and study so that you will do well.
3. It Supports Personal Growth
If you have new experiences, you will become stronger. Life is full of surprises and even with the best of planning the future can not be predicted. Every time you exercise the muscle mindset to try something new future unknowns become less scary. You know you can depend on yourself.
4. You Could Feel More Creative
It is easy to become unthinking and routine when you are in your normal environment. However, getting out of your comfort zone requires you to challenge yourself and think on your feet. This is when you become the most creative.
People are most creative when they’re not in their comfort zone. This is because their creativity is in a state of flow. The excitement of your creativity can often be stronger than your fear of the risk involved. This new dynamic will create positive reinforcement and make your next foray out of your comfort zone easier.
Being outside of your comfort zone can actually be a good thing as it can lead to creativity and productivity.
5. It Naturally Increases Your Adaptability
If you are always doing the same thing, it will be a big problem for you when your routine is interrupted. But if you regularly do different things, it will be easier for you to respond quickly when things don’t happen as you expected.
Adapting to new and varied circumstances will become easier.
If you can feel comfortable outside of your comfort zone, you will feel more capable of dealing with whatever life throws at you.
People who are self-reliant see challenges as a way to stay strong and adaptive. These people know they can handle whatever comes their way, which helps to keep doubt from getting in the way of taking action.
6. You’ll Likely Feel Less Bored
If you do the same thing every day, it can feel very boring. But if you try new things, it can help you avoid feeling like the same old thing day after day. There is a whole subset of the population that needs novelty just to feel energized.
Finding ways to have new experiences regularly adds depth and satisfaction. We generally want to share with others are unique experiences, petting a kangaroo at the zoo. But we don’t share the fact that we washed the dishes and ran a load of laundry, the boring routine stuff.
Many people see self-actualization as a reason to leave their comfort zones. This concept became popular through Abraham Maslow’s (1943) theory of human motivation. He said that this is a need everyone has.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is like a ladder, with the satisfaction of our ‘basic’ and ‘psychological’ needs being analogous to inhabiting the comfort zone. This means that as we work to fulfil our more base level needs, we create a foundation that helps support the meeting of our more complex needs.
The next requirement, according to the theory, is for personal growth and fulfillment, even if we’re not aware of it.
Not striving for growth could mean falling into a state of inertia later in life.
8. Development of a Growth Mindset
A fixed mindset holds that intelligence and other talents are inherent traits that cannot be changed. This viewpoint leads people to avoid any situation where they might fail.
A growth mindset contradicts this belief, asserting that intelligence can be developed. People with a growth mindset accept challenges and persist in the face of setbacks because they believe they can improve their abilities.
Psychologist Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets in 2008 was a shift in the field of positive psychology. Her research distinguished between two contrasting belief systems, the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. The fixed mindset holds that intelligence and other talents are inherent traits that cannot be changed. This viewpoint leads people to avoid any situation where they might fail. The growth mindset contradicts this belief, asserting that intelligence can be developed. People with a growth mindset accept challenges and persist in the face of setbacks because they believe they can improve their abilities.
People who have a fixed mindset believe that they have a set amount of each ability and that there is a corresponding limit on how much they can achieve. They see failure as a sign of inadequacy and criticism as a fatal blow to their self-esteem.
The growth mindset believes that humans can change and improve. From this way of thinking, setbacks become opportunities to learn, and people’s potential is endless.
The growth mindset expands the possible by intentionally leaving the comfort zone. The fixed mindset keeps us trapped by fear of failure.
9. Resilience and Antifragility
A life full of adversity leads to a strong and resilient person. If people can get out of their comfort zones, they will be able to handle change better.
Statistician Nassim Taleb (2012) introduced the concept of ‘antifragile’ systems, which are systems that actually improve when exposed to chaos or stress. Taleb argues that antifragility is found in systems ‘beyond the limits of predictability.’
This includes examples such as evolution and immune systems, as well as the human psyche.
While some systems are able to return to their original state after being hit with a shock, antifragile systems are able to learn and grow from the experience, becoming even stronger than before.
To become antifragile, we need to step outside our comfort zone and purposely put ourselves in new and challenging situations – as long as we don’t let ourselves become overwhelmed by anxiety.
10. Greater Self-Efficacy
Self-efficacy is the belief that you can take the necessary actions to achieve a goal. Having specific, achievable goals that are not too difficult to achieve in the short term will lead to higher self-efficacy.
Leaving your comfort zone will lead to a phase of trial and error, but you will eventually find success. This success will build your self-efficacy and make you believe in your ability.
It’s not going to happen all at once, but you will get better at it and become more confident over time. This can be a big help to anyone.
READ MORE: 19 Ways To Boost Your Self Confidence