Updated: Aug 13, 2020
Comfort zone is a psychological concept describing human tendency to be safe, certain and stress free. By staying in our familiar surroundings, doing well versed tasks, and meeting same old people, our vulnerability is minimized. Fitting our behaviors in a routine and pattern makes us feel at ease, gives us perception of control of the environment. Humans are wired to seek out comfort. That is why it is so hard to let go of it.
How can we expect to evolve if we only stick to a habit and routine? So long we are staying within our comfort zone, we are not growing because we are not moving. Growing is about becoming better selves and the only way to improve is to experience something new.
Look at the excuses you tend to make for avoiding situations outside your comfort zone and question whether they are based on the anticipation of discomfort or they are based on some more objective obstacles. If someone else offered you those same excuses about their behavior, would you see these as excuses or legitimate reasons to decline? Stretching too far outside your comfort zone can have negative consequences of living in constant fear. You have to know how much prompting you need before getting down to work.
Stepping out of the comfort zone assumes taking risk, exposing ourselves to uncertainty and opening us to possibility of stress and anxiety. Anxiety usually comes from the fear of the unknown. Benefits of trying new things and making changes in our lives is that it can lead to real personal growth. Little bit of stress acts as a catalyst for growth by providing a powerful motivation to act. In psychology, stress levels that are slightly higher than normal, we call optimal anxiety.
By taking risks in a controlled fashion and challenging yourself to things you normally wouldn’t do, you can experience some of that uncertainty in a controlled, manageable environment. Once you start stepping out of your comfort zone, it gets easier over time. As you step out of your comfort zone, you’ll become accustomed to that state of optimal anxiety. Stepping out of your comfort zone will help you to deal easier with the new and unexpected changes. Stepping out of your comfort zone will increase your productivity, because the sense of unease that comes from deadlines and expectations maintains our drive and ambition. Trying new things can make us reflect on and challenge our old ideas, see old problems in a new light, and help deal with the challenges we face with a new energy. By giving a little extra effort we find better ways to do things.
Basic advice for stretching your comfort zone is to do things differently every day. Take a different route to work. Try a different cuisine for lunch. Even small shake-ups in your routine will lead to meeting new people and seeing different sights. Create a bucket list. Do the chores you have been postponing. Say yes to something you would normally refuse. Learn a new language. Acquire some new skill. Visit a new place. Visiting new places is the one of the best ways to broaden your perspective.
When it is about some major change in life, you can make it easier for yourself by educating yourself first about it. The more you know about something, the less scary and more powerful you’ll feel. Read books and articles. Ask experienced people about it. Create an action plan with step to step guidance how to get out of your comfort zone. Start with the easiest thing. Taking ‘baby steps’ is a great way to desensitize yourself to the feelings of anxiety. It is important to identify the key challenges you are going to face and what will you do to overcome them. Alternative approach would be to jump out of your comfort zone by doing something you fear; shocking the organism into becoming comfortable. This way you would have less time to think about what used to make you scared.
The more open you are to new possibilities, the more diverse your experiences, and the more confident you are in your ability to face new situations, the more resilient you will be. Also, there is no learning without some difficulty. You learn the most when things don’t go perfectly. If you are determined to try new things and grow, you will focus on what you are learning and forget about failure.
Our comfort zones tend to shrink as we get older. By keeping expanding them, we expose ourselves to the benefits of broadening our horizons, we open ourselves up to greater fulfillment and improved well-being as we age. New experiences can change everything about what you believe, what you like to do, how you behave, and how you live. The possibilities are truly endless.