How To Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone (5 Experts Reveal the Best Tips + Strategies To Break Free From Your Comfort Zone)
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
- Nelson Mandela
In this column, you will learn simple but powerful tips on how to move past your comfort zone from a wide range of experts.
Clicking on the expert names below will take you to their individual blurb on how to break free from your comfort zone.
“Unless you do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
I always wondered why we refer to that painful state of limbo that we remain in out of fear as our ‘COMFORT zone’, because it’s probably one of the least comfortable places there is!
Oh yes, we kid ourselves that it’s safer to stick right here than to move forward to stretch ourselves to do something ‘scary’. However, it only serves to reinforce that underlying sense of dread of the unknown, to keep us stuck and to prevent us from growing into the life that is waiting for us, if we would only take a little step at a time to widen our comfort zone. After all, every small step we take ultimately bring us closer to moving past our fear to achieve our dreams.
I’ve personally experienced a lot of fear of moving out of my comfort zone: It took me seventeen years (yes, SEVENTEEN!) in a corporate work environment before I realised I wasn’t being true to myself.
I was following the career path I thought I SHOULD because it was the ‘done thing’ and to explore the fact that I might want something else from life was just too damn scary and unpredictable. In fact, I was so stuck in a rut that I don’t think I really knew what I actually wanted for a long time. Eventually, I faced my fear and found the courage to turn down the ‘BIG job offer’ that would keep me trapped on the corporate treadmill for the foreseeable future and instead to follow my dreams – to retrain to become a self-development expert and coach people to have the life they want. BEST. DECISION. I. EVER. MADE!
Why challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone?
Neale Donald Walsch said that “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”, because that is where you push yourself into growth. When you are through the other side, it’s easier to see that challenges are healthy because they stretch and develop us. When we realise that fear is a construct of our minds, we can overcome it and this makes us stronger.
There is truth in the saying that “The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow”.
In coaching, we recognise that we need to provide challenge, in equal measure to support, in order to get the best results and the most chance of transformational growth for the person we are coaching. In short, challenge is necessary for growth. In the words of Eleanore Roosevelt, “You gain strength and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the things which you think you cannot do”.
Why not stay in your comfortable rut?
If the benefit of personal growth is not enough of a driver, another way to look at the decision of whether to move out of your comfort zone is to contemplate the consequences of staying there. Like I said at the start of this article, there is a painful underlying sense of dread that comes from living in a rut and not facing your fears. As Dorothy Corkhill Briggs says, “Actually, you have only one choice if you want to be free. Past pains need to be dealt with if they are to be laid to rest permanently. Band-aiding abscesses doesn’t remove the infected materials”.
Whilst it might seem easier to put your fingers in your ears and go “la la la… I can’t hear you” from the ‘safety’ of your comfort zone, you can bet that – if you squash those fears down and try to ignore them, they will find a way to come out sideways when you are least expecting them. They will keep showing up again and again – maybe causing problems in all your relationships or other areas of your life.
After all, “what you resist persists”.
I don’t know about you, but I am at a place in my life where I don’t want to live in my comfort zone anymore and keep repeating the same mistakes of my past.
I want to face challenges in my life head on and move into growth, however painful that process might initially be, because the rewards are more than worth it. I want to improve the way I interact with others and let go of things that stop me reaching my full potential. In the words of Robin Norwood, “The only way out is through”.
How to take the first steps out of your comfort zone
So that’s enough convincing you of why it’s essential to be courageous in moving out of your comfort zone, you might now be asking what practical action you can do to take the first steps.
Our comfort zone is really all about fear – that’s what keeps us stuck here.
So, who better to borrow advice from than the recognised expert on fear, Susan Jeffers, who wrote the book ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway!’® I love running workshops on fear in support of Susan’s work, because she has so much simple practical advice that we can all put in place immediately. I use her comfort zone exercise with my coaching clients too.
This is to list twenty things that you can do right now that will help you expand your comfort zone just a little.
The idea is that practicing on the small things will help you develop that ‘muscle’ and you can them move onto bigger things. Every step you take expands your zone that little bit more. Also, make these seemingly trivial and humorous things, so that they are easy to achieve and make you laugh – feeling good helps!
An example for me, many years ago, was just to take a different route to work. That was it – just doing something a little bit differently. Eventually, that led to some life-changing steps that would take me further out of my comfort zone into happiness and freedom than I could ever imagine.
So, try it! Make a list now and start practicing – one step at a time, until your comfort zone is so wide that you barely recognise it anymore and your life expands exponentially!
Jo Ritchie, Personal transformation coach and licenced Feel The Fear Trainer– www.joritchie.com
I’ve always been inspired by the phrase, “Desire leads to destiny.”
I believe our desires are given to us by our soul and are clues to our purpose in this lifetime. So many people I speak with feel directionless and unclear about what is it they are meant to do with their life. Yet, if we learn to honor and listen to our inner voice, it will reveal our deeper desires and help us see who we are truly meant to be.
Most young children know what it is they want to do in any given moment. They have very little trouble connecting with their desires and believing they can have them. It is through socialization and parental voices that these desires are often shut down and buried. We are often taught instead to please others and to do what is socially acceptable.
Fear and uncertainty take hold when we are told our desires are wrong.
We learn to disconnect from our true self and often lose our sense of vision and purpose. We learn to play it safe and stay in line. This creates a comfort zone that becomes the norm and one’s life becomes void of passion.
How do we reconnect with our deeper self and ultimately step out of the learned comfort zone which is really not true safety?
1. Learn to listen to your own inner voice
The true safety in life is to learn to listen to your own inner guidance. This is the voice of your soul which knows the next right thing for you to do and will gently guide you there. In order to listen to your inner voice you will need some kind of practice such as meditation, prayer, time alone in nature, etc., to cultivate the connection with your deeper self. Find a way to spend some time alone away from the daily noise of the world.
2. Do as you are guided
When you begin to listen to your inner guidance, you will receive messages that sound like whispers, hunches or inklings telling you to take a specific action. To get out of your comfort zone, you need to act. Take a small first step and see what happens. Look for feedback. Does a new door open? If so, walk through it.True inner guidance will not harm you or lead you astray. Yet, to learn to trust this voice, you need to do as it says and observe what happens.
3. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
We all know the difference between people in life who take risks and are vibrant and happy versus so many others who simply want to play it safe. You can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voice. There’s either a spark or it has been extinguished. People who accomplish great things or are life-long explorers learn how to deal with fear and discomfort. If you want to get out of your comfort zone, you will have to be willing to experience some discomfort. However, if you view fear and discomfort as a sign that you are growing, evolving and expanding, you can learn to work with this energy and not let it get the best of you.
Nancy Harris, LCSW, LICSW - www.nancyharriscoaching.com
“Real change is difficult at the beginning, but gorgeous at the end. Change begins the moment you get the courage and step outside your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
― Roy T. Bennett
The comfort zone is a psychological state in which one feels safe, at ease and secure, surrounded by the familiar.
It’s a necessary place to be, as we all need to feel safe. We’re actually hard wired to seek comfort. However, it is equally necessary to occasionally step out of that place of the familiar in order to grow and to live fully.
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
As children, we did it frequently. As a former teacher of young children I can tell you that children delight in experiencing new things and if it doesn’t go right it’s no big deal. They’re happy to try again. That’s how they learn about the world around them.
So, what happens along the way that causes so many people to stay stuck in their comfort zone? We learn fear. We become afraid of the results ending in ridicule or failure. As a result, we stymie our growth and our potential for more success, more joy, more enrichment.
Getting out of your comfort zone need not be excruciating. Taking risks and experiencing a little anxiety is what helps us grow. And the other side of fear is truly exhilarating!
Here are some tips to help you:
1. What are the things you see as worthwhile that you’re stopping yourself from because they feel uncomfortable?
Make a list and pick one to start.
2. Start with small steps.
Taking too big a jump will be overwhelming and send you back into your comfort zone. Break it down into small steps. If you want to speak in front of people, practice in front of a few trusted family
members or friends first. If you want to be more adventuresome and explore new places, start by taking a different route to work.
3. Grab a partner! Join a meet-up group or a gym with a friend.
It’s easier to enter new territory with a friend. For example, I wanted to do a radio show shortly after becoming a coach, but was afraid to get started. So—I co-hosted with another coach. We were both nervous to start, but less so than we would have been alone. We ended up having a blast and interviewing so many wonderful people! Later, I hosted a radio program solo and loved that as well.
4. See mistakes or “failures” as learning experiences.
That’s what they really are, after all. With every so called failure you learn something new that you can utilize the next time to increase your chances of success. Be willing to let go of taking yourself so seriously!
5. Be honest with yourself about what’s really going on.
Instead of making excuses about why you can’t do something, admit that you are feeling fear. As soon as you own your feelings, it gets easier to deal with them. You can then move forward with more clarity.
6. Visualize the outcome you want.
What would it feel like to go on the trip, play on the sports team, speak in front of an appreciative audience, get the dream job? Inject a feeling of fun into it!
7. Focus on the benefits of breaking through your comfort zone.
What will you gain by trying something new? How will you grow personally or how will it advance you in your career?
Estra Roell, Life Purpose Coach– www.americaslifepurposecoach.com
The problem with comfort zones is that life keeps changing around you, and you keep changing, so what used to be a comfort zone can become extremely uncomfortable.
When you find that the choices you used to make no longer feel good, it’s time to consider moving out of your comfort zone.
Just jumping into what others are doing or something you heard about on Facebook won’t get you where you want to be. You will likely be jumping from one outdated life situation into something that really doesn’t fit who YOU really are.
When your comfort zone has become uncomfortable, that’s a good time to stop, think about how you have changed, and give some real consideration to who you have become and the life you want to move toward.
You’ve gained new insight, new skills, maybe new passions and interests. Really consider seriously whether you are on the right path for where you want to be in 10, 20 or even 30 years.
Then consider a new plan.
Getting out of your old comfort zone or rut can take some planning. You may need to go new places, join new groups that share your interests, meet new people, and maybe even gain some new skills. You may need to ask others for support, direction, and information to get you moving…moving down a path that you haven’t been down before. That can be scary or exciting.
Go at your own pace. Keep checking in with yourself. And have fun!
Margalis Fjelstad, Ph.D., LMFT – www.margalistherapy.com
“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.”
Our comfort zone is that great place where we feel comfortable. We like it here. We know what to expect and how to behave in this safe space. However, if we truly want to experience all that life has to offer we must step out of our comfort zone to do so. Everyone’s comfort zone is different. Some people are most comfortable sitting at home alone and will avoid crowds at all costs, while others are completely uncomfortable being by themselves. The key is to find some balance between stretching yourself outside of your comfort zone just enough to continue to grow.
Sometimes we have stayed in our comfort zone for so long that we don’t even know where to begin.
First, try saying yes to new things.
Challenge yourself to say yes to one new thing per day. If a coworker asks you to join her for lunch and you prefer to eat alone, say yes. Even if you brought your lunch and it will be bad by tomorrow, say yes. Allow yourself to experience something new. Pick a book you wouldn’t normally read. Watch a movie you don’t think you would like. Try a restaurant you have never been to before. Just start saying yes to new things.
Second, remember that stepping outside of your comfort zone will feel uncomfortable.
This is ok. When our bodies are forced to do something that feels unnatural it will bring up a whole slew of things that may try and push you back into your comfort zone. Feeling anxious, nervous, scared, excited, or anything really is normal and is a sign that you are doing this right. You are telling your brain and your body that you are in charge and willing to move forward in a new direction.
Third, watch a child.
Really just watch them for a little while. They are learning and growing and trying new things every day. They are no different from us other than we have had experiences that have caused fear or pain. Recognize that our brains way of preventing this pain from happening again is to keep us in our comfort zone. Then recognize that you can control what you do and where your thoughts go. Decide to get excited about trying new things and they will be exciting.
Lastly, just do it.
Take the chances, say yes when it feels scary, and take control of your life. At the end of your time here do you want to look back and think I’m happy I played it safe? Or do you want to look back and think I am so happy I actually lived my life while I could? We all have a limited time here on this earth and I know for myself I never want to look back and regret the chances I never took!
Kimberly Speer, CLC, ELIMP - www.destinybydesignlifecoaching.com
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