How to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

by Henrik Edberg


Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/notsogoodphotography/ / CC BY 2.0

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”
Brian Tracy

I believe that one of the biggest reasons why people get stuck in reading and discussing things instead of taking action to change their lives for the better is simply that it is uncomfortable.

But to make real changes in your life you have to step outside your comfort zone. At least for a little while.

So how can you make that a little bit easier? In this article I’d like to explore a few tips that have helped me.

Curiosity.

When you are stuck in a bit of fear, when you get stuck in your comfort zone then you are closed up. You tend to create division in your world and mind. You create barriers between you and other things/people.

Curiosity on the other hand is filled with anticipation and enthusiasm. It opens you up. And when you are open and enthusiastic then you have more fun things to think about than focusing on your fear.

Curiousness also opens you up to gain understanding of something. And with understanding vague, fog-like fears disappear.

The emotions you experience are often a result of what you focus your mind on. Change what you focus on about something and you can change your emotions about that thing.

How do you become more curious? One way is to remember how life has become more fun in the past thanks to your curiosity and to remember all the cool things it helped to discover and experience. And then to work at it. Curiosity is a habit. The more curious you are the more curious you become. And over time it becomes more of a natural part of you.

Develop a habit of mixing things up.

This is related to the previous tip, it’s a way to expand your comfort zone and to keep your curiousness up. I do, for example, try new music every month.

I have a look at the best music on sites like Pitchfork and Metacritic. Then I load a few of those albums on Spotify and listen. You could do the same with food for example and try new things each month.

Such small habits allow you to keep from getting stuck in the same old rut. It allows you to discover a ton of new exciting things. And it’s just plain fun.

Do it in small steps.

What holds us back in our zone of comfort is often a fear or that facing that fear head on might be overwhelming. This is a solution to those two problems. It allows you to stretch your comfort zone and slowly making it less uncomfortable and frightening.

Let’s say you want to be less nervous and awkward in social situations.

To solve that you can take small steps. Steps like first just saying hi to people. And being more involved in conversations at work or in school to exercise your conversation muscles. After a while those things will feel more comfortable. And so you can expand your comfort zone a little bit more.

And so you gradually desensitize yourself to social situations or whatever you are uncomfortable with. You make it the new “normal” for you.

So, identify your problem. Then make a plan with some smaller steps you can take to gradually lessen your discomfort.

Bring a friend.

If you are going to a party where you know few people then it may be easier to bring a friend. If you have decided to start going to the gym it might be easier to actually get going and keeping going there every week if you have a gym-partner.

However, there are potential downsides to bringing friends too. If you are at the party with your friend then you might not meet and get to know that many new people. If you are going to the gym with a partner it might lead to the two of you talking and focusing less on getting a great workout.

Focus on the positive past.

Realise it can be fun to get out of your comfort zone despite what your mind and feelings might be telling you before you get started. Think back to the previous times when you have broken out of your comfort zone. Focus on the positive memories, when you got out there, when you took a chance. And you will probably remember that it wasn’t so bad, it was actually fun and exciting and something new to you.

A lot of times we automatically play back negative experiences – or negative interpretations of events – in our minds before we are about to do something. And we forget about the positive memories and our previous, positive achievements. Avoid that trap. Let the good memories flow through your mind instead.

Read about it.

Your comfort zone might be protecting your from imaginary dangers. Maybe things aren’t as difficult or scary as you imagine? Do a bit of research. Just getting some good information can, in my experience, dissipate quite a bit of your fear and nervousness.

Accept that it will be uncomfortable.

Even if you do the things above it can still be uncomfortable to step out of your comfort zone. If that is the case, accept it. That discomfort will be temporary and you can always take action and just do it even though you may not fully feel like it.

The thing is if you accept that the discomfort is just there then it tends to become smaller or not so significant. If you on the other hand focus on how hard it is, think about it a lot and create all sorts of drama around it then you feed it with more energy and it becomes so uncomfortable that you can become paralysed from taking action.

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{ 15 comments }

Niall Doherty October 14, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Very timely for me. I constantly remind myself of this stuff but I’ve found it difficult to put into practice the last week or so. I’m trying to constantly remind myself of Curiosity vs. Fear, and I need to keep working on the first so it becomes much stronger than the second.

Tristan Lee October 14, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Hey Henrik. Thanks for this post.

I agree with you that to break through our uncomfortable zone, we should develop the habit to just be more curious (tip #1).

Figure out what the party will be like. What kind of music will it play? Figure out what the other person’s favorite food is, or where they are from. Why do he or she think and act they will they do?

Curiosity helps one become more comfortable in uncomfortable situations, simply because you’re no longer are thinking about what you don’t want to do or know, but what things interest you and that’s fun!

Ahad Bokhari October 14, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Good post and this topic certainly needs attention. We all are very comfortable within our little worlds, but if you really want to succeed one needs to break out of their natural tendencies – we’re only human right?

I especially liked Accept it will be uncomfortable! Of course…

Armen Shirvanian October 14, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Hey Henrik.

Bringing a friend sounds like a winning plan, as I have done much more random and interesting material with others. There is a victory when you have others to communicate with and try ideas with.

That is true about the positive past. I could use that to focus on the good things of the past, that I normally skip over, which would then help my current state. I think we focus on the negative past because it is more prominent in our minds, as unhelpful as that is.

Reading is something I do, recommend, and like to see others do. I often get the idea that everyone is reading and such, but so many are not reading much, or at all, and there is much material out there that is full of value, waiting for a reader.

Thanks for your material.

Positively Present October 15, 2009 at 1:14 am

Excellent post! Reading is so important and it’s a great way to start stepping out of your comfort zone!

Nick Laborde October 15, 2009 at 1:49 am

If we don’t challenge ourselves beyond our comfort zone, how do we truly know what we are capable of?

I know from personal experience that whatever discomfort that I was feeling wasn’t even close to reality. In fact, I’m usually shocked at how easy the challenge was.

I’ve found for myself, like you said “accept the discomfort” is a key to concurring the challenge. It is what it is, we probably can’t change it, but we can change the way we think about it.

A mountain biking friend of mine has a saying that I like.

“Its only a moment in time”

Jason of Kim & Jason October 15, 2009 at 3:42 am

This post really sums up what it means to be childlike. I think a lot of people stay stuck in their comfort zones because they are afraid to fail. For kids, everything is a new adventure, and they’re not afraid to fail. If they we’re, they’d never figure out how to walk because they’d be too worried about falling down. Failing is a necessary ingredient to success.

Gordie Rogers October 15, 2009 at 10:25 am

It’s great to find people who have already done something that makes you feel uncomfortable. I always say to myself, if so many other people can do it, then so can I.

Srinivas Rao October 15, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Cool post. I think probably the most important thing to note about comfort zones is that everything that you know how to do today was once outside of your comfort zone. But, after repetition and experience it’s something you do effortlessly.

rachel October 16, 2009 at 4:09 pm

great post! i think it’s important to keep pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones because that’s the only way we grow as people…and sometimes it’s not comfortable, but isn’t that the point? :)

Nica October 18, 2009 at 10:04 am

You’re always so inspiring!!!
Just want to leave you a message to express how I appreciate your writing and its impact on others journey on earth!

: )

Josten October 20, 2009 at 7:44 am

accepting that it will be uncomfortable i believe is a very important aspect that few tend to grasp. I learned the power of friends and how they will hold us back from doing certain things if we allow them to.
Great post

Dr. Jennifer Howard October 23, 2009 at 11:39 pm

Yes, wanting to reach our full potentials and always being comfortable don’t go together. I can’t tell you how many clients throughout the years I have helped open to their curiosity. Curiosity allows us to learn about others, open to the world, and continue on the path of self discovery.

Dr. Jennifer Howard
http://www.DrJenniferHoward.com

Anne October 24, 2009 at 7:20 am

I love you! haha. Thanks again for another great and inspiring (as Nica said) writeup. I’m learning new things everyday, and I always looking forward to your blog – it keeps me high in spirits. Also, this post made me realize why I enjoy reading your blog so much – you are a positive person and your writing is always very positive too. It takes quite a deal of pressure off my troubles (social anxiety, and others), makes them less “stigmatized” I guess you could call it, and me makes feel less shameful of them…does that make sense?

Thanks and keep up the great writing!!

Derek @ LoveBlug October 28, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Great post. You saved the best for last: Accept that you will experience discomfort and that it’s ok.

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