3 Small Habits That Will Help You to Move Out of Your Comfort Zone

by Henrik Edberg

Break out of your comfort zone

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“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. And regularly.

In this article I’ll share three habits that have helped me to make it easier to step out the comfort zone.

Develop a habit of mixing things up.

This is an easy and simple way to expand your comfort zone and to keep your curiousness up.

  • Try new music. I mix things up by trying 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.
  • Try new food. Each week we try cooking a new recipe from our cook books. It is most often a tasty experiment and helps us to find, sometimes unexpected, new favorites.

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.

And by changing your perception of yourself from someone who sticks to the old and comfortable all the time to someone who likes to mix small and big things up it feels more natural to mix things up in any other area of life too. You break out of your comfort zone regularly and so the inner resistance and fear that things will not go well becomes a lot smaller in everyday life.

Develop a habit of doing something in small steps.

What holds us back in our zone of comfort is often a fear that facing that fear head on all at once might be overwhelming. Taking small steps is a solution to that problem. It allows you to stretch your comfort zone and slowly making it less uncomfortable and frightening.

  • Become more social. 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.
  • Become more effective. You can start with just working 1 hour a day fully focused on your most important tasks in cone of silence (this means to shut out and shut off all distractions like the internet, the phone, the door to your office etc. as best you can). And then go back to your normal routine. The next week you can add an hour and work two fully focused hours a day. Step by step you build a more powerful habit that may feel uncomfortable at first.
  • Create something new. When I was going to start making my own products I was hesitant. I was just used to writing blog posts and putting together a whole book seemed like fun but was definitely outside of my comfort zone. So I took a small step and put together a smaller e-book at first that I give away for free to new newsletter subscribers.

By doing things this way you gradually desensitize yourself to social situations, to a new way of working or whatever you are uncomfortable with. You make it the new “normal” for you.

So, identify where you want to go or how you want to improve your life. Then make a plan with some smaller steps you can take to gradually lessen your discomfort.

Develop a habit of letting other people help you by keeping you accountable.

Being accountable to someone else is one of the most effective ways to push yourself out of comfort zones and stick with what you are doing until it becomes a new habit.

So find someone else who wants to improve in the same area as you. Or just someone who wants to improve something in his or her life and wants an accountability buddy. Then keep an eye on each other and support each other. Nudge each other in the right direction and let a bit of positive social pressure work in your favor.

If you cannot find an accountability buddy simply make the accountability public in some way. Post about your new goal or the habit you want to develop on Facebook, on your blog or tell family and friends. Or start a thread about your progress with getting into better shape on a fitness forum or on a forum related to what you want to achieve.

A few examples:

  • At the gym. If you have decided to start going to the gym it might be easier to actually get going and keeping going there every week – even after the initial enthusiasm have dissipated – if you have a gym-partner.
  • At the party. If you want to meet new people at a party then you and friend can nudge each other in the right direction. Keep each other’s mood up and go in with an open frame of mind and just have new conversations with people. Assuming rapport can be helpful if you want to do that.
  • When you want to lose weight. The diet is, in my experience, the most important thing and often the most difficult thing to not cheat too much on when you are losing weight. It becomes easier to stick with the program and not go off the rails when you have a weights loss partner – someone with similar goals – or someone you can be accountable to. Someone who nudges you back on track when you are having a bad day and want to devour a lot junk food. Someone who will tell you that it is not your weekly cheat day quite yet.

Start with one of these habits. Use that one habit as much as you can for 30 days or more until it really becomes a ingrained habit in your life.

Image by gtall1 (license).

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{ 47 comments }

Yoni May 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm

great article!
Definitely, the major reason that people are not making progress and not achieving the success they deserve is that the comfort zone is so comfortable.
It’s a great idea to break getting out of it by chunking it down and even feeling comfortable outside of your comfort zone

Henrik Edberg May 19, 2011 at 9:00 am

Thank you for the kind words!

ariana | a place in the pattern May 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Hey Henrik,

I too believe that being held accountable is very important. Aside from knowing that other people also know your intentions, they can also be of help during those times when you feel like giving up.

-ariana

Henrik Edberg May 19, 2011 at 8:39 am

Absolutely, that accountability is so helpful on days when you feel like not taking action or just feel like giving up.

Drew May 18, 2011 at 12:31 am

Great article. As with all of these types of things, the small steps all add up.

I’ve been doing a lot of this stuff myself recently (fitness schedule, new foods, little social habits) so it’s nice to know that I am going in the right direction.

Drew

Henrik Edberg May 19, 2011 at 8:40 am

Thanks! Yes, those small steps might not look like much if you look at them separately but if you add them up you get a lot of progress. Sounds like you have a good thing going there.

Justin | Mazzastick May 18, 2011 at 1:15 am

Life begins outside of our comfort zone.

Henrik Edberg May 19, 2011 at 9:01 am

Yes, life can really expand a whole lot if you just step outside of your comfort zone.

Sibyl May 18, 2011 at 2:13 am

Henrik: I thought this was a great post and message. It really is important to get out of your comfort zone. I thought your advice was really great to take small steps and to break the process of staying in your comfort zone simply by doing things you wouldn’t ordinarily do. All really great stuff. Thanks for the advice.

Henrik Edberg May 19, 2011 at 8:41 am

Thank you very much, Sibyl! Glad you found it helpful.

Grace Oris May 18, 2011 at 2:54 am

Avoiding getting uncomfortable is just a lot easier but won’t get us anywhere much or allow us to experience more exciting things. Starting with the “small steps” has helped a lot. Thanks for this reminder Henrik. Just discovered your blog :)

Henrik Edberg May 19, 2011 at 8:42 am

Thank you! And I’m glad you found your way here. Welcome! :)

Tony Edwards May 18, 2011 at 2:55 am

Great article. I especially agree with the point about creating something new. This really gets us out of our comfort zones. And do it in small steps so you don’t overwhelm yourself too quickly.

Thanks!

Henrik Edberg May 19, 2011 at 9:02 am

Thank you! :)

Briana May 18, 2011 at 7:59 am

I firmly believe we become more open-minded and less judging of other people if we regularly step out of our comfort zone and expand our general mindset.

Thanks for great tips!

Henrik Edberg May 19, 2011 at 8:59 am

I totally agree. :) Thank you for the great comment!

John Sherry May 18, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Some habits are good (regular exercise) other less so (eating chips in front of the TV most nights) and others are less clear to many (is not believing in yourself a bad habit or personality flaw?). The key is to aim for what’s our own best which will only activate our highest talents and finest habits. Another excellently crafted ‘straight-to-the-point-positivity’ post Henrik.

Henrik Edberg May 19, 2011 at 8:55 am

Thank you very much for the input, John. I always enjoy reading your comments, they are insightful and make me think.

Baker May 18, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Getting out of the comfort zone may feel like resistance at first, but the great thing is that once you get passed that stage, you find that the results were all worth it, and you become a new person filled with much success!

Henrik Edberg May 19, 2011 at 8:58 am

Yep. You just have to get through that resistance and you’ll find new aspects of yourself and life.

David Stevens May 19, 2011 at 3:48 am

Hi,
If you keep doing the same things you will get the same results. Yes, if you want to start changing your results/outcomes, make a step outside your zone…..you might start to like it.
Be good to yourself
David

Henrik Edberg May 19, 2011 at 8:56 am

Very true, it may seem scary but it is also exciting and often a lot of fun.

Monica Rafiq May 19, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Hi Henrik,

Yes – Comfort Zones are just SO comforting that most people stay in them. A bit like staying in bed! – Out of your comfort zone is a touch scarey but allows for growth and learning. Like you said that needs to be exercised regularly. I believ that too, a bit like a muscle being developed. Thanks for an inspiring read. best wishes Monica

Jussi May 20, 2011 at 5:17 pm

As always, I liked your article. Thank you Henrik. Sometimes it helps a lot when you know you’re not alone, that there many others who struggle with the same problem: stay in the bed/on the couch or start the day and do something! ANDIAMOS!!

Henrik Edberg May 24, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Thank you, Jussi! I like that too, it helps to hear that many others have had the same struggles and issues, it is comforting and also helps me to not build a lot of unnecessary “poor, poor me” drama around my issue.

Punita May 21, 2011 at 7:09 am

Hi Henrik,

A short and simple post with loads of inspiration to step out of one’s cosy shell.

Thanks

Minnie May 21, 2011 at 1:35 pm

This reminds me of Einstein’s defintion of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Because although it’s so hard to implement, you’re so right about making a change basically… being the catalyst for change. Enjoyed this post.

Bobby Clubbs May 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Henrik, this is a great post. I know that I am certainly out of my comfort zone when I jog/run, but I’ve been doing that for over a year now. I recently celebrated my “one year anniversary” running 5K races, and now I have my sights set on a half marathon. Thanks for the encouraging post!

Henrik Edberg May 24, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Thank you for the kind words and well done with the running! Best of luck with your half marathon!

Allan May 22, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Hey Henrik!
My First comment on here after I stumbled upon your blog a few days ago. Loving it.

You got some very good advice in this article.

What I tend to do to push my comfort zones is having the idea of “leverage”. Which obviously is very close to the idea of keeping yourself accountable.
I recently made a deal with a buddy of mine to reach our fitness goals by the end of next month. If one of us doesn’t reach it, he shall pay the other party 100$ and receive a slap across the face.

Extreme? Yes. But I feel that to get extreme results, extreme measures must be taken.

Henrik Edberg May 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Thank you and welcome! The 100$ idea sounds great. A bit extreme is sometimes, in my experience, very helpful.

Matt Maresca May 23, 2011 at 3:04 am

Great advice here, Henrik. The problem I’ve always had in making changes is that I don’t stay out of my comfort zone for long. This is a problem because I’ve developed certain habits over years and years of repetition. To get rid of these habits, I can’t expect to completely erase them in a few days. It takes time and more repetition to create new habits and replace the old ones. The old habits are imprinted on my brain. I must be willing to make myself uncomfortable over and over again until I have truly grown into a new level of comfort. It’s tough, but it’s the way to make progress. This article was a good reminder for me. Thanks.

EJ Hunter May 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm

It’s strange how the tiny lizard brain will try to keep us down by exhibiting fear and trepidation at every little thing. Thank you for offering some of your tips on working your way out of those issues by eroding the barriers that hold us back. I’m facing the same issues with publishing books – I think it would be really cool, but it’s so daunting! I do a little bit on it each day, whether I want to or not… and hopefully it will be done soon. :)

Inspire yourself,
–Sapphi

Emily May 23, 2011 at 6:19 pm

I believe the most important point is accountability. The worst deception is self-deception, and the only way you can get out of it is by being accountable to people who will lovingly tell you when you’re going the wrong way.

Henrik Edberg May 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm

That’s a very good point, sometimes it is hard or too uncomfortable to admit the truth so we need help from other people.

LotusFoodLtd May 23, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Yes, it takes some practice getting used to the idea that our “comfort zone” really does tend to make us grow complacent. We’re always looking for something new and different.

Aja May 24, 2011 at 11:05 am

My suggestion, what I do if I want to change something but can’t find what – I move furniture at my home to different places :)

Laura May 24, 2011 at 12:53 pm

LOL :) My friend does that too. I think it’s a way of exploring ones creativity.

Aja May 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm

but it really helps ;)

Henrik Edberg May 24, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Sounds like fun, I think I’ll try that sometime too. :)

Laura May 24, 2011 at 12:51 pm

I think this is a great piece of advice. Being comfortable might seem to beat hard work, but on the long run this is not fullfilling nor rewarding.

Denton Chiropractic May 27, 2011 at 6:10 am

Comfort zones are like shields: sometimes the protect you and other times they defend you from nothing. If you don’t let your shield down you’ll never know what might be standing right in front of you. Just let it go. no more excuses.

Naveen | Winning Ideas May 28, 2011 at 6:52 pm

One cannot achieve anything extraordinary if he doesn’t come out of his comfort zone. After all comfort zone is an illusion created by himself. It’s a limiting boundary which prevents one from trying something new. Trying will bring success, sooner or later.

Val May 29, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Ok, I admit I’m guilty of doing a lot of reading and studying. I do take action, but not as much as I could – have to learn more after all. Busted! Thanks for the reminder and helpful tips.

Sean G June 6, 2011 at 1:15 am

Great tips! The three habits you mentioned have a synergistic effect. If you develop all three simultaneously, you will swiftly and effectively move beyond your comfort zone.

Filthy Rich Mind June 6, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Some really nice tips here.

My comfort zone is something that I have gone to great measures to escape from. Moving from London to Thailand was one of the craziest decisions I’ve made, just 8 months ago, but I’ve definitely grown as a person since making that leap.

It’s amazing how landing in a foreign land with no understanding of the language shows up just how much we rely on our communication skills to emote and feel comfortable. I definitely recommend it for those who want to learn to appreciate their home a little more!

Social Natural June 29, 2011 at 6:49 pm

It’s not only uncomfortable, but the fear of failure. It’s best not to engage and put in effort only to be disappointed in the end.

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