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