4 Tips To Successfully Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
As a psychologist who helps people step out of their comfort zone every single day, I have good and bad news for you. The good news is that you are ABSOLUTELY capable of stepping outside of your comfort zone. The bad news is that it will be uncomfortable. The key is to prepare yourself for the discomfort.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone is the only way to grow. Comfort stagnates growth. Rather than a comfort zone, I call it the avoidance zone. What are you avoiding – Failure? Change? Loss? Judgment from others? When you are honest with yourself about your own avoidance behaviors, you are then empowering yourself to do something about it. So, take a moment (or, likely, more than a moment) and think about what is it that has you in avoidance zone (if you struggle within pinpointing this, therapy can help). Once you’ve figured that out, you’re more likely to succeed with stepping out of your comfort zone.
Everything that you want, that you dream of exists outside of your comfort (ahem, avoidance) zone. To get what you want, you will need to feel vulnerable, insecure, maybe even scared. But with proper planning, you can experience those unpleasant emotions in smaller, tolerable doses so that you can keep moving out of that avoidance zone and into the growth zone (that’s where the magic happens).
So, how do you make discomfort more tolerable?
1. Reframe your thoughts, especially about the f-word, failure. Instead of thinking of failure as a horrible event, think of it like this – you finally had the freaking courage to try something new and hard. That’s a win! If you didn’t get the exact outcome you were looking for, I bet you did learn something. If you don’t think that you did, take a step back and reflect because I promise you, there’s valuable information there. Information that you need to get closer to the outcome you want the next time you try. So, instead of failure, think of it as information, as feedback. If you aren’t failing at something, then you aren’t challenging yourself and if you aren’t challenging yourself, you aren’t growing. So, get out there and fail at something!
2. Take baby steps; set micro-goals. If you are not in the best of shape and you decide that you want to run a 6-minute mile and do 25# biceps curls, you just don’t walk into a new gym and super-sprint a mile and curl 25s. In fact, it’s probably the weight of the idea that is more challenging than the weight of the dumbbells. Perhaps you’re intimidated to even walk into the gym. All those fit people with their cute, matchy-matchy outfits (not true, by the way). Start with just walking in and getting yourself comfortable with the treadmill in the corner. When that feels comfortable enough (maybe that takes one attempt and maybe it’s 20), grab some 5# dumbbells. With each progression, know that the anxiety and self-doubt will re-emerge. Stick with it because with each effort those self-defeating thoughts, those negative emotions will lessen just a bit. With consistency, those baby steps will add up. Keep your eye on the micro-goal (mastering the 5# curls) so you don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged. Give yourself credit for each progression to build confidence.
3. Look at your past successes. Confidence is, in part, built on accomplishment. You’ve already had many successes, some big and some not as big (none small, all matter). You graduated from high school despite having to work full-time or you asked for that raise that you so deserved or you left that relationship after years of knowing that it was toxic for you. Those successes are proof that you can do hard things. Keep a working list of your successes and add to it each time you achieve another success or recall a past success. Review that list when you doubt your ability to step outside of your comfort zone.
4. Utilize your support system. We all need help sometimes. Use your support system (your significant other, your siblings, your parents, your friends, your spiritual leader, your therapist, your pet chinchilla) during heightened periods of stress and discomfort. Share with them your adventure with stepping outside of your comfort zone. This paves the way for you to receive support and it helps with accountability.
When you’re thinking that the discomfort is just too great, when you doubt yourself, remember why you started. What is your why? Why did you choose that goal? Why that dream? Is it for health and longevity? Financial freedom? For a more stable home for your children? Let your why lead the way.
Finally, if you recognize a pattern of avoidance behaviors and/or of self-defeating thoughts that you aren’t able to correct on your own, consider working with a therapist. For many, therapy is life-changing.
Author: Dr. Beverly Pedroche