You’ve heard it before: If you want to grow as a person, you need to leave your comfort zone. But how do you do that when every fiber of your being screams at you not to? While some people seem like they can walk into the fire without batting an eye, others like us get trapped in our comfort zones and can’t figure out how to escape them. If this describes you, take heart – that’s what this guide is all about!
What Is the Comfort Zone in Psychology?
The comfort zone is an imaginary circle around a person that represents how far he or she is willing to go in trying new things. Typically, we remain inside our comfort zones because we’re afraid of stepping out and possibly failing at something new.
The problem with staying inside your comfort zone is that you don’t learn anything about yourself; you only know what you can do when you are doing what you usually do. If you want to grow as a person, then leave your comfort zone! Here are ways to force yourself out of it
Breaking out of your comfort zone doesn’t just make one big decision. Instead, it is a series of smaller challenges, each pushing you towards new experiences and opportunities. When you do get there, you’ll feel a rush of excitement that can leave you hooked on life outside your comfort zone.
From leaving those left-brain tasks behind to breaking out of your dating comfort zone, here are eight ways to force yourself into situations where everything feels new. Leave your comfort zone with these challenges today.
Keep it positive
Instead of trying to leave your comfort zone, consider expanding it instead. Avoid setting negative goals—don’t focus on what you want to stop doing. Instead, think about what you’d like to start doing and create goals around that; so instead of leaving your comfort zone, try expanding it. It may seem counterintuitive—after all, who wants more anxiety?—but learning how to expand your comfort zone can actually be really positive because when you’re feeling uncomfortable in a particular situation (be it a conversation or task), that means you’re growing and learning something new.
Do more than you think you can
This is where mental toughness comes in. Start small by just forcing yourself to do something you normally wouldn’t for a week. For example, try eating one new fruit or vegetable a day. Find excuses and incentives (other than weight loss) that make it more appealing: For every tomato, I eat today, I get an extra hour of time with my son tonight. If you’re hesitant, start with things that are less challenging until you begin to build confidence and realize you can leave your comfort zone.
Once you get comfortable doing small things outside your normal routine, it will be easier for you to try bigger challenges like exercising or meeting new people. The key is having faith in yourself and building from there. You can do it!
Break down goals into steps
The first step toward forcing yourself to do something uncomfortable is breaking down your goal into small, easily achievable steps. For example, if you want to ask a stranger out on a date but are nervous about it, start by picking up your phone and typing a message with only three characters in it: Hi. It’s not too scary because that’s all you have to do.
Then move on to writing out full sentences and before you know it, you’ll be having lunch at Applebee’s with your crush. Even tasks as simple as emailing someone can seem intimidating when we look at them directly. But once they’re broken down into smaller pieces (compose subject line; write the body of an email), they become far more manageable.
Sometimes, we find ourselves lacking in motivation or inspiration. It’s important that you take care of yourself so that you can continue achieving your goals, especially when they seem impossible or far away. At these times, set mini-goals for yourself: small goals that will help keep you on track and make progress toward your larger goal.
In time, taking steps toward those mini-goals will give you confidence and improve your self-esteem. You can even turn mini-goals into a game by offering rewards for achieving them (but not for failing). Over time, leaving your comfort zone can become a habit.
Ask for help
Many people don’t ask for help because they’re afraid of being perceived as incompetent. If that’s you, take a moment and think about why you feel that way: if you have something specific to be embarrassed about (like not knowing how your new computer works), address it head-on.
Letting others know is part of building relationships—and it will also prevent them from feeling like they need to give unsolicited advice or assistance. If your apprehension comes from a fear of rejection, turn it around: instead of thinking I might look foolish, reframe it as I can handle anyone thinking I look foolish. Then ask for what you want! You have nothing to lose but your feelings of inadequacy.
Challenge your beliefs
If you’re like most people, your comfort zone is where you spend most of your time. But that doesn’t mean it’s always where you want to be. So before you start challenging your beliefs, try taking a look at what they are. If your beliefs are ones that keep you from living a happy life, it might be time for a change. In order to challenge them and ultimately change them, though, you have to first understand them and why they’re there in the first place.
A big reason that people stay stuck in their comfort zone is that they don’t want to be dishonest with themselves. They want everything about their lives, including their self-perception, to be true and accurate. But if you force yourself to tell a little white lie or two, it might just help you expand your comfort zone and finally make some progress towards your goals.
When you’re struggling for motivation, try giving yourself a little pat on the back for how far you’ve come. Sometimes positive reinforcement can motivate us better than dwelling on our failures. You don’t have to lie blatantly or consistently; small doses of false encouragement will work wonders over time.
Like most things in life, pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone can be scary. In fact, it can feel downright terrifying. But if you’re able to push through your fears and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves, you’ll find that life is a lot more exciting than you previously imagined. It may take some time and effort, but leaving your comfort zone will be well worth it. Remember: The only way out is through!