“We can not become what we want to be by remaining what we are”, said Max DePree. Growth occurs when we leave our comfort zone, that place where we feel safe and secure, even if it is only an illusion.
The comfort zone is not merely a physical space but, above all, a psychological space and an attitude. Our beliefs, prejudices, stereotypes and the image that we have formed of ourselves and the world conform the limits of the comfort zone in which we move.
Limiting ourselves to that space where we feel so comfortable means condemning ourselves to stagnation, so we not only need to take advantage of the opportunities to leave the comfort zone, but we must actively look for them and even create them.
There are a thousand reasons to leave the comfort zone, a compelling reason comes from researchers at the Colorado State University, who found that one of the keys to be happier and feel more satisfied in life is precisely to assume new risks and live with curiosity.
Exercises to get out of your comfort zone
Each person has built their own comfort zone, which means that to get out of that space, you first need to know your borders, be aware of your limitations and, above all, your fears. These exercises will help you develop the right attitude to leave the comfort zone without submitting yourself to excessive tension.
– Discover a new site. Start leaving your comfort zone by taking small steps that do not represent a great threat, just to expose yourself to diversity and get used to change. Consider discovering a new environment at least once a week. It can be anywhere, from a small square to a street that you have never traveled or even an art exhibition. The idea is that each time you feel more comfortable with the novelty and even begin to be part of you.
– Follow a different route. We all have predetermined routes, those that we travel every day and know by heart. To get out of your comfort zone, a very simple exercise is to choose new routes. It is not simply a matter of changing the way, but of enjoying the novelty and, like a child, discovering the little details that make each place a special place. If you travel a new way absorbed in yourself, change will be of little value.
– Try something new. Novelty not only keeps us alive, it is essential to keep our brain active. A simple exercise to leave the comfort zone consists, for example, in trying new flavors. You can also listen to a musical genre very different from the one you usually listen to or choose a book of a genre that you do not usually read. The dystopian genre, for example, as well as science fiction and fantasy, are particularly interesting to deancline our thinking from the traditional.
– Do not choose the safe option. We tend to choose the safe option because we want to minimize the risk and have everything under control. However, from time to time it is convenient that you opt for the least comfortable and riskiest option. It should not be transcendental decisions in which there is a lot at stake, they can be less important decisions, but keep in mind that only when you risk you can know how far you are able to go.
– Say “yes” more often to things you would not normally accept. Every time you say “no” you remain in your comfort zone, clinging to what you already know. Therefore, a good exercise to get out of the comfort zone is to say “yes” more often, especially to those things that you do not usually accept. That more positive attitude will help you undertake new projects, adventures or simply live new experiences.
– Make a quick decision. Of course, it should not be a life or death decision. Think of those relatively inconsequential decisions that you tend to ponder over too much. When you face one of them, simply choose the first thing that goes through your mind, without thinking too much, even if it is something unusual. With this little exercise to get out of your comfort zone you will be building confidence in your Intuitive Intelligence. You will be amazed to discover that eliminating the need to reflect on a decision takes a great weight off of you and generates a great sense of confidence in yourself.
– Do something that frightens you. Fear is not always negative, sometimes it is just an indicator that we are on the threshold of something new and unknown. Therefore, one of the more effective exercises to get out of the comfort zone is to choose some of those things that frighten you and do them. Remember the words of Helen Keller: “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. People who are afraid are caught as often as people who are bold. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing”.
– Set yourself a new challenge. Is there something you have always wanted to do but that, for one reason or another, you have ended up postponing? This is the moment. Dare to consider a new challenge that really motivates you and look for the best way to carry it forward. It can be anything, just encourage you to go beyond your limits.
– Learn something new. There is nothing like learning to break your barriers and discover new things. Think of something you have always wanted to learn and devote a few hours a week to it. You can sign up for classes or learn it on your own, what’s really important is that you take your brain out of its comfort zone and create new neural connections.
– Consider a contrary position. An experiment conducted at the universities of Winnipeg and Illinois showed that 63% of people prefer to lose money than reading an opinion contrary to theirs. An excellent exercise to leave the comfort zone is to actively seek all those opinions or ideas that are contrary to yours. Value them without thinking about right or wrong, but as an intellectual exercise that will help you broaden your vision of the world.
– Choose a personal area in which you want to improve. Do you want to be more outgoing? Do you want to gain self-confidence? Choose an area you want to improve and get down to work. The comfort zone is also full of excuses to continue being who we are, so it is important that you do an interior job that helps you change. Set yourself a challenge and design an action plan to achieve your goal.
– Plan a different and special day just for you. It’s about doing something you’ve never done. You can, for example, spend a day disconnected in solitude so that you can reconnect with yourself away from the stimuli to which you are always exposed. The idea is that you dive for a whole day in a completely new situation.
– Use “negative” emotions in your favor. We tend to think that negative emotions are unpleasant and we should avoid them. However, these emotions have a great power to boost behavior, so we just have to learn to use them to our advantage, instead of seeing them as our enemies. If you feel very angry, for example, take advantage of that anger to create art or to give your best in the gym. Even stress, when it is punctual, can become your ally when you have to face situations that demand an extra dose of energy.
– Give up control and learn to flow. We cling to the comfort zone because we identify it with security and control, although is only an illusion. Therefore, one of the best exercises to get out of the comfort zone is to learn to flow with events and give up control from time to time. Learn to delegate, let others plan some things, trust more in those around you and allow them to take the initiative.
– Throw everything you do not need. Your comfort zone is also made of all those things that comfort you but that you do not really need and only occupy a space uselessly. To leave the comfort zone, you need to learn to practice detachment, so you could start cleaning at home by throwing everything you do not need.
The key lies in taking small steps at the same time, so that you do not perceive the fact of leaving your comfort zone as something traumatic but rather as a discovery activity that, although it involves uncertainty, represents also an opportunity to expand your limits and discover new things.
Frimer, J. A. et. Al. (2017) Liberals and conservatives are similarly motivated to avoid exposure to one another’s opinions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology; 72: 1-12.
Kashdan, T. & Steger, M. (2007) Curiosity and pathways to well-being and meaning in life: Traits, states, and everyday behaviors. Motivation and Emotion; 31(3): 159-173.