Throughout life, we’re always in one of two zones.
The first is the one we refer to when we say we’re “in the zone,” aka: extremely motivated or pushing for success.
The second is the Twilight Zone version of that zone …
… the Comfort Zone.
Let’s face it: we’ve all been there. It doesn’t matter how much motivation we may have to grow and succeed, when it comes down to actually doing stressful things that might move us closer to our goals, it’s easy to let ourselves overthink it and backtrack.
We’re naturally geared towards staying inside of our comfort zones. Our mind is always looking for ways to protect us, so it tries to hold us back from potentially risky situations that can lead to failure, anxiety, and stress.
But … growth is all about pushing those boundaries.
If you’re happy staying in your comfort zone, you’ll feel safer, but you’re also probably going to stay stagnant where you are. If you want to succeed, you’re going to have to break out of that mentality and do things that will seem scary. After all, rewards usually don’t come if you aren’t taking any risks, and every successful person has had to get out of their comfort zones at some point to get to where they are today.
Let’s take a look at why our comfort zones hold us back and figure out ways to break out of it so you can get to where you want to be!
Why Do I Need to Get Out of My Comfort Zone?
Whether we’re talking about fitness, career goals, or our personal life, the comfort zone is the familiar place where we like to stay because it just feels safer. Our brain can associate the stress and anxiety that comes from pushing our boundaries with danger, so it literally thinks it’s keeping us alive by avoiding these stressful situations.
When we’re trying to further our career or achieve our fitness goals, though, we usually aren’t putting ourselves in life-or-death situations, and that little bit of stress might actually be good for our performance. According to psychologist Robert Yerkes, we might actually be more focused and perform better at a stress level just outside of our comfort zone, which he called “optimum anxiety.” [*] It makes sense, too – if you let yourself stay in a comfortable spot, there’s no push to do better, while getting out of our comfort zone requires a push to make it worth it.
Yes, it’s just easier for us to stay comfortable, but it isn’t going to do our goal-getting any favors.
How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone and Start Succeeding:
1. Start Small.
Pushing boundaries can be scary and overwhelming, so it’s best to start off small and get yourself in the habit of being a little uncomfortable every day. It can be as small as striking up a conversation with a stranger or doing a quick workout in the side of the gym that normally intimidates you – if it makes you uncomfortable, it counts.
Making these small stretches a habit will make you a little more comfortable with being uncomfortable, so when it’s time to make those big moves, you’ll be ready.
2. Try the Countdown Trick
“Just doing it” is usually easier said than done. When you’re looking at stepping out of your comfort zone, it can be easy to just overthink everything until you talk yourself out of whatever it is that you want to do.
One trick you can use when you’re facing a potentially scary situation is counting down. Take a deep breath, count down from 3, and then once you’re done, do it. Send that email, make that call, sign up for that gym membership. Make a non-negotiable contract with yourself that once you start counting down, you have no choice but to do that risky thing that could potentially pay off in a big way.
3. Have an Empowering Mantra.
Meditation really is a life hack. Practicing it regularly can help you switch up your mindset, address your stresses and anxieties, and allow you to handle things despite the fear.
One way to use meditation to your advantage is to practice with a mantra. Mantra meditation involves repeating a chosen word or phrase. If you choose an empowering mantra, even a simple one like “I am strong enough for this,” you’ll constantly have a tool to carry with you during stressful moments.
Studies have even shown that doing mantra meditation can decrease the activation in the “default” mode of your brain that’s associated with your self-judgment. [*] This proves that mantra practice can help to quiet those internal thoughts that can lead to doubt and negative self-talk!
Spend a couple of minutes every day to repeat your mantra, then use it to steel yourself whenever you’re about to dive into uncomfortable territory.
4. Fake It ‘Til You Make It.
Sometimes, the best way to handle a potentially stressful situation is by acting like it doesn’t scare you.
Put yourself in the headspace of someone who wouldn’t find this situation stressful and handle it the way you think they would. Be assertive, even if you normally aren’t, and all that “fake” confidence will eventually become real once you find out that you’re capable of doing that thing that you’re so scared of.
5. Become a “Yes Man.”
Getting outside of your comfort zone means saying “yes” to opportunities, even if they scare you. Sometimes, opportunities come up that you really want to take advantage of, but fear and self-doubt make you second-guess and turn it down.
Start training yourself to say “yes” to those opportunities when they come up before you let the doubt and negative self-talk set in. You can learn along the way, and even if things don’t go according to plan, it’ll be a learning experience that will prepare you even more for next time.
6. Change Up Your Routine.
Routines are one of the most useful tools for staying organized and moving towards your goals, but they can become your biggest enemy if you start using it as a crutch to stick to the status quo.
If your routine is becoming stale, make some productive changes to it that get you closer to reaching your goals. Throw in some activities you wouldn’t normally do and that are more challenging (i.e.: rock climbing, or art class) so you can prime your brain and nervous system to accommodate “new,” uncomfortable experiences.
7. Look At The Pros, Not The Cons.
When you’re faced with an uncomfortable situation, it can be easy to overthink all of the “cons” that come with acting – namely, that you’ll be putting yourself out there in a potentially stressful situation, and there’s a chance of failure.
It’s almost too easy to talk yourself out of acting when you’re only looking at the negatives, so make a mindset shift and think about the positives that can come from leaving your comfort zone. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so thinking too much about the cons will just cheat you out of achieving what you want to in the end.
Living fearfully will only take you so far. Too many people let themselves get comfortable, but that won’t do anything for you if you want to be great. Don’t let your fears hold you back from finding success!