Getting out of the comfort zone is not child's play. Routines and habits can be very comforting because they give us a pleasant sense of stability and security, but they can also become tight with time. The walls we build around us to protect ourselves and give order and structure to our lives can end up suffocating us, limiting our potential, preventing us from growing and living new experiences.
The benefits of stepping out of the comfort zone are enormous. New experiences not only revitalize us, but help us develop a greater open-mindedness and allow us to better cope with times of change and uncertainty. They also help us open up to new possibilities and allow us to discover things about ourselves that we otherwise would not have discovered. Despite this, escaping from the routine is complicated, especially when it has been the same for many years. In fact, we will not be able to do so if we do not make a radical change in the way we understand life.
Five tips to get out of the comfort zone and grow
1. Face fears so they don't turn us against the wall
The fear of leaving the comfort zone is the main barrier we have to overcome. This fear is usually the expression of much deeper and more paralyzing fears, such as the fear of failure, of losing control over events, the fear of being vulnerable and exposed, or even the fear of rejection by others.
Whenever we imagine something new that excites us, fear arises and generates resistance to change. That resistance will be greater the more intense our fears are. The good news is that when most people take the leap, they find that the anticipatory fear was much greater than the actual fear. We must not forget that our brain loves patterns and habits because in this way it saves energy, so it will not spare the tricks to keep us in our comfort zone.
But it's not a good idea to pretend fear and uncertainty don't exist. By leaving the comfort zone we are taking certain risks in a controlled way and challenging ourselves, so feeling anxiety and fear is something perfectly understandable. The key, therefore, is to recognize those fears and feel comfortable with them. It is not a question of ignoring them, but of overcoming them.
2. Choose things that excite us and are worthwhile
“Whoever has something to live for, is able to endure any how,” Nietzsche said. Perhaps the most important question is not "how to get out of the comfort zone" but "why get out of the comfort zone". Having a good reason is a powerful incentive to face our fears and dare to do what we have never done.
Having new experiences is great, but if skydiving isn't for us, it doesn't make much sense to push ourselves to the point of suffering a heart attack by jumping out of a parachute plane just to get out of our comfort zone. It makes a lot more sense to find activities that are challenging, but also excite us to the point of giving us the push we need to overcome doubts and fears.
Perhaps for you, living new experiences means spending a gap year in an exotic country or simply changing your life in your environment. Getting out of the comfort zone isn't an excuse to do crazy things, it's doing something crazy to make a dream come true.
But we must also be careful because the unconscious often plays tricks on us by helping us structure our lives in such a way as to avoid the things that scare us. Therefore, we must separate the wheat from the chaff until we find what scares and excites us in equal parts. This is probably a very good reason and incentive to step out of the comfort zone.
3. Seeing ourselves in permanent change, construction and evolution
The comfort zone is anchored to all our certainties and certainties. It is not just made up of our habits and routines, but also of our narrative of the world and of ourselves. All the labels we give ourselves condition and limit us within the comfort zone.
If we believe we are shy, we will structure our life around that label, avoiding those situations that force us to leave the comfort zone. Instead, starting to perceive ourselves as people in permanent change, people full of potential to explore, will make a substantial difference that will help us develop a growth mindset.
The secret lies in being able to separate the past self from the present self. The past may have marked us, but it must not become a tombstone for our future. A study conducted at the University of Edinburgh showed that we are not the same person at 14 and 77.
The changes that our personality undergoes over time are so great that we continually transform ourselves into different people. Therefore, it makes no sense to cling to the things that have defined us.
4. Proceed step by step, at our own pace and respecting our time
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step,” Lao-tzu said. It's okay to take big, risky steps. But it's also okay to take small methodical steps. Leaving the comfort zone does not mean putting aside all precautions and acting recklessly. Every step forward is progress, no matter how small it may seem.
Rushing into some decisions, especially important ones, tends to make us regret them. Instead, promoting self-awareness as we evaluate our limits and think about the next step is the surest way to get out of the comfort zone and the best way to reduce the anxiety it generates.
Many times, without a clear roadmap, we have no way to tap into past experiences and accumulated wisdom. This can generate enormous anxiety because we feel we are walking in the dark. Therefore, when we decide to get out of the comfort zone, it will be better to do it respecting our rhythm.
5. We don't have to live indefinitely outside our comfort zone
The comfort zone is a condition in which one operates with a neutral level of anxiety, using a limited set of behaviors to achieve a constant level of performance, generally without the feeling of imminent risk.
Asking us to live forever outside the comfort zone can generate so much fear and anxiety that we won't even try. In fact, it's not even healthy because we would constantly expose ourselves to relatively high levels of anxiety and be more exposed to imbalances and dissonances, as revealed by a University of Waikato study, and our performance would suffer.
Staying in the comfort zone from time to time isn't bad. It helps us regain our energy, allows us to take a break to assess where we have come and gives us the equanimity and peace needed to plan our future.
Like everything in life, we need to find a balance that allows us to grow and continue exploring while feeling relatively comfortable and developing certain skills. In fact, after a learning period, a new comfort zone is created, wider than the previous one, in which we feel at ease again.
Sure, there are some exercises to get out of the comfort zone, but undertaking them without supporting them with a profound change of mentality only produces anxiety. The secret is not to change one comfort zone to another, but to expand our comfort zone to the extent that it leaves room for the new, uncertainty and challenge.