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How to get out of your comfort zone

Let’s face it, change is a part of everyday life but that doesn’t mean it feels any less daunting when it creeps up on you. This natural reaction from our brain tells us to react in a way to escape perceived danger, known as fight or flight. These prehistoric reactions once helped us to survive, however, in the modern world, change, for most of us, is not usually a case of life or death. So if we can try to use it to our advantage it could enable us to thrive not just survive.

Building skills can help us adapt to uncertainty. We can prepare for change by trying new things that push us out of our comfort zone.

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What is a comfort zone?

From a psychological perspective a comfort zone, for most, is not a physical space but a way of life that avoids anything that might cause harm or be painful. This helps explain why we have it to survive, and why there are some benefits to sticking to what you know. There is however the risk of missed opportunities which could have a major impact on the path you take in life.

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Looking at the role our comfort zone plays within a business, White wrote “From Comfort Zone to Performance Management” which shows the benefits of finding the balance when pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. It states that, when related to performance, our comfort zone is a “steady state”, and if a steady level of output is achieved, work seems more manageable.

This demonstrates the benefits of being consciously aware of our actions and how those experiences can help us to feel confident and push us forward. It is low risk, but still enables an individual to progress at a comfortable pace, without a giant leap into the unknown.

Widening your comfort zone means you take risks while embracing some doubt and discomfort, this not only means you are improving certain skills, but you are also boosting your confidence. The more challenging activities you try, the more those tasks become normal and manageable, meaning your comfort zone is always growing.

Flexibility, Innovation, Awareness

These 3 traits can be developed by stepping out of your comfort zone and can positively impact the way we respond to change.

Think of it as training your brain to embrace the new and different, by rationalising what can be learnt from these challenges. This way of thinking can then be translated into every aspect of life including your work, relationships and wellbeing.

Not sure where to start?

Keep reading for a list of examples intended to push you out of your comfort zone.

1. Write a list of goals that are so big they scare you

To help you start off and get to grips with what your comfort zone currently looks like, write a list of things that scare you or something you thought you could never achieve. This forms a base for you to work from, as it helps increase your awareness when things are written out in front of you. It is also good practice for your wellbeing to practice goal setting in relation to your emotions, as it means you are more driven to reach them if you have a firm reasoning or motivation behind them.

2. Break the list down

A great way to make your list look less daunting is to break down each point into smaller, manageable or actionable steps that will help you reach that target. It is a great idea to make the list as visual as possible, so make it look eye-catching and put it somewhere you will always notice it. You could also rank your list from easiest to achieve to hardest. That way you are more aware of what has to be done and each task therefore becomes less scary. Again, this leads to an even greater sense of awareness as you not only have a list of things you know will expand your comfort zone but also a set of steps to help you tick those things off of the list.

3. Do one of them!

If you’re feeling extra adventurous go for the hardest, however, if this is something extra challenging it may be best to work up to it and try one of the sub-tasks you created previously. Do what feels natural to you. For some that might be something as simple as getting dressed before tackling a task, and that’s ok! If it pushes you beyond what you would normally feel comfortable doing then it is a great way to expand that comfort zone.

Each time you have completed something from the list make sure to tick it off! Whether it is a small task or one of the main points, each time you go up to the list and can see your achievement being completed it will spur you on to completing the main objective.

Are you part of the Talk Twenties Facebook Group? Head over there now to share your experiences with other twenty-somethings when it comes to trying something new!

4. Switch up your schedule

Do you always seem to fill up your spare time with meetings or are you a serial procrastinator? Either way, trying something outside of your daily routine, whether that is going from a structured day to an unstructured day or vice versa can really help to shine a light on new ways of doing things. The ability to adapt is crucial when developing your confidence and widening that comfort zone, so when you change your schedule you are training your brain to become more flexible. The beauty of this task is that you can decide how much of your schedule you want to change, but regardless of the amount of change, you will still have to put innovative actions in place as a result of trying something in a different way.

Once you start to develop your flexibility and innovation as a result of trying something new, it can be translated into all areas of life. From your work life to wellbeing, the possibilities are endless if you are flexible with your time and can problem-solve in a creative way to benefit you and those around you.

5. Add or remove technology

If you are a tech addict, then today’s the day to turn off a device you use the most (don’t choose technology that you require for work if it’s a working day). On the flip side, if tech is usually not your thing then why not download that app and invest some time into trying something new, it may bring you benefits you would never have expected. Even if you don’t decide to adopt it into daily life every time you try something different you are gaining valuable knowledge from this experience.

Embracing technology could mean that you discover a way of doing something that is a lot faster and simpler to do. Likewise, if you choose to ditch technology for a day, then you may find you are using your imagination more to come up with creative solutions to problems which may have otherwise been completed by technology.

Thinking about the bigger picture in terms of coming up with creative ways to complete work can have a positive impact on how you approach tasks in your work environment. Thinking outside of the box has its pros and cons, but having the ability to test yourself in different situations will not only help your confidence grow but also your overall sense of wellbeing.

6. Reach out and make a new connection

Never underestimate the power of people. Reaching out to someone new who shares similar interests or just someone that you have never spoken to before can lead to surprising results. You never know what knowledge people have until you open up that conversation. Word of mouth is a powerful tool which can lead to better opportunities and relationships as a result. Putting yourself out there and making new connections not only improves your confidence and relationships but can also increase your overall awareness of the world as you see things from others’ perspectives. This increased awareness will help you to view change differently, and hopefully in a more positive light.

Read our Networking 101: An Introvert’s guide.

7. Try a food you thought you didn’t like

Taste buds change as you develop into an adult, so now’s the time to try those foods you might have written off, it might surprise you. You may want to have a dish again you previously didn’t enjoy or maybe you want to eat more fruit. No matter what it is, the benefits of stepping out of that comfort zone are still present. Your awareness will change if you surprise yourself and enjoy the food, as your brain will start to think ‘if you like this then what else can we try’, as well as your flexibility to want to try new things. You may even notice an improvement in your ability to be innovative and think of new and exciting recipes the more experiences you have with new flavours.

These are general ideas and can be interpreted differently depending on the person, you can go as far out or not as you choose. The main thing to remember when you do go out of your comfort zone is that you are helping it to grow bigger every time along with your confidence!