What You Are Missing When You Stay in Your Comfort Zone
You have comfort zones for a reason, so why would you ever want to step out of them?
Your comfort zone is comprised of the people, places, emotions and activities where - yes, you guessed it - you feel comfortable. It is where you relax, you pretty much know what will happen, and you can assuredly expect how things go. Not too many shocks or surprises happen here. And that is just fine with you. It keeps you feeling confident and safe.
Now, what is ‘outside’ your comfort zone are the people, places, emotions and activities where you feel uncomfortable. It is where you feel anxious, you are uncertain what will happen and do not know how things work exactly. There are many unknowns and surprises. Things are very daunting for you to take on. It makes you feel insecure, incapable and unsafe.
“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step backward into safety.”
~ Abraham Maslow
Take a peek into my life…
The other day I was invited to be a speaker at an upcoming event.
Imagine this: I sit down at the end of the evening with my cup of cocoa and my laptop, ready to relax and check in on my email. I open my mailbox and in pops a message sent through my website. The message is from someone unfamiliar to me, the owner of a business equally unfamiliar to me. She is asking me to be a speaker at her upcoming retreat. Whaaat?!
As I read through the invitation I could not even count how many reactions raced through my mind and body: astonishment, gratitude, humility, amazement, apprehension and incompetence, to name a few.
The invite came as a total surprise, from a total stranger. Fascinating!
The topic? Inspiring others to live their dreams. Great! I can do that!
Speaking at an event? Ummm, okay, maybe.
Speaking to a group I have limited knowledge of? Well now, not so sure about this.
Sure, I have spoken plenty with all sizes and varieties of audiences, but the new-to-me venue and being familiar with neither the inquirer nor the business validated my instinct that I would be quite comfy staying in my comfort zone.
I sat with my emotions, opening up to feeling and reflecting on each one. Who knew they could morph from one to the next to the next with such swiftness? If this, then that. If that, then…what?
As I sat there, I also reflected on many of the times I did take a deep breath and stepped outside of my comfort zone: teaching in my school’s dual language program, taking dance lessons, stepping out of the classroom and into a new position to support teachers instructionally, learning to ride and care for horses, working with my first life-coaching client, creating my own website, writing a blog, etc.
It seems I have done it so often, you would think I would be used to it all by now.
Alas, I still need to go through my motions. Even so, my process is quicker and less turbulent each time.
And I practice what I preach by reminding myself of the reasons why stepping outside of my comfort zone is essential.
Why is stepping outside your comfort zone essential?
When you are debating whether to take that step to bust your own boundaries, here are some outcomes that may compel you to make the leap…
Achieve your impossible
When you think back five or ten years, there is a good chance that you are doing something today that you never dreamed possible back then. Perhaps you own a home, graduated from school, started a business, or have a family.
Life changes like these take courage to step out of the space where you feel ‘at home’ and into something unknown. But you did it. And you achieved something that at one point seemed impossible to you. Stepping outside of your comfort zone, while it can be super scary, can also be super rewarding.
Overcome the unanticipated
Situations outside of your comfort zone can feel foreign and awkward. You do not know exactly what will happen next or how things will go, but you are willing to give it a shot. Encountering new situations means you may also encounter new perspectives, new challenges, and new solutions. Your toolbox of strategies expands with each experience. These experiences prepare you to deal with change more readily and comfortably in your daily life.
Increase your productivity
When you decide to step out of your comfort zone, you may do so with a certain amount of excitement, anxiety, or pressure on yourself. All of these drive you forward, creating a momentum - an urgency - that is often missing when you are in your comfort zone. Because this endeavor is meaningful to you, this momentum and urgency assist you in being more productive.
Ignite your creativity
Stepping outside of your comfort zone encourages innovation. You become aware of and/or experience new things, and this compels you to look at your world in a new way, with a new perspective. This new view shifts your thinking and the way you express yourself.
Listening to some new instruments may prompt you to use them in your next composition. Eating a new dish may persuade you to create your own version of that dish. How often have you seen, heard, tasted, or felt something and been inspired to integrate it into your own life somehow? Creativity is invited in when you step out of your routine.
Boost your confidence
Just the mere action of taking a step outside of your comfort zone is a confidence booster. You decided to take the chance, yes! The first step is so often the hardest, and you did it! No matter how it turns out, you are already ahead of where you were ten minutes ago.
Every step beyond that adds another layer of confidence. Even if your venture outside your comfort zone does not go exactly as intended, you still gain confidence from what you experience. Your belief and trust in yourself increases and amplifies, and the next decision that comes down the road will be met with that increased confidence.
Expand your passions
Who knew you enjoyed the elation of rock climbing? Or learning new languages? Or had a knack for baking? Now, you will! By breaking through your own boundaries, you will give yourself opportunities for all kinds of experiences.
When you think about it, as a child you were forever breaking through your own boundaries, exploring the world and relationships around you. Some of those experiences resonated with you and became your passions; passions that you carry through with you to the present day. It is only logical for you to continue to explore and expand your passions throughout your life.
By stepping out of your comfort zone you open the door, inviting yourself to dig deep within and find things you may never have known were there.
Bob Marley said, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
That is similar to what happens when you push past your comfort zone. You may need more ingenuity, or strength, or compassion, and because you are committed to your course of action, you will find such things within yourself. You may also realize your limitations at the moment, in that situation, and that is a healthy thing to know as well.
Your impact on others is two-fold.
First, there is the impact of what you are actually accomplishing. Say you have organized a Saturday morning youth basketball program. Think of all the lives you will be touching with that action; all of the kids who will be provided with a safe space to play, building skills and relationships.
Second, there is the impact you can have as a role model, inspiring others to do similar things. You may be a distant role model, or you may become a close mentor to someone. Either way you are influencing someone’s life just by daring to step out of your comfort zone.
Each of these ‘side effects’ of stepping out of your comfort zone nurture your growth. They provide you with an opportunity to do something, become something ‘more’ than you previously were. They leave a lasting impression on you and transform your life.
“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something NEW.”
~ Brian Tracey
So, where did my pondering get me with my invite?
In the end I knew that this was definitely an opportunity that would require me to step outside my comfort zone, but not just once, twice! I would be speaking at a retreat (a new venue to me) and to an audience whose business I knew very little about at the moment (also a new experience). Was I willing to do that?
The butterflies in my stomach indicated that it would indeed be a bit scary, but it is also exciting!
I set the intention that yes, I would pursue this opportunity.
I am making a call this evening to explore the details and logistics more. We shall see!
May you and I each embrace stepping outside of our comfort zones.
Perhaps one day, ‘outside’ our comfort zone may become our comfort zone.
“You are only confined by the walls you build yourself.”
If the sun is shining, my Crosstrek is calling me to fill up her tank, throw open her sunroof, and head for the back-roads. With wind in my hair, I smile at everyone I see. Grace smiles back at me (even through the trees).