When I went to Wilmington, Delaware, to attend a conference, I was filled with panic, fear and anxiety because I had placed myself completely outside of my comfort zone. Being strangled by my secret agoraphobia for so many years had left a multitude of emotional scars. However, leaving the safe haven of home and my comfort zone meant that I would step into the fear of the unknown.
Long before taking the trip, I had already learned from other experiences in my life that dreams and success cannot be attained within the walls of my comfort zone. By letting go of all the security of the known, we become open to new experiences, opportunities and success. As we stretch through the fear and insecurity, our comfort zone expands and makes it much easier to step into the next uncomfortable situation.
What Is A Comfort Zone?
comfort zone: the level at which one functions with ease and familiarity
Your comfort zone is the physical and mental space where your activities do not stress your routine. It is the place where there is less resistance, stress and risk. It provides a space that offers security, peace, less stress, minimized anxiety and maximized happiness.
Each day offers new experiences. Our ability to embrace changes in those opportunities influences how quickly we succeed or fail. In other words, it is necessary to be comfortably uncomfortable. The feelings created in this discomfort are often highly stressful, however, the rewards are even higher.
“Nothing worthwhile has ever been accomplished with a guarantee of success.” ~ John F. Kennedy ~
Stepping out of the bounds of our comfort zone is a risk.
When you think of the word “risk,” what words does it conjure up in your mind?
Doesn’t sound very desirable, does it?
Well, I don’t like taking risks of just about any kind because there is always the possibility that I will be hurt or fail.
Do I take risks?
Of course I do, but it is always a very shaky feeling until I either succeed or flop in my attempt to succeed. Actually, playing it safe and not taking risks is still not a guarantee that you’re going to be securely tucked into your comfort zone. It is impossible to escape all situations that pull you out of your comfort zone.
Advantages Of Leaving Your Comfort Zone
So why should you willingly leave your comfort zone if it causes anxiety and promotes insecurity?
“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”
Have you ever heard that you are either moving forward or falling backward? No one can just stay smack dab in the middle. You’re either going forward or backward. Period.
It may feel easier to fall backward, but what are the advantages of pushing forward and stepping out of your comfort zone?
- Change becomes easier – No one thinks change is easy, but the more you learn to accept the challenge of change, the easier it becomes to step into the uncomfortable space outside your comfort zone. Looking at change as a challenge gives it a whole new meaning. It is a challenge to succeed!
- Increased creativity – Everything within your comfort zone is not only comfortable, but you’ve experienced it before. When you try new things, see new things and do new things, your creativity is sparked and you start to think new things. The imagination has more fuel, so your thoughts are fresh and new.
- Talents/skills are honed – By experiencing new and exciting things outside your comfort zone, not only do you find new things that you enjoy doing, but you also discover what you’re really good at doing. Knowing what you like AND what you’re good at is wonderful knowledge that enables you to cultivate your true talents.
- Know yourself – Stepping outside your comfort zone enables you to get to know the real you. Not only do you discover the things that you are good at doing, but you also learn what you enjoy and don’t enjoy doing. Basically, you get to know yourself.
- Confidence increases – Each time you step out of your comfort zone and succeed in your adventure, your confidence in yourself and your abilities increase. When in doubt, you begin to find it easier to believe yourself.
- Boundaries are defined – I’ve said many times that part of the reason I didn’t succumb to peer pressure to drink and do drugs as a teenager was because I didn’t know my boundaries. I didn’t trust myself to not become a total lush or drug addict because I do have a personality that is somewhat addictive to things that make me feel better. So when you step outside your comfort zone into safe territory, you learn where your boundaries begin and end.
- Increased focus/concentration – When outside your comfort zone, you usually have heightened awareness and sensitivities. This overload of sights, sounds and experiences enables you to also focus more clearly on the things that matter the most to you.
- You have more control – Eventually there will be reasons that you have to move outside your comfort zone. Why not make sure that you choose when, where and how you enter that uncomfortable area? Although you will have the same feelings of stress, but if forced into the comfort zone, you will feel even more stress.
- Increased growth – No one can grow in a vacuum. Outside of your comfort zone new experiences are waiting and that means growth possibilities. For instance, if you already know how to drive a car, getting into a car and driving doesn’t offer any new or exciting possibilities. Stepping out of your comfort zone and getting into a race car going 200 mph across the Nevada desert would definitely offer you an opportunity for growth. It may also make you scared out of your mind. LOL
- Self-trust – Once you step outside your comfort zone and know your boundaries, it is so much easier to trust yourself. You know what you can and can’t safely or easily do. You know what you’re good at and can accomplish with ease. Trusting yourself is not only necessary, but brings about peace.
- Self-worth/self-esteem is increased – Knowing that you can successfully meet challenges and new experiences gives you a boost in self-esteem. Not only do you feel more accomplished and able to meet challenges head on, but you feel that you add value to those you love and the world. With each success outside your comfort zone, you are more prone to feel better about yourself.
- Adds value to the world – When we improve our self, we are improving the world around us.
- Accomplish goals faster – Outside your comfort zone with the uncomfortableness of not knowing everything and being shrouded with newness, it is easier to accomplish goals because your mind is very aware. As Emeril Lagasse would say, it “kicks it up a notch!”
- More excited and alive – With heightened senses and new experiences your adrenaline starts pumping. New things bring about excitement that makes you feel more alive. Where are new things found? Yep, outside your comfort zone!
- New experiences – You can’t have a new experience if you remain in your comfort zone.
- Your comfort zone gets larger – Remember the first day you started school in let’s say 5th grade? You were nervous and didn’t really know what to expect. If only slightly, you were outside your comfort zone, but you had to stay in school. So what did you do? Probably just grinned and bore it. By the end of the year, however, walking into class wasn’t hard to do because you knew exactly what to expect. Your comfort zone had expanded.
Unfortunately, we often let our mistakes and setbacks define us.
Our failures and missed opportunities do not define us. When we botch things up, we learn things we would have never learned any other way. So often we can’t forgive our self for messing up and feel that our failures will ruin the rest of our life, but that simply isn’t true in most cases.
Falling short of the mark helps us to learn and to become a better person. So it’s all good!
Therefore…step outside your comfort zone and even if you fail, you will succeed. Believe me, the advantages of being uncomfortable outside your comfort zone far outweigh the safety within your comfort zone.
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~