If you don’t like change, and want to feel safe all the time, stop reading now. If you realise you have a comfort zone and are curious about what happens if you step outside of it, if you are a bit fed up with your life as it is and want something a bit better, read on.
First of all, what is your comfort zone? Alan Henry on Lifehacker describes it “your comfort zone is a behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk.”
So why do you need to step out of your comfort zone? It’s so cosy, it’s so familiar, it’s so warm and snuggly and welcoming. Why on earth would you leave that to go out into the cold, unwelcoming unknown?
1) ALL The Fun Happens Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
No joke. No exaggeration here. Literally ALL the good stuff happens when you’re out of your comfort zone. Think of the people you admire. Of people whose lives your envy. Do you think they got to where they are from staying in their comfort zone? Absolutely no way!
Whether you admire Usain Bolt, Barack Obama, Richard Branson, Meryl Streep, Beyoncé, or someone you know who has achieved great things, you can be 100% certain that this success came from stepping outside of their comfort zone. In some cases it was the result of running in the opposite direction of their comfort zone.
Nearly 15 years ago I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I was in a bar and there was a stranger sitting next to me. I struck up a conversation with him and his friend. That stranger was Ben and the friend was his brother. Within 6 months that stranger had become my best friend, soulmate and fiancé. Now 15 years on he has also become my mentor and the father of my two children, as well as going from fiancé to husband.
Imagine I’d not pushed myself out of my comfort zone back then, and struck up a conversation with a stranger in a bar?
2) You Will Achieve MORE Outside Of Your Comfort Zone
So we’ve ascertained that to be the top of your industry and to be a success you need to be out of your comfort zone (or possibly never be in your comfort zone). But for you, me and Joe Bloggs who don’t necessarily want to be President of the USA, what does it mean?
Well you achieve a lot more and are far more productive when you’re out of your comfort zone. You know how productive you can be when a deadline is looming, or the day before going on holiday? When you’re out of your comfort zone, and working on something that you’re not familiar with, your output is so much higher.
So from a work point of view you actually work better when you’re not in your comfort zone. Although this shouldn’t become the status quo, just a bit of oomph every now and then.
Being out of your comfort zone will push you to achieve goals that might never have been possible otherwise. I’m no sportswoman (as every single person I know will attest to!) but by getting out of my comfort zone I have managed to descend red ski slopes – despite being a terrible skier and terrified too. I have also abseiled down a 44 metre building, which went a bit like this:
Before – terrified and sweating profusely
During – terrified and sweating profusely, screaming most of the way
After – walking on air, grinning like a cheshire cat, flying high
The sense of achievement is indescribable. It’s still not something I necessarily want to do again, but I felt incredible at doing it, and for getting out of my comfort zone.
3) Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone Helps You Perform At Your Best
When you’re doing the routine, mundane stuff that you know how to do so well, you are not concentrating. You are not paying attention. The general feeling is one of “it’ll do”. How will you achieve a personal best, get that promotion or excel in anything if you don’t push yourself to go beyond what is comfortable?
Every now and then I do yoga, and when you stretch in yoga you get pushed to see how far the stretch or the position will go. You push it as far as you can go, and then you try to push it a bit more. And that’s how you become more flexible. In yoga and in life.
I have changed jobs and careers so many times in the nearly 30 years that I’ve been working. Pretty much each time has seen me go for a harder job, one that I really need to stretch myself to do, and one that scared the crap out of me. Think I regret pushing myself out of my comfort zone into those new jobs and roles? Hell, no!
4) Leaving Your Comfort Zone Makes You More Creative
In order to excel in anything creative you need to live, to experience. As most writers will tell you – you can’t write great stories if you never leave your house. If you’re going to produce art, music, the written word or anything else creative then you need to live and experience life, outside of your comfort zone.
Think of Wild by Cheryl Strayed, would that book or film have interested you if she’d stayed at home?
Think of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. The reason the book and film were such a big success are because of the journey that she went on.
In both cases Cheryl and Elizabeth got out of their comfort zones, and that’s what made their books so compelling, but also what turned their lives around. From when they were at their lowest and darkest, they pushed themselves out into the fear and unknown.
As for me, I know that my best blog posts, my best writing, is when I let go and leave my comfort zone. When I open up and share sensitive subjects, personal experiences. When my finger hovers over the Publish button or when I have butterflies in my stomach before doing a Facebook Live. Being out of my comfort zone is directly linked to me delivering my best work. Even if it is hard at the time.
5) You Have To Leave Your Comfort Zone Because Life Is For Living
I know what you’re saying. “I’m too scared.” Or “I can’t do it”. Of course you don’t want to. You are safe where you are now. Think of The Croods film (if you don’t have kids, you still have to watch this one!). No one wants to leave their cave. You are safe in your cave. Nothing bad can happen to you in your cave. But equally no one is going to come and offer you the job of your dreams if you stay there. No Prince Charming will come knocking on your cave door to sweep you off your feet.
If you want that life – the love, the great job / business, the friends – you have to leave the comfort and safety of your cave and get it yourself. You have to put yourself out there and risk getting knocked down. It’s scary as hell but that’s called living. Anything else is just existing.
I’ve failed far more times in life than I’ve succeeded – both in my personal and my professional life – do you think that stops me from leaving the safety of my cave, reaching outside of my comfort zone and trying again? No way! Do you think I’d be living this incredible life in Mauritius, with the man of my dreams if I hadn’t picked myself back up numerous times after falling down, and tried again? You already know the answer to that one.
So it’s down to you now. Do you want to simply be an observer or do you want to win at life too?
I’d love to hear from you – what magic happened to you when you stepped out of your comfort zone? Or what’s stopping you from leaving your comfort zone now? Do share in the comments below to help others or so that others can share with you their wins.
With much love,
This blog post was originally published on my parenting blog, Franglaise Mummy, on 18th October 2016.
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