How to Grow Outside Your Comfort Zone

How to Grow Outside Your Comfort Zone

Are you comfortable with your life? Are you excelling in your life?

“The majority of people can’t answer “yes” to both questions. They’re either pushing their boundaries to the limits and hence are uncomfortable, or they’ve become comfortable and stopped pushing.” – Charlie Gilkey

“In self growth, when we say you’re comfortable, what we really mean is that you’re not growing. You’re not stretching yourself. You’re satisfied where you are, and not making any real effort to move forward out of that situation.” – David B Bohl

Growth doesn’t tend to happen when we’re feeling comfortable. In order to really change, we need to grow outside our comfort zone.

But when we’ve found something which is easy and which works, we want to carry on doing more of the same … it’s difficult to take a step into the unknown, or the uncomfortable. We convince ourselves we’re making progress (perhaps working slowly up the ladder at work, passing the next test in school, writing another blog article) – but we secretly know we’re not growing.

I’m going to think about three questions below:

  1. Where are you too comfortable?
  2. What makes you feel nervous?
  3. How can you jump outside your comfort zone?

Where are you too comfortable?

When life is chugging along happily, it’s easy to settle back and get comfortable. Maybe you’re in a fairly undemanding job, which you can do well and easily. Maybe you’ve got a long-term partner and your relationship is pretty good. Maybe you know you could be fitter, but you’re not suffering any health problems. Maybe your financial situation is steady, though not outstanding.

It’s natural to want a comfortable life. We’re wired to avoid things which are frightening, uncomfortable or painful, and to seek to make our lives as easy as possible. But comfort doesn’t lead to growth – it leads to stagnation.

Grab a sheet of paper, open up a document on your computer, or use the comments box at the bottom of this post. Complete the sentence “I have become too comfortable with …”

Here’s mine:

“I have become too comfortable with my freelance writing, sticking with blog articles because I find them easy to write.”

Now write down “I am going to take a step outside my comfort zone by …” (and make this as specific as possible.)

“I am going to take a step outside my comfort zone by pitching five articles to magazines every week during the next month.”

What makes you feel nervous?

To go beyond your comfort zone, you need to work out where the boundaries lie. A good way to do this is to figure out what makes you feel nervous. Try not to have preconceptions about this – what’s terrifying to one person can be second nature to another. I tend to be scared of everything new and just some of the things that have made me nervous in the past are:

  • Meeting up with a group of online friends for the first time, aged 16
  • Leaving home to go to university, aged 18
  • Pitching my first guest post to a blog, last January

All of these things have become easy and comfortable now. Some of the people I’ve met online have become my closest friends; I now feel like a guest in my parents’ house and my flat in London feels like “home”; I write regularly for several blogs and offer guest posts to many more.

What makes you nervous? It might be:

  • Having a serious conversation about your relationship with your partner
  • Asking for a pay rise or more responsibility at work
  • Saying “no” to someone who’s asking for your time or money
  • Leaving a comment on one of your favourite blogs

Whether big or small, write down “I feel nervous about …”

Here’s mine: “I feel nervous about phoning prospective website clients.”

And now add “…but I’m going to do it anyway!”

“I feel nervous about phoning prospective website clients, but I’m going to do it anyway!”

How can you JUMP outside your comfort zone?

I was going to ask you to take a step outside your comfort zone – but I don’t think that’s challenging enough. After all, a step could mean just putting one foot over the comfort zone line … before retreating straight back in.

So I want to think about jumping outside your comfort zone. Is there a whole area where you’re stagnating? How can you really shake things up?

Maybe you’re going to:

  • Overhaul your diet and join a gym
  • Apply for new jobs
  • Launch a blog or website
  • Write your first novel
  • Apply for a professional or academic course

Whatever it is, make it something big! It might be scary, even a little overwhelming, but if you can do it, this is something which will help you grow immensely.

Here’s mine:

“I’m going to jump outside my comfort zone by talking to lots of people when I start my Creative Writing MA on October 1st. I’m not going to be shy or scared, I’m going to put myself out there with a big smile – and find new friends and future writing colleagues.”

Where are you too comfortable – and how will you change it? What makes you nervous that you’re going to do anyway? How will you JUMP outside your comfort zone?

(I’ll let you know how I’m getting on next month…)

Photo by Joshua Davis

Ali Luke

Ali writes about personal growth and development on her blog, Aliventures. As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing.

Latest posts by Ali Luke (see all)

22 Comments

  1. I second the idea of going beyond our comfort zone. It feels strange at first and we may feel resistance or be tempted to give up after awhile. But in many of the cases, I find myself on the verge of a discovery that unearths exciting times ahead.

    I also enjoyed the examples of going beyond yours in terms of writing. All the best, Ali!!

    Evelyn Lims last blog post..My Abundance Mind Movie

    Reply
    • I found I feel quite nervous and uncomfortable when I try to make a public speaking. I step outside my comfortable by joining a public speaking club – Toastmasters. It’s helpful. I can see my personal growth after I joined Toastmasters for 4 years. You may try public speaking as your uncomfortable zone. All the best!
      Victor Wang from Tianjin China

      Reply
  2. As I’ve just written in my latest post, “I’d rather be scared than bored.” I also talk about how happiness depends on having the right amount of challenge in our lives. This attitude is an integral part of my life.

    Jean Browman–Cheerful Monks last blog post..Making Hay While the Sun Shines

    Reply
  3. Love the questions that opened this post. They are great! I wrote a similar article and have more suggestions at my linked website.

    Things like:
    Change your eating habits, your normal crowd you hang out with, who you do things for, volunteering, giving away money, face your fears, do something new, take on a dare, be silly for a change. All these help you break out your comfort zone.

    Mike Kings last blog post..Using the 5 W Questions to Improve Your Training

    Reply
  4. Thanks for this piece Ali — it feels very real to me. I found myself tensing up a little when you said “I’m not going to be shy or scared, I’m going to put myself out there with a big smile.” I imagined you sort of forcing a smile, and I didn’t want you to have to go through that. I don’t know as much as you about the event you’re going to, but it sounds to me like it would be totally cool, and probably fulfilling for you and others, if you were totally open — the way you are in this article! — about the fact that being there is outside your comfort zone. — Best, Chris

    Chris Edgars last blog post..What’s Really Holding You Back: “Morality” Or Anxiety?

    Reply
    • Thanks for all your encouraging words, Chris!

      Yes, you’re right — I do sometimes put on a falsely confident “public persona” and hide the real me (insecurities and all). I’ll try to be open and honest with the people I meet. Maybe I’ll seek out the shy ones sitting on their own and say a gentle “hi” … I know all too well what it feels like.

      Thanks again,

      Ali

      Reply
  5. I am going to step outside my comfort zone by calling people to growth our business and be more active promoting it.
    I feel comfortable on the internet, now it needs to get more personal.

    Good luck with your talk.

    PS. Great post

    Click A Life Coachs last blog post..Help the school children in Darfur!

    Reply
  6. This is a perfect blog for what has been on my mind lately. I have been in a comfort zone for way too long, and I have recently realized how much it is holding me back. I enjoyed the exercises of stating specifically what makes me uncomfortable, and confronting it directly. I look foreword to accepting challenges as a process in evolving myself and no longer view them as hindrances. Thanks Ali…

    Reply
  7. I challenge my readers to step outside of their comfort zones at least once a week. Making just one small change per week gives you new perspectives and can stimulate ideas that make your life better.

    Reply
  8. This is amazing – I just wrote about this myself! I think that so often people build up how hard stepping out of their comfort zones will be. But the rewards far outnumber the risks. I am working on taking more chances and demanding better for myself. Things aren’t bad now, but I know that they can be so much better.

    Thank you for encouraging people not to settle!

    Reply
  9. I try to step out of my comfort zone every day, one of my favorite quotes by Kathrine Mansfield – “Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth. ”

    I read this quote and woke up, living in a comfort zone is living in hell.

    -Tabs

    Tabs at Levnows last blog post..How to Think The Certain Way Using the Science of Getting Rich

    Reply
  10. Thank you for sharing your story Ali. I really respect and admire the way you are putting yourself out of your comfort zone.

    To answer your question, “Are you comfortable with your life?”, the answer is “YES”. Unfortunately I am still trying to work out which direction I need to JUMP….

    Reply
  11. I’m all for pushing outside of my comfort zone. It is scary and even painful at times, but if we fail to grow, then we die. That’s what life is about.

    Reply
  12. Can someone help me? I made a change back in 2002 to leave my comfort zone. I left an awesome job and moved to Colorado not for a job but to experience life outside of Orlando, Fl. Anyway, I freaked out only after 2 months. I moved back to Orlando, got bored again and moved to New York! Freaked out again and moved back to Orlando. To save from writing out a couple of more moves let’s just say I am back in Orlando after about 5 moves. Now can anyone help me with my fear of non comfort zones?? I have some offers in Denver, and I want to move out there but afraid of how people see me now (not stable) and how they will react. I want some confidence….anyone? advice?
    Thank you!

    Michelle

    Reply
  13. Hi Ali!

    I´ve thought a lot about changing things in my life. The first thing I did was changing the way I was thinking, and that was a major change in my life. After a while I started to notice new things coming into my life. I also started to write, and say positiv affirmations, and that was also a new positiv change in my life.

    About the comfortable zone => I´ve made a blogspot. I hope that you can take a look at it, and write what you think about it.

    - May

    Reply
  14. Good post. I stepped out of my comfort zone by booking a recording studio and getting a song recorded and to my surprise it came out OK. I didn’t have the guts to sing it in front of the camera thoughtbut still put it up on youtube (with a black blank screen !) …….. and then I blogged about it ! i think if you choose something that makes to feel scared and just do it it kind of gives you the power to go further and do something else out of your comfort zone too.

    Reply
  15. All change occurs outside the comfort zone. In life, there is no such thing as stagnation because if we actually find a way to “stand still,” we begin moving in an undesirable direction. We were born to evolve and expand the perimeter of our comfort zone by consistently trying new things….great post, I just linked to this article!

    Reply

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