Leaving the comfort zone

6772825542_9bb5837e41_bThe Comfort Zone:

Here we are half way through the first month of 2015. Did you make a resolution? Have you stuck to it? While the tradition of the New Year’s resolution has been around for about 4000 years, today, for the most part, people are not following through on their resolutions. Why is this? Perhaps it has to do with the nature of the “comfort zone”, that state that makes a person feel at ease, in control, and experience low anxiety. This state encourages behaviors that result in consistent performance, most of the time, without a sense of risk. This explains why it so hard to make resolutions involving change stick. Change hurts. Who wants to feel anxious and take risk? Feeling anxious and taking risks are not often encouraged.

There are some reasons to go exploring, however. Add a little bit of anxiety and you might find yourself entering a state of optimal learning. Anxiety causes us to experience an enhanced sense of concentration and focus — these are great for learning. In life we are often pushed out of our comfort zone. The practice of being out of this zone can help you manage the times in your life when leaving this zone is forced on you. So how do we practice leaving our comfort zone?

Here are a handful of strategies to help you break out of your comfort zone:

  1. Do everyday things differently.

 

Take the time to examine the new perspectives you get from these small changes. If things don’t work out the way you thought they would, don’t worry about it. This is about becoming comfortable with change. Maybe it is time to change the side of the bed you sleep on, learn a new skill or join your local makerspace.

 

  1. Take time making decisions.

 

If you usually make quick decisions, allow yourself to consider the issues surrounding your choices. The empowerment you feel by allowing yourself to make these considerations is grounds enough to engage in this exercise.

 

  1. Make Snap decisions.

 

This is a contradiction. I know. However, if you are the kind of person who usually takes the time to think things through, spend some times exploring impulse decision making, remember the goal here is to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

 

Take it one step at a time. It’s all about taking the time to recognize and reward your self for taking on these slightly risky behaviors. So it really doesn’t matter if it is a big step or a little one. But little steps are easier to make. Take the time to examine the new perspectives you get from these small changes. If things don’t work out the way you thought they would, don’t worry about it.

 YerkesDodsonLawGraph

But if we go too far…

If one goes too far beyond their comfort zone then they spend more time worrying about the possible failure and less time dealing with the immediate situation. One strategy to address this is to allow your self to indulge in thinking about and through the imagined worst-case scenarios. This allows you to proactively manage these perceived risks. This is not to be confused with good old-fashioned pessimism, where one only ruminates on assumed negative outcomes and does nothing to prepare for them.

In general, we tend to find that new things only stay new for a short time. The novel soon becomes the ordinary. Return to your comfort zone and make a habit of leaving it. Perhaps it will help you to achieve your New Years resolution. Move out of your comfort zone, learn something new, and repeat.
For more information on how we step out of our comfort zone, check out this infographic.