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 1. 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…)

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