Leaving Your Comfort Zone and Finding New Comfort Zones
A study has shown that most humans will spend up to 95% of their lives living on autopilot. What this implies is that majority of the important life decisions will be made subconsciously; based on facts, we have already programmed ourselves to believe. Does this sound like bad news? It probably is- considering that these “facts” are sometimes based on rusty, outdated information that hasn’t improved with time.
So, is your “comfort zone” really your comfort zone?
A comfort zone often refers to a closed set of experiences or situations, things, or people, that we feel relaxed enough to perform around. Closed set, because no matter how wide your comfort zone appears, the world outside is always bigger.
Interestingly, our comfort zones are not always true representations of our strengths. Often, they are formed by those subconscious ideas we hold of ourselves, fair or not. It’s even more disturbing to realize that some of these ideas are as old as time itself (or perhaps, older than your fairly used automobile).
Take the story of the elephant and the rope, for example. Baby elephants are usually tied to ropes and stakes, enough to keep them in place. But as they grow, the ropes don’t. It’s still those same little ropes, yet they cannot break free. Their real comfort zones should be outside the perimeter of the ropes, but because of the outdated info they hold onto, they cannot break free. They don’t even try.
Leaving Your Comfort Zone
There’s so much waiting right outside the tiny circle, but how do we step out?
1. Be Willing to Take Risks
The world belongs to those who reach for it. Taking that step out of your comfort zone will be one of the riskiest things you will ever do. The world outside your little space is unpredictable and out of your control. It is untamed. You will face new and challenging situations; perhaps you might even feel unsure of yourself at certain points. But these new experiences give us a heightened sense of awareness. Because you can’t autopilot through uncharted territory, you will engage your entire being, and discover strengths you never knew you had. The result? Greater productivity!
2. Be Aware of the World Around You
One of the reasons most people will live their lives entirely within their comfort zones is fear. Fear of the unknown will keep you stuck with what you do know, however unsatisfactory.
But what if you changed the game?
You can do this by getting as much knowledge as you can on the things outside your perimeter. Public speaking, for example. If you know the rules, it won’t be as scary. Something as simple as surfing the net for information or watching a How-to video will demystify your fears. What’s more, by learning about them, you could develop a new passion in the process!
3. Make Plans
If you wanted to conquer new territory, you would first draw up a campaign plan. It’s the same with widening your comfort zone. To conquer the territory beyond you, having a plan is really helpful.
Decide what you want to achieve by the end of a set time. (Perhaps you want to give a successful TED talk by the New Year?).
Map out how much time you have and allocate mini goals to each little bit of time. Making plans will help keep you on track and evaluate your progress. Besides, little victories will give you the added push to aim for more.
4. Tell Someone About Your Plans
It is so much easier to keep at a task when you’re accountable to someone. Telling a friend or someone you look up to about your plans is a good way to ensure you keep at them. Also, talking about your ideas helps give a sense of solidity to them.
So, don’t be afraid to share your Planner with a friend or someone close. They could occasionally check up on you to make sure you’re still doing those things. And of course, you wouldn’t want to disappoint them.
5. Take Those Baby Steps
It’s okay to take baby steps at first. Start with the little things: Give a speech in front of the mirror; have your partner listen and critic you; offer to handle a session at family reunions. It might be tempting to jump for the big guys; avoid it. You’re like a farmer wooing a shy horse out of the stable. If you pull too hard, he might kick out, or break the reins, or run right back in. You don’t want any of that. Remember, slow and steady really does win the race.
The more you step out of the little circle that is your comfort zone, you will be amazed to find that there are other things that you do just as well. As you challenge yourself, your threshold grows. Because what is a comfort zone but a place where we feel relaxed enough to perform?