I’m told that I’m good at pushing past my comfort zone. So, I figured I would discuss how you can improve doing that and why you can benefit from pushing past your comfort zone. This isn’t a comprehensive guide. It’s more of a short brief on some of the things I figured you should know.
First, a bit about why you should trust me. There’s probably a hundred things I can list where I’ve pushed my comfort zone. Here are a few:
- I ran a Tough Mudder 5K on a whim, the day of.
- I walked into a CrossFit gym 6 years ago, scared and insecure as a skinny Asian nerd in a room full of buff Caucasian men. I ended up sticking with it for the next few years, going 4 to 6 days a week, and making some friends there. I went from fearful to very comfortable in that environment.
- I’ve done dozens of activities for the first time in an effort to make my life less dull, including painting, dance classes, martial arts classes, stretch/acrobat classes, stunt acting, disc golf, archery, improv, and a lot more. Some were not 100% comfortable; improv class is usually filled with extroverts who don’t mind being very silly and loud, which is the opposite of who I am.
- As I write this, I am traveling across the country for the first time. I have been for a few months now, and it is, as someone told me, “on the edge of discomfort, almost as far out as you go”. While enriching, it has its share of challenges, including the anxiety of being on my own and the struggles of having to move after finally establishing some friendships. You can hear more about this in my secret travel newsletter.
So why does pushing past your comfort zone matter? Well, there’s a lot of things that can he missed out on if you stay in your comfort zone. You could be one of thousands of people who remain at their comfy, middle management job because it’s good enough and it pays well. because you’re scared of the unknown, that choice closes the door 4 a much better, more fulfilling, higher-paying job that’s more line with your values and purpose in life. As you can see, being in a place of great comfort could be a deadly thing. Many people fall victim to this trap, choosing to live the rest of your lives in a career or life that’s just good enough or that has trapped them so much in terms of the income it provides and the expenses that they have to pay for their family or their lifestyle, that they close the potential that they could have had as something more high risk but higher reward or just playing better out there that seemed unknown. How many movie stars, entrepreneurs, artist, could there have been if people were more courageous?
Pushing your comfort zone can prevent all sorts of other failures, big and small. Pushing your comfort zone can increase your social skills, networking skills, dancing skills, and dating life. Just like with any skill or experience, it’s natural to feel nervous when you’re bad at it and new to something. Many people never start or stay consistent because they are scared of their failures or rejection. But if they never start, they limit the potential they could have had four more fruitful, Wonderful Life or just more results.
The first step you should take towards improving your ability to push your comfort zone is to find baby steps that you can take so that each move you make is gradual. As you start to see more progress and results, your fear subsides and your confidence increases.
Another part of pushing past comfort zone he’s realizing that your anxiety and fear can often build up the activity to be much worse than it actually is. Sure, sometimes it is just as bad as you thought it would be. But you learn that it won’t kill you and you were able to move past it.
Often, the activities you fear are more doable and more pleasant than you picture. I’ve recently had to push past my comfort zone to get my two vaccines for covid-19. I’ve always hated shots and I still find them unpleasant, but every year, I know that it would benefit me. In the last few years, I’ve been lucky since I’ve had good nurses who give me the shot. They don’t make a fuss about it and they do it fairly quickly so that there’s no buildup and less pain. Although they scare me to death, I’m happy to say that and my most recent shots were less painful then I imagined them to be.
Sometimes, your comfort zone creeps up on you so that you’re stuck in a place of comfort that you weren’t before and tasks that you used to be fine with or very daunting. The greatest example of this I can remember is when I spent about three months over psychologies winter break at home. I got to a point where I was just so comfortable sitting under the bed covers. Since I was doing it so often and it was so convenient, I just started to unconsciously build up a belief over time that my comfort zone was in my warm snug bed. when it was time to go back to school, it was the most anxiety-provoking, unpleasant time. All of a sudden, I felt worried and fearful leaving the comfort of my bed in the mornings and the unknowns of going back on my own to college and interacting with strangers, classmates or just people I would run into at school. These are things I’ve done before, but over time all of a sudden, the mine had built up this idea that my dad was a safe place and everything else outside was dangerous.
Despite all that fear, after a couple days back at school, a lot of my stress melt it away as I realize that this wasn’t as bad as I thought.
You may not have that exact situation but I’m sure there are plenty of situations that are similar where your comfort zone can just trap you in an environment. Think about the guy who has a decent job and lives in a decent town. He’s lived here and done this job is whole life. Not a good job what town is fantastic, but they’re not bad. He has a lot of things to be thankful for that he’s aware of. He’s got heating and air conditioning for an affordable price, a roof over his head, easy access to grocery stores, decent amount of income to put food on the table, some decent restaurants nearby to visit, a couple good friends do not many, and the job that he doesn’t tap dance to work for the one that you can tolerate and that he can leave feeling alright about.
That’s a lot of things that’s just good enough. if he looked into a situation, he can find a bunch of other things that are just good enough. He has a girlfriend that’s decent but nothing he’s over the moon about. the crime rate is low in his area. he just installed new carpet in his room.
But there’s also a lot of things that aren’t that great but that he can tolerate. Maybe the apartment he lives is Tiny. Maybe he’s bored to death of going to the same local restaurants and Parks. Maybe there’s nothing to do after sunset in this area because the town has nothing to do.
But he never chooses to move out because things are just comfortable enough that he doesn’t want to jeopardize them. He doesn’t want to take a risk that could ruin what you already have, even if it means obtaining more. there’s a chance that all the things that he’s just tolerating now could be fixed. He could move to a place where there’s plenty to do, get a job they get some more money so he doesn’t have to live in a tiny apartment. can you find a city with a lot more outdoor activities and foods to eat that would severely outclass his town. Yet he doesn’t because that would risk what he already has and he is comfortable with what he’s obtained so far.
The vivid fear of losing what he has already for some unknown of living in a new city where he may or may not like it and the fear of losing everything he’s gotten has stopped him from even considering improving his life. Essentially, one of the most sinister dangers is falling into a comfort zone, especially a mediocre one, and letting that snuff out the possibility of something greater, achieving major dreams or aspirations. It’s easy to do since your brain can overdramatize the fears and dangers of the unknown more than they actually are and play out an irreversible scenario, when it’s actually reversible if you don’t like it. Ultimately, that leads to people staying in a more mediocre level of comfort to not lose what they have.
Now, every situation is unique, to an extent. Depending on various factors, maybe it’s okay to sometimes stay in your comfort zone. If someone doesn’t love or hate their job, but they’re happy with every other part of your life, is it the most pressing thing to get that person to find a better job? Maybe not. This person is already at a high level of average well being.
Similarly, if you don’t have any massive dreams, like moving to a big city, becoming an actor, or experiencing more active outdoor activities, it’s not as big a loss. If there’s not something that causes you to think never achieving it would lead to a lot of pain or a lot of regret, then it’s probably not a big deal.
All I would ask is that you are at least honest with yourself. Some people may tell others or even themselves story that’s not true. But some, truly are content enough with where they are and they don’t have any big potential regrets or aspirations that would be snuffed by staying in their comfort zone.
For me yes, I have a lot of things that I would love to do an experience in this amazing world. Some of them would lead to a good amount of regret if I didn’t do them. So, that often makes pushing past my comfort zone somewhat easy. I’ve driven an hour or two to white water raft and river tube because I’d never done that. I get some anxiety and dread when thinking about driving that far but I did it.
And if I were to end with one last tip, I would say sometimes, you can use some logic to build out a plan where there is little to no downside. Sometimes, you can mistakenly let your feelings make you believe as if there’s a massive downside.
If that person in the example earlier move to a different city or got a new job, he could always move back if he doesn’t like you. Or he could just shop around and look at new job postings and interview for them without committing to anything just yet. That way, at least he can gather more information about what’s out there and what he could transition into.
But it’s easy to just build it up in your head to feel that if it doesn’t work out, you die. Or something bad happens. Or you can never get what you once had back again. Or that if you even so much as start thinking about getting another job, your current job and lifestyle is in jeopardy. But as you can see, that’s not always true.
So ask yourself, what’s there really to lose? For some of the young, adventurous types, this kind of stuff comes easy for them. then again, those aren’t they people probably reading an article like this.
And sometimes, the answer it’s simply that whatever you’re so concerned about is likely not going to happen. And if it is, you’ll recover, often much faster than you think. Some people, for example, are scared of what others would think they say something, do something or get rejected. But chances are, in five years, 10 years, and certainly in the last years of your life, you couldn’t care less what that person thought of you back then. You likely have forgotten about it long ago and have much more important concerns.
We move towards pleasure and away from pain and fear. But it’s important to really assess whether that pleasure was really pleasure and that pain is really pain.
I see a good amount of Instagram inspirational posts that say stuff like “This is the year you get rid of your comfort zone”. I like the intent, but don’t believe in pushing your comfort zone for the sake of pushing your comfort zone in the excess. There’s no need to be extremely silly or weird just to do it. I do what I do because there are goals I want to achieve and feeling too comfortable gets in my way from executing. For example, it was more comfortable for me to stay in my nice, safe, predictable home and watch TV, but I had to force myself to get outside to talk to and meet others, even when there was a fear that they would be mean or dislike me.
There are times when it just doesn’t make sense to be uncomfortable. You’re uncomfortable for a reason. For example, creeping around alone in a bar when everyone else came with friends and are hanging with just their friends is naturally uncomfortable because you’re being weird and others are sensing that. It’s your body telling you that you’re not doing something socially natural, so change it. Being uncomfortable isn’t always a bad thing, it’s a signal to course correct for self-preservation.
Being able to push past your comfort zone isn’t going to, on its own, fix everything in your life. But it is a lever you can pull to increase success, especially when your comfort zone is crippling you because you’re so used to staying in it.
Sometimes, it comes down with being okay with the worst case outcome. It will happen, but it isn’t as bad as you think! I’ve been to a bar before and people were mean or didn’t want to talk, but looking back, it didn’t kill me. Decide on your goals, and see if your comfort zone is stopping you. Then fix it. Some common situations I’ve seen in friends, family, and strangers include:
- being so comfortable in your job that you choose to stick with it even though you think it’s boring rather than take a risk and move to a new city or industry for a chance at a more exciting or fulfilling job
- being so scared of social situations that you just avoid them entirely
- failing to try something new with a skill because you’re not good at it yet, which stunts your growth