Humans are creatures of habit. We create rituals that feel familiar. Find comfort in well-known surroundings. And are programmed to thrive in repetitive behaviours that make us feel safe. None more so than in the world of work. This preference for familiarity is more commonly referred to as the comfort zone. A place of low stress levels, where we feel calm and in control. So why is stepping out of your comfort zone so important?
We’re often bombarded with inspirational quotes on the benefits of trying something new, pushing boundaries and taking leaps of faith. An attempt by mentors and lifestyle gurus to help us beyond this place where we feel mentally at ease. Most of these people, including myself believe that it’s only when we do things that scare us, that the magic begins to happen.
Strictly in a work sense I regularly push boundaries. My motto? Always say yes, then figure out the how afterwards. That’s an uncomfortable place to be, but it’s the mantra that’s got me through many a difficult situation, pushed me to the top of my industry and helped me to bring ideas and events to life that most people would find unimaginable.
In this blog, I’ll explore how to recognise that it might be time to push out of your comfort zone. Why this might be beneficial and the reason why I think more people need to get out of their comfort zone no matter what stage they are at in life. I’ll also share some ideas to help you get started and examine ways that I myself have taken a leap of faith to do something that scares me only to be rewarded in the most unusual and exciting ways.
BUT FIRST TO THE CONVERSATION THAT INSPIRED THIS BLOG POST…
It was an interview with actress Sally Dynover on the latest season of my Events That Made Me podcast where the idea for this blog post was first conceived. As well as discussing her rise to fame, a lifetime spent on screen and her cancer diagnosis where art imitated reality, we talked about her appearance on ITV’s hit show, Dancing on Ice. Here is how Sally described the situation in her words:
“I thought I do have to do this. I mean, what am I teaching my daughters? If I say I’m not doing it because I’m too scared…So, there were two years where I actually couldn’t do it. And the first year I turned it down, but I suddenly thought, oh my gosh, I’m not getting any younger. And if I don’t do it now, I’m never going to do it. So, I said, yes, I signed on the dotted line…
“I was so worried about it. Honestly. I just thought, what am I doing? Is this the right thing to be doing it? What if I make a fool of myself? Or this is the first time that people are going to get Sally Dynover as opposed to my character, because I’ve never really put myself out there, I’m happy just doing my job and going home.
“I’m not really one for the limelight and those sorts of things. So, this was really putting myself out of my comfort zone, but I have to say it’s been the best thing I have a done. And I would say to anyone, if you’re thinking about doing something and it’s really scary, just do it because, being out of my comfort zone was almost the best place to be.
“I’d been doing Coronation Street for such a long time, to do something different was just amazing.”
What really struck me about Sally’s words were the fact that even somebody who does what we’d all believe to be an exciting and rewarding job – a life in showbiz – can get stuck in a routine. Sally herself says, she was happy to do her job and go home, but it was when she pushed herself to do something different, something that in her own admission absolutely terrified her, that the magic happened.
My takeaway from this is that even if you’ve done the same job for years and you leap out of bed every morning raring to go because you love it, there’s merit to trying something new. Stepping out of your comfort zone can add to your success and enjoyment of life.
WHAT IS YOUR COMFORT ZONE AND HOW TO RECOGNISE IT
In attempting to express what is meant by this common phrase I stumbled across a helpful definition.
“A comfort zone is a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person and they are at ease and (perceive they are) in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress. In this zone, a steady level of performance is possible.”
That doesn’t sound too troublesome a place to be. In fact, it sounds perfectly acceptable, which is why in many areas of their lives, so many people get stuck in the comfort zone. Yet there are some big benefits to pushing out of this state that makes you feel so secure. It can feel scary to do so at first, but the rewards can be huge.
What keeps us in the comfort zone? There’s mental security in airing with caution. It’s no surprise that it’s the natural place we lean towards. But living and working here doesn’t offer any incentive for us to be better and strive towards more.
In fact, I would argue that staying in your comfort zone blocks growth and progress, pushing improvement, success and happiness further away.
THE BENEFITS OF STEPPING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Trying new things allows you to see things from a different perspective and supercharges your creative powers. There’s a reason that when you’re stuck at your desk the ideas dry up, but when you get up and take a walk or change the scenery, they come flooding in. Here are just a few benefits from pushing out of the safe zone.
For me the most beneficial part of getting out of the comfort zone is the ingenuity and new ideas that come to light with trying something new or learning a new skill. It helps you to see the world differently and in turn, brings new practises to daily life.
Coping better with change.
A dislike of change is a common human trait but regularly and intentionally doing things that scare you means you will cope better with the curve balls that life throws at you.
Energetically things change when you push beyond your natural boundaries. You might find that you get into a flow state, which means you’ll get things done more quickly without it feeling like a chore, or find a new, more efficient way of doing regular tasks.
Practise makes perfect.
Pushing boundaries is easier with practise as it is with most things in life. Doing things that make you uncomfortable gets easier over time. Experts have a name for the state of optimal anxiety that you will get accustomed to – ‘productive discomfort’.
Can Habits be Healthy?
There is of course a benefit to creating habits and, in many cases, yes, they can be healthy.
If you’re the kind of person that has a morning routine or a certain set of tasks that you complete each day as you start your job, then there’s a lot of merit to that.
I begin each morning with a run on the treadmill before breakfast, it’s something that not only grounds me but helps me work through any problems that are on my mind. It’s also where my creative process begins. As I pound out the steps, ideas begin to form and the events I’m planning reach new heights.
I’m certainly not about to critique anybody for having a daily routine. If your morning routine inspires you, then it’s a fantastic place to begin.
Routine becomes a problem when things start to get stale. If things are perfectly fine but not exciting. You’re going through the motions. Feeling uninspired or like you’re on autopilot that’s an indicator that you could have slipped into the danger zone. More commonly known as your comfort zone.
It’s often the case that those who push themselves to try new things, shake up their routine but keep the habits that serve them, are more creative, more empowered and ultimately more successful.
HOW TO PUSH OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE
The first thing you need to do to push out of your comfort zone is recognise it and of course acknowledge the main reason most of us like to dwell there – fear.
Stay open to new opportunities on note how they make you feel. When something new comes your way be it a job interview, a chance to try a new hobby, visit a new place or just an opportunity to push yourself, notice the feelings it provokes in you. Do you feel scared? Excited? A tingle of apprehension? If so, this is probably a good indication that whatever you are about to undertake is out of your comfort zone. Fear is your friend. Do the things that scare you.
In Sally Dynover’s words:
“I would say to anyone if you’re thinking about doing something and it’s really scary then just do it because being out of my comfort zone was the best place to be!”
“I’m too old to get out of my comfort zone”
Nothing riles me as much as this as an excuse. At the tender age of …(sixty plus), I have recently launched a podcast, written a biography and started an entirely new business.
I don’t like to dwell on the past but the pandemic – terrible as it was in many ways forced many people to rethink their business practise. Me included. I was forced with a decision. Sit back and wait for an unspecified time until my events business could re-emerge or spend the time working on things that had always bubbled in the background as ideas but never yet come to fruition. Of course, I chose the latter. Yet, it took something as dramatic as a global pandemic to refocus me on those goals.
The main issue for me not pursuing these was of course time constraints. In ‘normal’ life it made sense to focus my efforts on the profit-making aspects of my business. This is the definition of staying in ‘comfort zone’ – it would have been a bold move to make the decision to turn my back on the ‘money making’ aspects of my business to focus solely on pursuits that were in the initial stages, loss makers.
But there’s more. Those who know me will agree that I don’t suffer from nerves, yet if I’m brutally honest, there could have been an element of ‘fear of failure’ holding me back as well – especially given the public nature of launching a podcast and the very personal pursuit of writing an autobiography. Laying myself bare. I’m so glad I took the leap.
Wanting to stay in your comfort zone is a default human disposition. We all want to feel safe and secure. But if you allow yourself to be led down the path when stepping out of your comfort zone provides new opportunities, it could lead to something wonderful.
You’re never too old and never too experienced to try something new. You can grow and you can achieve with confidence and satisfaction at any age. It can help to realise that going out of your comfort zone is all part of life’s journey. Use your gut feeling and leap into the unknown. There are no guarantees in life but trusting my intuition has rarely led me down the garden path. And even if it does, that’s an opportunity to learn.
The next step from being out of your comfort zone is reinvention, as many in the media have to do continually. Listen to my forthcoming Events That Made Me podcast conversation with Vanessa Feltz. Learning about how her continuous reinvention now means she has free reign over her voice.
Thanks for sharing all my reasons why stepping out of your comfort zone is a MUST!