How to Break Through Your Comfort Zone and Try Something New
by Ward Andrews
Although this piece was originally meant for “creatives,” I strongly believe we all have comfort zones. While your comfort zone (from a biological perspective) keeps you safe, many of us use it as a crutch and stumble through life on autopilot.
We love our comfort zones because:
- We’re afraid to fail: Ward explains, “if you do whatever you can to avoid failure at all costs, you’re only going to do work you’re comfortable with.”
- We like to do what we’re good at: “If failure is the stick, accomplishment is the carrot. Creatives love praise (who doesn’t?) and it’s tempting to only do work that will earn you that praise—work that you’re comfortable doing.” — Ward Andrews
- We’re perfectionists: Most people don’t share their work because it isn’t perfect.
However, never failing means you’re never growing. Never trying something new means you’ll never figure out what you’re capable of doing. And perfection doesn’t exist.
To break out of your comfort zone, you first have to identify it. Ward suggests asking yourself, “What sort of work exists within your comfort zone? Why is it comfortable for you? Can you think of ways it’s holding you back? Is there something outside your comfort zone that you’d like to try (if you were brave enough?).”
It’s obvious that stepping outside of your comfort zone is going to be uncomfortable. It’s that discomfort that holds you back. Ward shares some tips on dealing with that discomfort:
- “Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Feel the feelings, learn the lesson, forgive yourself, and move on.
- Take action. Not sure what to do? Just do something. Refuse to overthink or over-analyze. Take action quickly, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
- Stop making excuses. Don’t allow yourself to make excuses that will pull you out of discomfort. Push through it. Feel the discomfort. Recognize it as temporary and, in the long term, beneficial.
- Laugh. Laughter can help break the tension and release of feel-good chemicals in the body. Instead of an inner dialogue focused on how you’re doing everything wrong, learn to laugh at yourself. Find the humor in difficult situations.
- “What’s the worst that could happen?”…once you realize how unlikely they are to actually happen, this exercise is strangely calming.
- Adopt useful thoughts and beliefs: You have the power to design, shape, and guide your thoughts, and your thoughts have the power to design, shape, and guide your life.
- Practice patience: Learning to break through your comfort zone requires patience because it’s hard. The things you do outside your comfort zone require patience because they’re new (and probably also hard).”
As a final (and my favorite) takeaway, Ward says, “Discomfort isn’t going to kill you; in fact, it might be the key to getting you where you want to go.”
My two cents: I hang the image for today’s digital health vitamin on my wall. I truly believe that magic and new opportunities happen outside of our comfort zones. To be vulnerable for a sec, that image alone got me through some tough times. It’s a helpful reminder to keep leaning into the discomfort and not run from it.
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