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7 Small Ways to Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone That You Can Start Doing Today

7 Small Ways to Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone That You Can Start Doing Today

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

Beyond your comfort zone lies what you really want: to grow, change, and live your life with passion. The problem? Getting there requires you to break out of your comfort zone, and going outside your comfort zone is intimidating. As scary as it is, however, pushing through your fear and getting out of your comfort zone is essential for growth. “Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” – Brian Tracy

The below guide is a one-week action plan that you can use to break out of your comfort zone. Starting with these small steps will give you the confidence booster you need to eventually take bigger steps out of your comfort zone. By experiencing success with these small action steps, you will rapidly develop the momentum needed to make a breakthrough.

Follow this action plan for the next 7 days and you will be excited to continue stepping out of your comfort zone!

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1. Do a random act of kindness

Is there a better way to start your week by pushing out of your comfort zone to do something kind for a stranger? I think not! Random acts of kindness are awesome. They make another person’s day start off great (and honestly, who doesn’t need a mood booster on Monday morning?). There’s also a benefit to your life. By doing kind hearted things for others and expecting nothing in return (no thanks, no praise, just you quietly doing amazing stuff), you feel great. It’s Monday, grab your caffeine and get out of your bubble… it’s time to break out of your comfort zone and do something thoughtful for a stranger.

Monday’s Breakthrough Tip: Pay for a coffee for the person behind you in line at Starbucks.

2. Startle your taste buds

Coming out of your comfort zone can start in your very own kitchen! You can begin by experimenting with a new spice. Gradually you can progress to trying entirely new foods and perhaps some totally exotic foods. Some you might love, and others not so much, and that’s okay. How will you ever know if you don’t try them? The key is to start playing with different flavors and expand your palate. Instead of mindlessly creating the same boring meals from recipes you’ve used repetitively for years, start experimenting. Try arugula instead of spinach in your salad, mix a new refreshing drink, or buy some cheese you’ve never heard of (black bomber, anyone?).

Tuesday’s Breakthrough Tip: Use a new spice while cooking dinner.

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3. Strike up a conversation

Strike up a conversation with someone you never talk to – either a stranger or an acquaintance. As always, be safe (avoid late-night conversations with strangers in dark alleys). Feeling awkward and not sure what to talk about? Pay them a compliment. Better yet, tell them their kids are super cute. Everyone likes that. You never know who you’ll meet; there are likely a lot of amazing people around you every day. Who knows, maybe the person who sits next to you on the subway every day will become your new friend.

Wednesday’s Breakthrough Tip: Compliment a stranger.

4. Say I love you

How often do we tell our friends and family members how much we love and appreciate them? I’ll give you the answer – not enough. Life is short, and too often it ends abruptly. Even if your family isn’t overly emotional and doesn’t talk about feelings, get out of your comfort zone and tell your loved ones how much you care about them. It doesn’t matter if your words are written in a letter, spoken over the phone, or shared in person. Just get your thoughts out of your head and share them with those who are dearest to you.Tell them how their influence in your life has made you who you are today.

Thursday’s Breakthrough Tip: Send a card to a relative stating why you’re thankful for them.

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5. Take one baby step

According to author Joseph Epstein, “81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them.” There are hundreds of millions of people who apparently aspire to write. If you’re one of them, start today by setting tiny goals. If you dream to write a book, write 2 sentences today. If you have different aspirations, take a baby step in a different direction. If you want to go back to school, sign up for one class this semester. If you want to eventually run a marathon, set an initial goal of walking 5 minutes. You just need to start putting one foot in front of the other. Looking ahead at your overall big dream may be overwhelming and far out of your comfort zone; breaking it down into small chunks will significantly decrease the intimidation factor.

Friday’s Breakthrough Tip: Consider a big dream you have that is out of your comfort zone. Break it down. Set a tiny starting goal you know you can accomplish and do it today. Repeat this daily.

6. Scan the ads

Look through the newspaper and your local community education flyer. Are there any upcoming events or classes that picque your interest? Taking a class, even if it’s just a couple hours, can be out of your comfort zone if it’s something completely new to you. By learning a new skill, you just might stumble upon your passion. A friend of mine stepped out of her comfort zone and signed up for a random glass-blowing class a couple years ago, thinking it would be a fun way to kill a few hours. She absolutely loved it. So much, in fact, that she’s considering decreasing her hours in the healthcare field (she has a doctorate degree and an excellent career) to spend more time glass-blowing. She started by returning to the studio to take more classes, then began selling items she created to family and friends, and now her work is being featured in a store front.

Saturday’s Breakthrough Tip: Sign up for a local workshop to learn something new.

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7. Unplug

In today’s always “on” society, where we have instant access to all kinds of information, and we’re constantly connected to social media, it can be uncomfortable to turn it off. Yet disconnecting from your phone and internet can spark true connection with others, and give you time to reflect. Many people have a continual “fear of missing out,” and are attached nonstop to electronic devices…but does it really matter if you turn off your social media for a day? Is it seriously important for you to know what your friend from 20 years ago had for breakfast? No, it’s not, but nevertheless, unplugging in today’s world can feel uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone. Developing a habit of unplugging one day per week, as difficult as it can be, can promote mindfulness and true connection with the people who matter most in your life – those that you actually spend time with in real life, not just online.

Sunday’s Breakthrough Tip: Have everyone in your family place his or her phone in a basket on the kitchen counter, where it will stay all day, turned off. Then go out and spend the day doing something fun as a family. Actually talk to each other in the car, and spend time having fun for the sake of having fun. Don’t take pictures with the intent of posting them on social media. Just be.

Congratulations!

You’ve done it! You’ve officially survived a full week of spending time out of your comfort zone every day. Way to go!

You will do great things if you continue to have the courage to take bigger and bigger steps out of your comfort zone!

Featured photo credit: Peeking Out/Simon Turkas via flickr.com

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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