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These 10 Things Will Happen When You Start Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

These 10 Things Will Happen When You Start Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

The comfort zone. That safe place that makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. It’s comforting, it’s familiar and it’s somewhere that the majority of human beings choose to place themselves. But in choosing to loiter within this zone for a large portion of our lives, we are effectively robbing ourselves of spontaneity, excitement, and–most importantly–we are denying ourselves the opportunity to follow our dreams. Here are ten reasons why placing a foothold outside of your comfort zone could be the singularly most important thing that you can do for yourself:

1. You’ll learn how routine can rob you of spontaneity

We all have a routine of some sort, whether it’s adapting your life to the demands and confines of a 9-5 lifestyle or molding your life around the daily demands of your family. The question we have to ask ourselves is are we slaves to our routines? Some level of routine is necessary in life and can keep us safe from the swirl of chaos. However, in allowing ourselves to be slaves to our routines, we effectively close the door on spontaneity and excitement. After all, if we do what we always did, we’ll get what we always got.

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2. You’ll open yourself up to new and exciting opportunities

By stepping outside of your comfort zone, you step into the unknown. This can be scary but it’s really where the magic happens. Think about the last fun and spontaneous adventure that happened to you. You didn’t see it coming, but when it arrived it’s likely that it thrilled you to some extent. When we simply let go and try new things we open ourselves up to new opportunities we had no idea even existed.

3. You’ll discover a reservoir of inner strength

Nobody likes feeling uncomfortable, but sometimes in life it is necessary. People often say after they experience something that they were afraid to try that they didn’t know they had it in them. When we push ourselves into unfamiliar territory we tend to learn the most about ourselves. We learn that we are stronger and infinitely more capable than we ever imagined and when we get this memo it can fill us with an unshakeable confidence.

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4. You’ll learn that dreams can become a reality

We all remember the dreams we had as children, but far too often these dreams fade into the background as we mature and the realities of life take over. Oftentimes these dreams can seem outlandish in the harsh light of day, but it’s important to know that these dreams are simply the kernels of our desire. A spark, an idea. Yet if we choose to step out of our own way and begin to take a footstep in the direction of these dreams, we begin to see that we can make them a reality.

5. You’ll learn to conquer your fears

Taking any type of risk in life is scary. Since the world outside your comfort zone is effectively an unknown quantity, stepping outside of it can feel a little jarring at first. Think about the last thing you did that scared you, whether public speaking, starting a new hobby or traveling the world. Then think about how this made you feel afterwards, perhaps the word euphoria comes to mind. When we do something that scares us, we learn that there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

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6. You’ll wonder why it took so long to make the leap

Stepping into new territory–whether starting a new business, quitting your job or ending a relationship–can feel strange initially. You might feel vulnerable or insecure. However once these jitters wear off and you begin to hit your stride you might start to question why on earth it took you so long. Much like riding a rollercoaster, the anticipation can oftentimes be worse than the actual ride.

7. You’ll no longer tolerate the status quo

Once you decide to step out of your comfort zone, there’s usually no stepping back. The fears and anxieties that seemed so debilitating bubbling around the confines of your brain don’t seem quite so scary when they are realized. You might even ask yourself what you were so afraid of in the first place. Your old way of life won’t seem quite so appealing once you’ve faced your fears and you may make a commitment to yourself never to play small again.

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8. You’ll learn to rock the boat, and like it

When you take chances in life and push yourself in a new direction, certain people in your life might not like it. In busting out of your zone, it can reflect back on others that they are unhappy with their lives yet unwilling to change it. Rather than take accountability for this, some people might become angry, hurt or confused by your actions. Misery loves company and if you decide you don’t want to be miserable anymore you might think twice about maintaining relationships with those that don’t support your dreams.

9. You’ll welcome new people and experiences into your life

In pushing out of your comfort zone, you open yourself up to new experiences and new people. When you stay stuck or actively control all aspects of your life to make yourself feel safe, you are effectively closing the door on new opportunities. Even by taking small steps, such as joining a book club or signing up to a new gym, you open yourself up to the path of possibility. That new gym buddy could turn into one of your best friends who brings a fresh perspective on life that gives you the courage to take even bigger steps in life.

10. Your life will change

If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done. Stepping into new possibilities requires trusting that things will work out for your highest good. However big or small the steps you choose to take, one thing is certain, your life will change. To quote Neale Donald Walsh, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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