According to one description, the comfort zone is a “behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk” – the operative words being stress and risk. There is a sense of familiarity, certainty, and security in familiar territory. When we step outside our comfort zone, we are opening ourselves up to the possibility of stress, pain, and even failure. We are in essence taking risk and are not quite sure what will happen and how we will react.
Why then would you want to step outside your comfort zone, you might wonder? Well, the greatest lessons in life are learned by taking risks and branching out of our comfort zones. Most of our greatest achievements and most memorable growth moments in life happen outside our comfort zone. Besides, living outside your comfort zone makes you come alive. It’s exciting and great fun. Besides, what does it profit a man or woman to go through life without having scintillating fun at least once in a while?
Here are 10 things you can do every day to step out of your comfort zone and live your life to the fullest.
1. List things that scare you the most and do those very things
Make a list of things that scare you the most and do them one by one, day by day. If you fear public speaking’ for example, take lessons and practice speaking in front of people daily. If you fear facing someone who hurt you terribly, go ahead and just face them. If you fear asking your boss for a pay raise, go ahead and just ask them. The worst thing that can happen rarely happens. If the worst actually happens, you’ll discover a power and strength within you that you never knew existed. Imagine what good things would transpire if we would all face our fears instead of running away from them. What would happen? Restored friendships? Better offers? New opportunities? The possibilities are endless. Just face your fears. Do it.
2. Learn a demanding life skill or improve on one
A 2013 study found that learning new and demanding life skills, while also maintaining a strong social network, can help people stay mentally sharp as they get older. So push yourself everyday to keep learning new things and mastering more and more skills. For instance, push yourself to learn how to play different musical instruments or a new computer program that seems daunting to you. It may be challenging to learn (or improve on) a new skill every day especially when we are older. However, it is only when we are confronted with continuous mental challenges that we improve ourselves.
3. Make a new friend or new acquaintance every day
This might seem hard, but making a new friend or new acquaintance daily is not impossible. Just start by saying a simple hello to a new person every day, maybe during your lunch break. You can follow it up with a heartfelt word or two about the weather, the food, or whatever is appropriate at the time. Don’t forget to smile and show genuine concern about that person. Most people are nice and will appreciate authentic human interaction. Who knows, that new friend may turn out to be someone valuable in your life.
4. Ask someone new to constructively criticize your behavior or work habits
This is another tough one – ask different people to constructively criticize you on a regular basis, if not a daily basis. That’s tough because hearing your faults and shortcomings from others and discovering some of your unconscious habits can be frightening. However, if you have the patience to look at yourself through the eyes of others with no holds barred, you can learn a lot and improve your relationships. The truth really can set you free – free to work on being better and free to forgive yourself for being human. That said, always put yourself first. You’re unique and you don’t always have to conform to get on in this world. Putting others second means giving other people their due respect and not totally ignoring them.
5. Give a total stranger a genuine compliment every day
People love compliments and saying something nice to someone can give them the lift that they needed to feel good about themselves. It’s a wonderful gesture that makes the human experience pleasant. Plus, you’ll also feel good for giving the compliment. Again, don’t forget to flash a warm smile to the “stranger” when complementing them. It may be outside your comfort zone, but it’s totally worth it.
6. Hit the gym and change your physical appearance
Our interior world – our thoughts and beliefs – have a big impact in our lives, but so does our exterior world as reflected in our physical looks and behavioral patterns. Hit the gym daily to get in shape, lose weight, and reinforce your physical image. Get a new style haircut and wear brighter clothing than you have always worn. It may be scary to make these changes at first, but you will send a powerful message to your inner self that you are strong and worthy. A simple makeover can really boost your confidence!
7. Read literature your friends wouldn’t guess you would read
Some people don’t like to read very much. Don’t be one of those people. Read as much and as widely as you can. That includes reading material that your friends wouldn’t guess you would read. They may laugh at you for doing so, but you will open your mind up to new ideas and new perspectives that will broaden your horizon. Besides, studies show lifelong brain-stimulating activities like reading could help stave off cognitive decline that comes with age, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
8. Unplug from technology for a no-tech day
Let’s be honest – our lives are being completely overrun by technology. We behave like quite the tech addicts. The questions that run in our heads all day are: “What’s in my e-mail?” “What’s going on on Instagram?” “Who has updated their status on Facebook?” This might explain why people are more stressed today than at any other time in history. Shut everything off — the phone, the laptop, the iPad — everything! Truly disconnect from technology and go about your business not connected for a few hours each day. Even if you only unplug some hours before bed, knowing to how sucked in you are to your digital life, do it. You’ll avoid much stress and take control over what consumes your time and attention.
9. Take a short power nap in the afternoon
Napping in the afternoon may sound crazy, especially if no one else around you does it, but it brings hefty dividends. Just 20 minutes of nap time boosts alertness, 30 minutes helps you feel physically recovered and 50 minutes heightens creativity, says Michael Breus, Ph.D., sleep expert and author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan. Depriving yourself of adequate rest and sleep because you want to always appear busy at work is bad and doesn’t really help anyone. It actually hampers your productivity.
10. Purse hobbies that involve physical movement
It can be dancing, jogging, swimming, yoga, or even just walking the dogs. Create time for the things you love that involve physical movement. Over the weekends you can go sky diving or bungee jumping – whatever ticks your fancy. Also, write down all the things you would ultimately like to do in your lifetime like travel to certain places, run a marathon, or ride a zip-line. Start taking appropriate steps every day towards making that major goal a reality. This is a great way to step out of your comfort zone.
Remember, the best predictor of success and achievement is an openness to new experiences, which is characterized by qualities like the drive to explore the world, intellectual curiosity, and fantasy interests.