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10 Small Things You Can Do To Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

10 Small Things You Can Do To Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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