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4 Ways to Leave your Comfort Zone and Achieve the Impossible

4 Ways to Leave your Comfort Zone and Achieve the Impossible

Have you ever wondered how some people achieve the greatest heights of success while others remain trapped in mediocrity through their entire lives? Why is it that only some get to taste the highest levels of success while the others, despite their consistent efforts do not? All these people, whom you call as achievers have one thing in common, they never settled for anything less than best, whether it meant for them to leave the comforts and the good life. If you want to achieve the impossible, it is essential first to lose the love for comfort.

Why the comfort zone is bad for you

For most of the people, their ultimate goal is to lead a comfortable life. All their hard work and efforts are directed towards achieving a comfortable and easy lifestyle. Their goal is to earn enough money so as not to have to worry about the different needs of life and rightly so. Until you have the bare necessities of life there will be less focus on fulfilling bigger things. However, if you view your life in the hindsight it would be easy to realize that the biggest accomplishments came when you were completely out of your comfort zone. The parts of the life when you decided that enough is enough, and decided to leave all the comforts behind were the parts where you actually grew, either in your career or personal life.

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Comfort is the enemy of growth. As soon as you start sliding in the comfort zone, you become averse to risks and get satisfied with the status quo. This makes you blind to many outstanding opportunities which then go to some other person who makes the most of them. Sure, you might be doing well for yourself right now, but if you get comfortable with ‘good enough’, chances are you will never rise beyond and become great.

People who become comfortable with their surroundings let go of opportunities to explore the unknown. For instance, an employee who has adapted to a particular company’s work culture, made some good friends there and is satisfied with what he is paid will rarely think twice before letting go of a chance to sit for an interview with another company. The reasons are simple enough, he or she will find it uncomfortable to adjust in a new environment, make new friends and work under a new boss. All these things will make him anxious, and anxiety is not a pleasant feeling. That employee will always crib about how slow his career growth is but won’t accept that it’s his love for the comfort zone, which is preventing him from taking things to the next level. Sure, there is risk involved, but how often in your life have you accomplished something substantial without taking any real risk? Chances are; not very often.

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Failure is a discomforting thought but that’s actually the trigger of success. Until you do not risk failing, you will not put the efforts to face the unexpected. Although no one wants to remain anxious perennially, but we often need a little bit of anxiety to push us and improve our performance.

How to get out of the comfort zone?

The only thing that holds you back from achieving the impossible is your own affinity towards comfort. You need to step out and break the convention. There are a number of ways you can step outside your comfort zone and grow beyond the self-created boundaries.

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1. Review and revise your daily routine

The first thing that you need to change is your daily routine which was made to suit your current lifestyle. Until or unless you make changes to this routine, it will not be easy to push yourself to step out of the realm of comfort. Initially, it need not be a very big change, as even subtle differences can be enough to initiate a shift in your perspective. When these small changes become a habit, you can easily push for the bigger goals.

2. Take baby steps towards your goal

Maybe you are tired of your bully boss and want to get a new job somewhere else but are too lazy to try. Maybe the thought of a new environment, new colleagues and a new boss makes you anxious. However, if you really want to achieve your goal you need to start with small steps towards achieving it. It could be either reaching out to people in your professional networks, getting acquainted with them on various public forums, upgrading your work related skills or enhancing your ability to communicate effectively. All these are small steps towards achieving the required confidence to face any situation, any boss or any colleague at your new workplace.

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3. Do not be afraid of failures

Whatever be the outcome, look forward to it. Our biggest enemy is the fear of failure which keeps us from crossing the self-created boundaries. However, if you want to achieve something you should go for it regardless of the result. Getting out of the comfort zone was never about succeeding the very first time, it was more about getting rid of your fear of failure, and allowing yourself to grow, no matter what the initial outcome may be.

4. Try new things, Meet new people

Doing new things opens up mind to new perspectives and ways of thinking which we might not have considered earlier. Similarly, meeting new people it broadens our horizon and introduces us to new methods of achieving the same thing. Sometimes, it’s not what we do, but how we do it that makes the whole difference. Listening to stories of other people will certainly reduce the anxiety associated with exploring the unknown and provide the required inspiration.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

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Saurabh Tyagi

Career Author and Technology Evangelist

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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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