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Published on May 18, 2020

Comfort Zone: Why Is It Dangerous And How to Step Out Of It

Comfort Zone: Why Is It Dangerous And How to Step Out Of It

Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of your comfort zone.

It’s a quote that many people have said time and time again to push people beyond their comfort zones to great effects. But more often than not, whenever examples of confidence spring up, you and I only tend to see the end results. We see the final results of people’s efforts but not the efforts themselves.

There are other aspects that are hidden from us as well. Why should you be stepping out of your comfort zone in the first place? Why is it dangerous for you to leave things as they are?

When you begin to understand why your comfort zone can be dangerous and how to step out of it, you can push yourself to new heights and potential.

What Is a Comfort Zone?

Before getting into details, you need to know what the comfort zone is in the first place[1]. As the name implies, this is a zone or position in which you feel comfortable. As long as you stay in this area, you’re not going to feel pressured, anxious, or stressed. At first glance, it’s a good position to be in on the surface.

Why Is Staying Inside of a Comfort Zone Bad for Us?

So why is it so bad for you to be staying in that zone? Well, one thing that I’ve come to learn about improving myself is that in order to improve, it’s essential that you embrace fear and change in your life.

The issue with fear and change is that, when we are comfortable, we are less inclined to make those changes and lean on our fear. In the end, your life will begin to stall and remain unchanged.

On the surface, this doesn’t seem all that bad. However, with life, change tends to find a way. Whether it’s through something large like the coronavirus to something smaller like you wanting to be a better partner or financially secure, these shifts come with risks and changes.

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And depending on how much we are in our comfort zone will determine how much we resist those changes, even in situations where those changes are very good for us.

What Holds Us Back from Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone?

As I’ve hinted at a little bit, our resistance can stem from many places. That said, the most common ones can be boiled down to three fears:

  • Fear of change
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of the unknown

These fears are all manageable, and by learning about them, you can start to break them down in a way that works best for you. Here is what you can do for each one.

Fear of Change

As the most generalized fear of the three, this fear tends to mask the other two. You’ll be able to tell because this fear often leads to thoughts like:

  • This task is too big.
  • Why me?
  • I can’t do this alone.
  • I don’t know where to start, so I won’t do it.

As you can tell, if you have a fear of change, you’ll justify it in order to procrastinate on whatever it is that you need to be doing. You would rather keep things the way they are than put in work and take risks.

It’s a natural feeling that you’ve likely been leaning on ever since you were a child. It’s been ingrained in you. What matters now is that you work on changing it.

Fear of Failure

Going past fear of change, perhaps you remain in your comfort zone due to a fear of failure. I’m sure that many of you can relate as this particular fear can be instilled in various ways:

  • A childhood event or upbringing can cause you to internalize damaging mindsets.
  • You are a perfectionist or have perfectionist tendencies.
  • You over-inflate failures in your head, whether they are in reality big or small.
  • You are masking true confidence with false confidence when it comes to your personality and abilities.

Getting into more detail, fear of failure[2] can be described as a lack of confidence in yourself and your current abilities to complete a task or goal.

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Fear of the Unknown

The last common fear is the fear of the unknown. From a logical standpoint, this makes sense, too. Life is a mystery, and we have no idea where it’ll take us. Instead of you seeing this as a gift, you may use that as a reason to be paranoid and to be afraid whenever there is something that would disrupt your way of life.

This disruption can be something major like a job loss or a loss in the family to something smaller like your partner wanting to spend more time with you or you getting into better shape.

How you react depends on who you are, but it always comes back to you resisting change out of worry that your life could be different or, at best, better.

How to Break out of the Comfort Zone

Now that you have an understanding of the potential fears that stand in your way, you need to learn to break them down. Regardless of what fear you have, the methods to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone are relatively similar. I say relative because how people choose to act in order to succeed and strive in life varies from person to person.

There is no specific method that you need to take to push your comfort zone. What matters is that you do it in a way that makes sense for you.

1. Look at Your Habits and Challenge Them

Habits are things that you pick up from various life events. Some habits stem from family and friends, while other habits stem from your past achievements. Pay attention to the particular habits that have led you to past achievements.

These achievements can be big or small, but they remain with us so long as we exercise them. For example, consider walking. Walking was something we built a habit towards, and now we can do it without fail so long as we’re able to use both our legs.

One way that you can push out of your comfort zone is to look at your habits and begin to challenge them. If it’s a bad habit or a habit you want to break, replace it with a better one and reinforce it. For pre-existing good habits, find new and exciting ways to push yourself.

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For example, say you love working out and are in great physical shape. One way to break out of your comfort zone of your otherwise solid exercise routine is to try a different exercise or take a new class they’re offering at the gym. Or maybe you can give yourself a goal to prepare for a marathon.

In either scenario, this can present great challenges and change your life. When working out, you may not be so focused on cardio. On the other hand, if you’re breaking a habit, the challenge is starting a new one and implementing it.

2. Remind Yourself of Key Aspects of Change

Another way to break your comfort zone is to remind yourself of some key aspects of change. Change is a journey that you must take if you want to succeed. Part of that change is having lessons and learning from those lessons.

These lessons can stem from failures and successes. Some examples of these are:

  • If you want to change, you’ll need to trust yourself.
  • The process matters just as much as the results you’ll get in the end.
  • Effort in change is what matters. Even if you fail, you at least put in the effort, and that makes all the difference.

As many others have said before me, even if you fail, it’s not a complete failure unless you didn’t learn something. Learning is all a part of life, and walking away with a lesson can be just as rewarding as achieving something.

3. Experiment With Various Methods

As mentioned, there are so many ways you can step out of your comfort zone, and there is no right or wrong method. Every successful person has their own method for success and breaking out of their comfort zone. It’s key that you do the same.

While you don’t know which method is the best one for you, that’s kind of the point. Yes, it can be scary, but I’d argue it’s a reason to be excited. If one method doesn’t work, you’ve got dozens of others to get excited about and to apply in your life.

The idea that one of these methods can lead you to a new and exciting life filled with more fulfilment and satisfaction is thrilling. It’s human nature that you would want to be achieving more and getting more out of life.

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The question is what kind of methods are there? Well here are some brief examples:

Consider What’s Beyond Your Comfort Zone

When you have an idea of what the change looks like, you can be motivated to make that vision a reality. Try writing down three new things you would like to try. Tackle one of them each month. By starting small with things you are interested in, it will motivate you to step out more often.

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Always wanting more and never settling can seem scary for those in their comfort zones, but I’d say this is how you ought to live your life. Always strive to make changes, big or small. Will the changes be uncomfortable for a time? Probably. But after some time, it will become your new normal, and you won’t even remember the discomfort that came before.

See Failure as a Mentor or Teacher

I hinted at this as lessons can stem from failure. By training yourself to see failure as a teacher before experiencing failure, the experience will be easier for you. In an instant, you reframe yourself as a student, someone who is learning the right way to being more successful.

Final Thoughts

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. This quote makes more sense once you understand what your comfort zone really is and look at what comes when you begin to make changes in your life.

And the glorious thing about comfort zones is that it is never too late to stretch them and to break them. You can begin to make small changes in your life today and watch over time as they transform your life into something better. All you have to do is have a plan, adopt a method, and take action.

More Tips on Breaking out of Your Comfort Zone

Featured photo credit: AJ Yorio via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: The Comfort Zone
[2] SELF Research Centre: Fear of Failure: Friend or Foe?

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 21, 2020

How to Stop Being a Perfectionist (Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Stop Being a Perfectionist (Step-by-Step Guide)

If you’ve found your way to this article, I’m guessing you consider yourself a perfectionist. And if you’re reading about how to stop being a perfectionist, you also know your drive for perfection can be as much a curse as it is a blessing.

Like any natural force of nature (e.g., wind, fire, or water), too much of anything can lead to chaos. When the rain waters the earth, for instance, think about how it revives and brings new life to everything it touches. But excessive rain can cause flooding and leave a trail of devastation in its wake.

The same principle is true with perfectionism. You already know the benefits of being meticulous, detail-oriented, conscientious, and successful. The challenge comes when pursuing these things does not lead to a sense of well-being and fulfillment.

Continually striving to get everything right and be the best can come at a high cost and affect your personal relationships, health, and well-being adversely.

I’ve worked with many highly-successful people quick to identify themselves as perfectionists — striving for the perfect life, the perfect relationship, the perfect body, the perfect email, the perfect image, or to be the perfect student, the perfect wife, the perfect employee… You get the point.

They are talented people whose relentless drive has helped them achieve many great things. Although others may be in awe of their achievements, they talk about feeling stressed and anything but perfect.

Listening to clients’ experiences, I’ve seen very clearly that striving for perfection is destined to bring pain, exhaustion, and a sense of failure because it is unattainable. There’s no finish line, checkbox, or wrap party. (Even if it were attainable, and there was a party, would there be anyone left to celebrate with?)

What Is Perfectionism?

The dictionary defines perfectionism as “the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.” One study describes it as “an irrational desire to achieve along with being overly critical of oneself and others.”[1] Perfectionism is an unrelenting need to meet your or others’ expectations of yourself.

Refusal. Irrational. Unrelenting. These words represent difficult feelings for anyone to live with daily. These feelings can be attributed to the underlying fear and belief that they will never be good enough.

As author and speaker, Brené Brown shares on Oprah’s Lifeclass:[2]

“When perfectionism is driving, shame is always riding shotgun and fear is the annoying backseat driver….[perfectionism] is “a way of thinking…if I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect, do it perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, criticism, blame, judgement or ridicule…perfectionism is a 20-ton shield that we carry around hoping it will keep us from being hurt. When in truth, it keeps us from being seen.”

So, how do you harness your perfectionist powers for good? How do you honor your drive, ambition, and motivation without causing undue stress, frustration, and pain?

How to Stop Being a Perfectionist in 9 Steps

As you read the following steps, remember that it isn’t about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, it’s about thinking deeper and wider about how you can keep those high standards without experiencing negative consequences.

1. Acknowledge

A mentor once told me that awareness is 90% of the solution.

When you are aware, and you acknowledge something in your life, it loses its power over you. When you bring it from an unconscious pattern to a conscious choice, you are now back in the driver’s seat.

how to stop being a perfectionist

    2. Understand

    Seek to understand what fuels your perfectionist nature. What’s your core driver?

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    There’s a reason why you are striving for perfection. Perhaps you learned that you needed to achieve that somewhere along the way or someone praised you at some point, and such comments made you feel worthy, validated, and recognized.

    Many strive to be perfect to fill a need for love, or a lack of self-esteem. I learned that much of my own perfectionist behavior came from my fear of getting rejected, even though it was ironically causing the rejection I was trying to avoid.[3]

    Take Action:

    Consider what drives your perfectionism. Being a perfectionist – no matter how painful or problematic it becomes – is likely serving you in some way, so try to understand the reasons behind it.

    3. Identify Consequences

    Based on an article, perfectionism can cause low productivity, troubled relationships, lack of confidence, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.[4] This drive you pride yourself on can come at a cost. When you identify and acknowledge the consequences of your perfectionism, it compels your mind to want to do something about it.

    How is perfectionism impacting your health and wellness? Have you missed opportunities to do something new out of fear that you wouldn’t do it perfectly? Is your pursuit of perfection causing friction in your relationships with your partner, kids, or friends? How is this trait sitting with your co-workers?

    As a leader and team consultant, I’m highly aware of how those perfectionist tendencies can be career-limiting if not recognized and managed.

    Take Action:

    Identify three negative consequences of perfectionism on your life, career, health, or relationships.

    4. Know You Are Enough

    Many people beat themselves up for not being ‘enough’ of something; for example pretty, fit, rich, successful, at home, etc. This is the inner critic’s voice. But guess what? That little voice that tells you that you’re not enough is wrong!

    You are enough. You are more than enough. You were born enough and will always be enough. You are deserving of love, happiness, and success, regardless of the things you do or how perfect you are. It might not be believable right now, but deep down, some part of you knows this to be true.

    I know it’s not easy. As a perfectionist, you tend to see what’s wrong before you see what’s right, including the one wrong question on the test, the single typo in your winning presentation to the team, or the three pounds you didn’t lose versus the seven you did.

    But instead of focusing on what went wrong, why don’t you acknowledge all the things you’re doing right? At least do that before you try to figure out how to make future improvements!

    Your new mantra: progress over perfection

    Take Action:

    Acknowledge your successes, talents, and strengths. Every day for 30 days, write down three things you are good at and what you like about yourself. These can be personality traits (kind, loving, hard-working); strengths (writing, speaking, your job); or wins from the day or lifetime achievements.

    Check out these articles for more tips, insights, and strategies to build your self-esteem and confidence.

    5. Do Your Best Every Day

    how to stop being a perfectionist

      Over the years, Dad has shared countless words of wisdom with me. However, “do your best every day” is the piece of advice I rely on the most. I’ve called my dad many times, worried about something that happened, beating myself up or second-guessing a decision. Here’s how our conversation goes every time:

      Dad: Did you do your best?

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      Me: Yes.

      Dad: That’s all you can do. You can’t control what happens from here.

      That’s it. Simple, right? But if you really stop to think about this, it’s a powerful way to stop being a perfectionist.

      When you do your best, you can rest, knowing you did everything you could. You can live with no regrets. Sure, you might want to do things better next time, and there are likely areas of improvement, but it’s just that — next time. You can’t change what has already happened, so using energy to beat yourself up about it achieves absolutely nothing.

      Take Action:

      Next time you beat yourself up over something you’ve already said or done imperfectly, ask yourself,

      “Did I do my best that I could [with what I had, with what I knew]?”

      If the answer is a resounding yes, then permit yourself to let go, move on, and use your time and energy to make things better next time.

      6. Switch

      Replace perfection with something more significant and attainable.

      Take a conversation I had with a friend of mine about my daughter, who is a successful and awarded competitive gymnast.

      Friend: Is she going to be in the Olympics?

      Me: No, she isn’t.

      Friend: Then, why does she spend so much time at the gym?

      Me: Because she loves it.

      Friend: Yes, but if she’s not going to the Olympics, why the waste of time and money?

      Me: Well, you run your own company, right?

      Friend: Yes.

      Me: Will your company be the best and most recognized one in your industry?

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      Friend: No, of course not. You know we’re a small company.

      Me: If you are aware of that, why would you keep the company running at all?

      That’s when she got it, but I was still concerned by her logic.

      “If my daughter won’t be THE BEST in the ENTIRE WORLD, why would she even do the sport at all?”

      Is this what our kids are hearing from us? If they won’t play NFL football, sing on a sold-out stage at Madison Square Garden, or display their work on the Guggenheim, why on earth would they continue pursuing sports, singing, or art, respectively?

      If you talk with my daughter, you will quickly learn that she does the sport because she loves the challenge. It pushes her body to the limit, and she finds joy, satisfaction, and purpose by going to the gym. I love that she loves it and know that she is learning life lessons that will serve her future success.

      Why not replace your drive for perfection with something much deeper and more significant?

      Take Action:

      Make the switch and identify what’s really important to you. Perhaps you can replace your drive for perfection with purpose, kindness, joy, fulfillment, contribution, or love. What resonates the most with you?

      7. Embrace Failure

      You’ve likely heard countless stories of successful people who have used their failures as a stepping stone for success.

      Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because his editor felt he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Oprah Winfrey was told she was “unfit for television.” And, in the words of Michael Jordan:[5]

      “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

      Most successful leaders, entrepreneurs, and elite athletes will tell you that failure has made them successful. Embracing failure is, of course, easier said than done.

      In one of my first jobs out of college, I worked on a project to get more people into a program I helped create. I was convinced it was awesome, and we could easily fill seats. I spent time, money, and energy trying to get it off the ground but to very little effect.

      I was embarrassed, defeated, and felt like a complete failure: I had let the company and myself down. One day, wallowing in self-pity, I called my mentor and told him what had happened.

      He said,

      “Tracy, failure is an event, not a person.”

      That single sentence has stuck with me throughout my career.

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      If you are growing and striving (which you likely are), you will fail a lot in your life. You will make mistakes, mess up, and let others down.

      When that happens, remember that you have made a mistake, but you are not the mistake.

      8. Celebrate Imperfection

      What if your greatest weakness was actually your greatest strength? What if your adversity is your advantage?

      In the famous 1937 personal development book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, Napoleon talks about his son, Blair, who had a birth defect. He had no physical signs of ears and was destined to be deaf and mute.[6]

      Napoleon believed, “His affliction was not a liability, but an asset of great value.” He also thought that “every adversity brings with it the seed of an equivalent advantage.”

      While he had no idea how his son’s affliction could become an asset, Napoleon had faith that it would. And he was right — Blair went on to lead an incredible, successful life. He attained his hearing and lived life on a mission to bring hope and help to the deaf and hard of hearing, positively affecting millions.

      Think of all the people who have overcome imperfections. Think of those who have inspired you many times. Often, our vulnerabilities and ability to overcome struggles and fears can create not only inspiration and hope but also a connection with others.

      “We cannot connect through this façade called perfection. Now more than ever, we are craving connection, but it is in the imperfect moments that our hearts speak to each other and the lessons are learned.” — Petra Kolber

      9. Step Back

      Chances are, sometimes your perfectionism gets a hold of you. Like a runaway train, you don’t even realize you are wasting time, money, or energy on something that doesn’t need to be perfect.

      When this happens, here are a few proven ways to get perspective.

      • Don’t do an A+ job on a C-level task. Identify what’s needed and decide on what is really important. After that, let the rest go. In economics, this is called the law of diminishing returns. It is the point at which the level of profits or benefits gained is less than the amount of money or energy invested.
      • Learn to satisfice (yes, that is a word). In his book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, Barry Schwartz talks about the power of satisficing instead of maximizing. Maximizers want to make the absolute best decision, while satisficers seek to find what is “good enough.” They know there is never a perfect choice, so they seek a decision that meets most of their needs or requirements. When you learn to satisfice instead of maximizing, you can make better, faster decisions with less regret.
      • When all else fails, meditate. Meditation has become the cure for all that ails you, and there’s a good reason why. It allows you to calm your thoughts, achieve greater clarity, reduce fear and anxiety, and create a silence that enables you to access your true self. Simply put, meditation will help you quiet your perfectionist tendencies, reduce your worries, and return your mind to a healthy state of balance.

      We Are All a Work-in-Progress

      You are human. Simply by being a human, you cannot be perfect.

      We are not finished “things” — we are ever-evolving beings. There will always be room for improvement, mistakes, and something new to learn. Like Sisyphus rolling his rock up the hill, perfectionism is never-ending.

      How to stop being a perfectionist when you are already one?

      Instead of focusing on perfection, focus on the learning, the growth, and the journey, and strive to be the best version of yourself every day.

      I’ll leave you with this beautiful passage from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life:

      “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

      More on Ending Perfectionism

      Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

      Reference

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