The ability to take risks by stepping outside your comfort zone is the primary way by which we grow. But we are often afraid to take that first step. In truth, comfort zones are not really about comfort, they are about fear. Break the chains of fear to get outside. Once you do, you will learn to enjoy the process of taking risks and growing in the process. Here are seven ways to help you get started:
1. Become aware of what’s outside of your comfort zone
In other words: What are the things that you believe are worth doing but are afraid of doing yourself because of the potential for disappointment or failure? Draw a circle and write those things down outside the circle. This process will not only allow you to clearly identify your discomforts, but your comforts. Write identified comforts inside the circle.
2. Become clear about what you are aiming to overcome
Take the list of discomforts and go deeper. Remember, the primary emotion you are trying to overcome is fear. How does this fear apply uniquely to each situation? Be very specific. Are you afraid of walking up to people and introducing yourself in social situations? Why? Is it because you are insecure about the sound of your voice? Are you insecure about your looks? Or, are you afraid of being ignored?
3. Get comfortable with discomfort
One way to get outside of your comfort zone is to literally expand it. Make it a goal to avoid running away from discomfort. Let’s stay with the theme of meeting people in social settings. If you start feeling a little panicked when talking to someone you’ve just met, try to stay with it a little longer than you normally would before retreating to comfort. If you stay long enough and practice often enough, it will start to become less uncomfortable.
4. See failure as a teacher
Many of us are so afraid of failure, that we would rather do nothing than take a shot at our dreams. Begin to treat failure as a teacher. What did you learn from the experience? How can you take that lesson to your next adventure to increase your chance of success?
5. Take baby steps
Don’t try to jump outside your comfort zone, you will likely become overwhelmed and jump right back in. Take small steps toward the fear you are trying to overcome. If you want to do public speaking, start by taking every opportunity to speak to small groups of people. You can even practice with family and friends.
6. Hang out with risk takers
There is no substitute for this step. If you want to become better at something, you must start hanging out with the people who are doing what you want to do and start emulating them. Almost inevitably, their influence will start have an effect on your behavior.
7. Be honest with yourself when you are trying to make excuses
Don’t say “Oh, I just don’t have the time for this right now.” Instead, be honest and say “I am afraid to do this.” Don’t make excuses, just be honest. You will be in a better place to confront what is truly bothering you and increase your chance of moving forward.
8. Identify how stepping out will benefit you
What will the ability to engage in public speaking do for your personal and professional growth? Keep these potential benefits in mind as motivations to push through fear.
9. Don’t take yourself too seriously
Learn to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. Risk taking will inevitably involve failure and setbacks that will sometimes make you look foolish to others. Be happy to roll with the punches when others poke fun.
10. Focus on the fun
Enjoy the process of stepping outside your safe boundaries. Enjoy the fun of discovering things about yourself that you may not have been aware of previously.
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