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Five Baby Steps to Escape Your Comfort Zone

Five Baby Steps to Escape Your Comfort Zone

Turn on the news any night of the week and you will see a million reasons to be afraid. Your food is poisoned. There are chemicals in the tap water. Sunshine causes cancer. The terrorists are waiting at your front door. You will be molested at the airport if you dare to travel far. It has become common knowledge that everything down to the air you breathe is potentially harmful.

What they won’t tell you on TV is that your comfort zone is killing you faster than all of these things combined. Plenty of people are out there living life to its fullest, but you can’t see them from your living room. It’s never too late to get off the couch and start making up for lost time. Be careful, because the difference between life inside your personal bubble and out in the real world is going to be huge. It is best to start with baby steps if you want to make it all the way through without turning back. Here are a few little things you can do to get started on the most important journey of your life.

Take Inventory of Your Boundaries

Doing things differently often starts with thinking differently. Try to think about everything you have always wanted to do. Then, think about what is really stopping you. How many of your boundaries are serving you effectively? Are there things you won’t do? Think about why. Be totally honest when you are examining these things, and don’t be afraid to admit it when you find something completely irrational at the core of a dearly held belief.

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Irrational beliefs don’t make you wrong; they make you human. However, nothing is going to change if you cannot recognize your own inconsistencies. You must be willing to re-examine the boundaries you have drawn based on faulty beliefs if you want to move past irrationality. Upon digging deep enough, you will probably find that YOU are the biggest thing stopping you from having the life that you want. It is time to get out of your way, and you cannot do that if you continue to obey self-imposed boundaries that are based on unfounded or irrational beliefs.

Identify and Face Your Fears

Make a list of all your fears and phobias. Much like you did with your boundaries, think about where each is rooted. Some fears are based on trauma or experience, and some are based on lack of information. You may notice that some fears exist without any reason to speak of. If you have never thought about things this way before, you will probably find yourself with many fears that are quite irrational. Try to differentiate your well-founded fears from those which are based on feeble premises, like hearsay or lack of proper understanding. Then think about all the perfectly harmless things you have been avoiding because of these fears. Once you have done this, start facing them one by one. Start with the weakest justifications and move backwards from there. By the time you reach your biggest, realest fears you should have a few victories under your belt.

Let’s take spiders, for instance. When you ask the average arachnophobe why he is afraid of spiders, he will usually say something along the lines of “they are just creepy!” or “one crawled on my face when I was a child!” Very rarely do you find someone who is afraid of spiders and has been seriously harmed by one.

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Unless you live near a tropical rainforest or in Australia or something, there is literally no good reason to be afraid of spiders. Those who are should try doing a little research. You might learn that spiders feed on many other insects you don’t want in your home. You might also learn that there are only two or three fatally venomous species of spiders in the United States, and most others are no more harmful to humans than mosquitoes.Did you know that even tarantulas are about as venomous as wasps? You can learn all this and more without even having to touch a real spider. Upon reading about the most harmful species in your area, you will then be able to identify the completely harmless ones instead of living in fear of all spiders that might be poisonous. Best of all, this approach can be applied to any irrational fear. The more you know, the less you have to be afraid of.

Turn off the television and read

Even without the loads of broadcasted content that seems designed to inspire fear and insecurity, the very act of watching television is passive and voyeuristic. All your senses are being appealed to at once and very little is left to the imagination. When your life and habits revolve around this kind of stimuli, it is going to be harder for you to accept the little pains associated with growth. To stop growing is to start dying.

Try keeping your mind alive and thriving with literature. Instead of just watching short talk show interviews with people who have written books, try actually reading the memoirs and nonfiction they are out to promote. Read newspapers and websites instead of watching the news. Even podcasts and local radio can turn out to be better sources of news than American television. If reading is totally out of character for you, try spending a day at the library. Just go through the aisles and read random things until something feels right. The knowledge you gain from reading will inspire you towards doing greater things with your life.

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Seek New Information

Let’s go back to that list of things you have always wanted to do. How many of them haven’t happened because you lack the skills or knowledge? Believe it or not, the information you seek is there for the taking, and nobody is going to come drop it in your lap. You have to go out and find it. The motivation to constantly learn new things is very important to an ever-growing mind.

You don’t have to go all the way back to college in order to grease up the gears. Is it your dream to sail around the world? Take a sailing class. Do you want to start eating a healthier diet? Take organic cooking classes. Do you want to get active? Start with yoga or some sort of aerobics class. Even if your dream is to ride around the forest with a crossbow and hunt your own food, you will first need to learn to ride a horse, and then learn to use a crossbow. There are classes for all these things, and it is never too late to take them! If you can’t afford to pay a teacher, there are always books and internet tutorial videos.

Surround Yourself with Positive Examples

Very few things have more influential power over us than the people we interact with most. Make sure this fact is working in your favor instead of against you. When you surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do, you can let their progress inspire your own. You get to see all the little things that go into their accomplishments. You can study their habits and question your own in turn. This doesn’t work as well if you are not able to look critically at yourself. In fact, if you are used to being around people who are stagnant and petty, your first reaction to a real achiever might be intimidation, jealousy, or insecurity. If you can push past these things and admit everything you have to learn, a world of possibilities opens up before you.

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Start by choosing a mentor. This is can be any person with whom you enter into a relationship under the stated pretenses of learning about what they do. A good mentor will be patient and understanding of your learning process in a way that other random acquaintances are not. A good mentor will also question you, call you out, and point you in the right direction. It is up to you to respond accordingly to such criticism. This can turn out to be the first step towards many changes in what you look for in all future relationships.

Our culture is so focused on attachment to comfort and convenience that it might seem completely silly to suggest leaving these things behind.  The journey is not for everyone, but those who see it through to the end almost always have fewer regrets than those who stay inside. Stepping outside your comfort zone is an important decision not to be taken lightly. If you want to live your life to the fullest, you must let go of fear and be willing to change your beliefs. The sooner you start to change your habits the farther you will go.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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