We all do it. We get comfortable, we settle in, we buckle up, we play it safe. In habitual, neurological fashion, our brain processes this comfort zone as the best way to experience life because it feels safe, and safe means we won’t die. But this comfort zone is merely a habit, passed down through generations of ancestors who actually needed to be safe from wild animals, severe weather, lack of food. In other words, this comfort zone does not serve us.
What does serve us is getting out into the world and experiencing life. Soaking in the world’s diversity, chaos, and wonder. Stepping into new experiences and pushing our own comfort zones beyond the borders of fight or flight. So here’s how to get a little more out of your life by leaving your comfort zone:
Where you are right at this moment is not (necessarily) where you need to be for the rest of your life.
The thing we have to sort out in our brains from time to time is that nothing in this life is inevitable. Absolutely everything and everyone we surround ourselves with is a choice. Which means it is up to you to forge your path. If you’re living at home, or in a city you’re not crazy about, or working a job that is just sort of okay, this isn’t a life sentence. Expand what you think is possible. Write down an ideal life for yourself. Make it absurd, make it unconventional, make it connected to your gut feeling, not your skeptical brain. Then write down your daily life as it stands now. These two lists hold the same amount of non-inevitability, but you made a choice to live one of them. Make a new choice.
If you never leave your 100-mile radius, get out of town and see more of the world.
There is more to life than just what is in front of our noses. We can reason away that we’re expanding our horizons by trying a new Thai restaurant, or seeing a new play, but that’s not the same as leaving the comfort of our familiar streets and heading out into the unknown. Changing up our geographical location shakes up our insides. Simply being in a new landscape where you are literally looking at new things can change your entire life perspective. With apps like Airbnb, Living Social, and Groupon, there is no reason you can’t switch things up on the fly. Do not think. Just go.
Just say yes.
There is one rule in improv comedy: “Yes, and…” You don’t say no to your scene partner because it stops the action. Saying no means everything screeches to a halt and the flow that was building gets immediately shut down. Saying “Yes, and…” to life means you are open to experiences and people, you don’t immediately shut down when someone offers an opportunity and you are able to move forward with both trust and enthusiasm. The next time someone asks you to do something that would take you out of your comfort zone, follow these three steps: Slow Down. Listen. Say yes.
Try all the things you know you want to do.
You know those things you wanted to do as a kid? Be an astronaut, go horseback riding, write the best sci-fi novel ever written? Chances are there is still a little bit of that desire resonating in your bones. Sit down and make a long list of things that spark a mild interest in you. If you’re not sure where to begin, try a random search engine like StumbleUpon to get your creative juices flowing. Look at your list and assign one new thing to each month of the year. You’re not committing to much, just one new activity a month, but it will fill you up and break your comfort zone on the regular.
Talk to strangers.
We are so trained to think strangers will harm us, especially when we live in a big city. But strangers offer a perspective that our friends and family just aren’t giving us. Standing in line for coffee and talking to a stranger usually means there is no pretense. Neither of you care so much what the other thinks, so you’re just a meeting of the minds in that one moment in time. Talking to strangers can be disarming and freeing and let you see the world in all its magical diversity and expansiveness.
Do something you know you won’t be good at.
Maybe the best way to get out of your comfort zone is to do something that will not make you look good. Go ahead and fail. The best way to see that your comfort zone is holding you back from experiencing all the abundance life has to offer is to realize that when you fail, your heart keeps beating, your next breath comes, and it doesn’t hurt as much as you thought it would. When you do something you know you’ll stink at, you begin the learning process again. That learning process is uncomfortable at first, but think about how much you’ve already learned in life. If you hit a certain age and think there is nothing left to learn, you’ve just shut yourself off to the wide range of life’s experiences. Doing something you might fail at is the best initiator for innovation, creation and quantum leaps. Failing never felt so good.