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Stress isn't all bad. 5 steps to escape your comfort zone and embrace growth

July 12, 2022 - 14 min read

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What’s a comfort zone?

The comfort pull: what it is and how to overcome it

Comfort zone vs. growth zone

What are the benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone?

5 steps to getting out of your comfort zone

Getting out of your comfort zone: Next steps

Getting out of your comfort zones means doing things that might not feel safe — but it also means experiencing amazing new things. Your comfort zone can be a nice place that makes you feel, well, comfortable. But if you don’t know how to leave it, your growth will be limited. 

If you refuse to give a presentation in front of your team because you have a fear of public speaking, that will limit you from getting a promotion. If you avoid going to the gym alone because it feels uncomfortable, it will be hard for you to improve your physical well-being.

Ultimately, if you want to achieve your career goals, grow personally, and become the best version of yourself, getting out of your comfort zone will be required.

Change can be scary — it’s called your comfort zone for a reason. But feeling stuck in the zone is no way to live, and it’s certainly no way to grow.  To step out of your comfort zone, you’re going to need to bravely face your fears. We’re here to show you how.

 

What’s a comfort zone?

Your comfort zone is a psychological or emotional construct built when you created self-imposed limits on what you can and can’t do. Your comfort zone is basically all the things you’re already familiar with, whether that’s your hometown, the way you react to stress, or the job you’ve had for ten years.

Most people choose not to venture outside of their comfort zone because doing so makes them nervous, anxious, and otherwise uncomfortable. 

Many of us go about our daily routines, stopping when the opportunity for personal development or trying a new thing arises. Since our habits keep us from experiencing risk or failure, we stick with those habits.

The more we get used to staying the same in this way, the harder we’ll find it to change. 

Let’s say your office has an opening for a senior position. Even though your boss recommended you because you have ample experience, you refuse to apply. You’re too comfortable with your job now, and you’re afraid that trying something new would have disastrous results.

Our comfort zones, though comforting, often keep us in a rut. We get so stuck in our ways that we don’t realize there’s more out there, beyond our safe bubble.

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The comfort pull: what it is and how to overcome it

The pull of our comfort zone keeps us stagnant. It prevents us from moving or taking any action. And without action, you can’t learn new things or build your skills. You stay stuck in the same position as time passes by.

There are three points of tension that might keep you firmly planted in that position: mindset, fear, and lack of action.

To achieve our goals, we need to have a positive mindset. Successful people have a perspective that motivates them to work toward their goals. If you lack curiosity, confidence, and resilience, you’ll struggle to find the motivation to reach your next level. 

Fear is another huge pull that keeps us in our comfort zones. Fear of failure can stop you dead in your tracks, even if you’re trying to follow your life purpose.

Making a change in your life and trying something new can cause you to fear failure because the outcome is uncertain. The thing is, though, that change happens whether we want it or not.

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Both our mindset and our fears affect our ability to take action. Without action, you can’t do anything to better yourself. Your efforts will be halted due to overthinking. But if we take action and step out of our comfort zone just once we’d see what life on the other side is like. Even if it’s a baby step, getting out of your comfort zone can allow you to experience amazing things.

Comfort zone vs. growth zone

We all know the comfort zone, but are you familiar with the growth zone? The growth zone is where you go when you finally start getting out of your comfort zone. It takes a great deal of courage and bravery, but you’ll find joy in pushing your limits. 

Before the growth zone, though, you may encounter some other challenging zones. Once you leave your comfort zone, you enter the fear zone. If you don’t have a plan, anywhere outside of your comfort zone is scary and anxiety-provoking. You might wonder why you’re even there. 

But after you leave the fear zone, you’ll become acquainted with the learning zone. Here, you’ll develop new skills, try new projects, and learn to deal with your life changes through practice.  

Finally, you’ll reach the growth zone. It’s where your goal-setting reaches new heights. You’ll be able to live out your dreams no matter their size. Your eyes might even be open to new life purposes.

Your journey toward this new zone won’t be a linear one. Maybe you’ll flip-flop between the fear and learning zones along the way, but that’s normal. It’s okay if it takes longer than you want it to — everyone’s path is different. You have to experience rocky moments to reach the growth zone. But staying in your comfort zone means you won’t be growing.

You can always find support along your way to the growth zone. BetterUp can provide the accountability you need to keep you on track and realize your strength through the scary moments.

What are the benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone?

Throughout your time in the fear zone, you may wonder what the point is. You need to remember that stepping outside of your comfort zone will positively impact your life in many ways. 

Here are four benefits to getting out of your comfort zone. 

  1. Achieving the top section of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is self-actualization.
  2. Establishing a growth mindset that inspires you to take healthy risks and gain new learning opportunities.
  3. Developing better resilience in difficult times.
  4. Strengthening your self-confidence for any situation.

5 steps to getting out of your comfort zone

Knowing how to get out of your comfort zone isn’t easy. Begin to open your mind to different strategies to leave your comfort zone. While one approach may work better for some than others, hang on to the ones that work for you.

And don’t worry — we’ve compiled a list of five ways to help you do that without feeling too overwhelmed.

1. Set a clear reason for getting out of your comfort zone

Grab your pen and paper or your computer, and start making a list of what you want to achieve. Is it career-related? Personal growth in your social life? New food you want to try? Writing down what new skills you want to develop can help clarify your purpose. Identifying what goals you’re working to achieve keeps you focused.

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2. Say hello to discomfort — and accept that it’s part of the process

Get used to the idea that you’re going to be uncomfortable as you work towards entering the growth zone. Being afraid of stress can stop us from doing many things. The good news is that it becomes easier to manage when we realize we need discomfort to grow and expand our comfort zone.

With time and practice, you’ll learn that discomfort can happen anywhere and at any time. The more you experience, the better you’ll be at accepting that feeling as part of the journey towards personal growth.

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3. Change your outlook on failure

Rather than thinking of failure as the final straw, think of it as a lesson learned.

Remember that it isn’t the end of the world when you make a mistake. You deserve to keep trying.

You could let your thoughts of failure overwhelm you or you can decide to recognize it as just another challenge to overcome. Remember that getting out of your comfort zone doesn’t come without risk, but taking risks will move you forward in life.

4. Build a positive mindset

The power of positive self-talk can make a big difference in our mental health. It can help our self-confidence grow and push us to be excited about the change. When your attitude is inspired and optimistic, you’ll be more inclined to achieve a new level of growth.

Try making your phone wallpaper a motivational quote. You could also write some quotes about getting out of your comfort zone in your journal each morning.

5. Mix up your daily routine

Changing something as simple as which sock you put on first can help you adjust to doing things differently. Small changes are a relatively comfortable way to show yourself that new things aren’t that scary.

Take a different route on your daily walk or change up your coffee order. Even mixing it up in small ways will help you grow a little more.

smiling-man-buying-coffee-getting-out-of-your-comfort-zone

Getting out of your comfort zone: Next steps

Few people are brave enough to leave their comfort zones, so be proud of yourself for trying. Making these changes now will help you achieve your long-term goals. Remember: even if you’re progressing slower than you’d hoped, that doesn’t make your journey a waste.

You’re not competing with anybody else — just yourself. Small steps are still steps.

Here are five final tips to keep in mind as you move forward:

  1. Don’t be disappointed in yourself if you have setbacks.
  2. Value and appreciate your progress at any stage.
  3. Remember to practice self-care along your journey.
  4. Surround yourself with encouraging and supportive people.
  5. Get comfortable with expressing your emotions with others.

Ready to say goodbye to your comfort zone? BetterUp helps you learn new skills to manage your fear and become the best version of yourself. As Neale Donald Walsch once said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

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Published July 12, 2022

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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