Difficulty in stepping out of our comfort zones

Stepping out of our comfort zone to grab hold of opportunities can be difficult.

Sometimes we are not aware of reasons to do so. However, most of the time, our frame of mind is holding us back. Understanding the shifts in thinking can help us step outside of our comfort zone and move into a personal growth zone.

Jenna Sanderson (@jenna_wow) - Profile Photo

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Self Improvement

The Yerkes–Dodson Law (1907) linked anxiety to performance. In response to anxiety-provoking stimuli, the options are either fight (meet the challenge), flight (run away/hide), or freeze (become paralyzed).

When we have too little stimuli, we remain in our comfort zone, where there isn't much incentive to reach new heights of performance. When exposed to too many stimuli, we enter a 'panic zone', where we run away/hide or become paralyzed. Just enough puts us in the Goldilocks zone.

  1. Comfort zone
  2. Fear zone
  3. Learning zone
  4. Growth zone

Fear is a necessary step to the learning and growth zones. It takes courage to step from the comfort zone into the fear zone and can be anxiety-provoking. But persevere long enough, and you enter the learning zone. A new comfort zone is created after a learning zone, expanding one's ability to reach further.

Moving into the growth zone becomes harder without some level of self-awareness.

  • Everyone's zones vary in size. To leave your comfort zone, you must appreciate its outer limits.
  • What are your strengths? Most people know what it's like to leave the comfort zone in at least one area of life. One can usually gain plenty of insights from that experience.

Moving from the comfort zone to a growth zone will have peaks, troughs, and plateaus. Understanding the steps can help to tolerate uncertainty.

Aside from increasing performance, less-direct benefits include:

  • Self-actualisation: Reaching one's full potential.
  • Developing a growth mindset: Setbacks become opportunities for learning.
  • Resilience and anti-fragility: Growing and thriving when exposed to volatility, disorder and stressors.
  • Greater self-efficacy: The belief in being able to execute necessary actions in service of a goal.
  • Reframe stress: Physiologically, anxiety and excitement both entail the same "stress response." Stress can be negative or positive (eustress). When we reframe the stimuli as exciting, it can help us out of the comfort zone.
  • Understand neuroplasticity: The core of this theory is that humans are malleable and adaptable and can improve.
  • Prioritise: Find which areas of life being comfortable does more harm than good and prioritise that for growth.
  • Small steps can help make the process smooth.
  • Break out of old, comfortable routines by doing some things differently. For example, turn off your smartphone while having dinner.
  • Expand your professional skillset.
  • Try a new diet.
  • Take workouts to the next level.
  • Get creative - anything from writing to building a business.
  • Challenge your beliefs. Visit new places, read varied book genres, diversify who you talk to.
  • Practice honesty, whether in a private journal or talking to someone close to how you feel.
Brian Tracy

"You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new."

Eleanor Roosevelt

"Do one thing every day that scares you."

Abraham Maslow

"One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again."

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