How to Leave your Comfort Zone and Enter your ‘Growth Zone’ - Deepstash

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How to Leave your Comfort Zone and Enter your ‘Growth Zone’

How to Leave your Comfort Zone and Enter your ‘Growth Zone’


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What Is the Comfort Zone in Psychology?

“The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.” - Judith Bardwick in her 1991 wor...

Link Between Anxiety and Performance

In 1907, Robert Yerkes and John Dodson conducted one of the first experiments that illuminated a link between anxiety and performance.

  • They saw that mice became more motivated to complete mazes when given electric shocks of increasing intensity – but only up t...

The Yerkes–Dodson Law (Yerkes & Dodson, 1907)

This is true not just for more tangible types of performance such as being given a stressful new task at work, but also in many life areas such as understanding ourselves, relating to others, and so on.

The core idea is that our nervous systems have a Goldilocks zon...

From Comfort Zone to the Growth Zone

When leaving the comfort zone, fear doesn’t always equate to being in the panic zone. As the above diagram shows, fear can be a necessary step en route to the learning and growth zones.

What does it mean to be in Growth Zone

  1. It takes courage to step from the comfort zone into the fear zone.
  2. Without a clear roadmap, there’s no way to build on previous experiences.
  3. This can be anxiety provoking. Yet persevere long enough, and you enter the learning zone, where you gain new...

How big is your comfort zone?

  1. Across every life domain, everyone’s zones vary in size.
  2. To leave your comfort zone, you must appreciate its outer limits.
  3. Similarly, you must develop an intuitive sense of where your panic zone lies.
  4. Taking on challenges that lie some...

What are your strengths?

  1. Understanding and capitalizing on personal strengths can be of great use.
  2. Most people have experience leaving the comfort zone in at least one area of life, and there are usually plenty of insights to be uncovered from this experience.

The process of moving from comfort zone to growth zone

  1. The process of moving from the comfort zone to a growth zone may not be linear.
  2. Peaks, troughs, and plateaus often complicate the journey.
  3. Sometimes, we even need to retreat to the comfort zone periodically before mustering the strength to leave a...

1. Self-actualization

For many, self-actualization acts as a powerful incentive to leave the comfort zone.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs operates like a ladder, with the satisfaction of our ‘bas...

Abraham Maslow’s (1943) theory of human motivation

“What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization.”

2. Development of a growth mindset

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s (2008) work on mindsets marked a paradigm shift in the field of positive psychology.

  • With a fixed mindset, people believe they have set doses of each ability, with a corresponding ceiling on how much they can achieve.
  • The growth mind...

3. Resilience and antifragility

A habit of expanding our comfort zone equips people to handle change and ambiguity with more poise, leading to resilience.

  • Taking this further, statistician Nassim Taleb (2012) introduced the concept of ‘antifragile’ systems, which “thrive and grow when exposed to ...

4. Greater self-efficacy

As outlined by Albert Bandura (1997), self-efficacy is the belief in being able to execute necessary actions in service of a goal.

Goals that lead to higher self-efficacy are s...

1. Reframe stress

Physiologically, there’s no difference between anxiety and excitement (Smith, Bradley, & Lang, 2005).

Both entail a ‘stress response,’ but whether they’re perceived as positive or negative is a matter of labeling.

Society tends to conceptualize all stress as...

2. Understand neuroplasticity

An essential step toward internalizing the growth mindset is to embrace neuroplasticity research. Once understood, less courage is needed to make the first move away from comfort because failure itself becomes integral to the j...

3. Prioritize

Occupying the comfort zone isn’t always detrimental. For example, it might be reasonable to stay in your ukulele-playing comfort zone but not your managing-personal-finances one.

The point is to identify bottlenecks: areas of life where being too comfortable does more harm than good...

4. Small steps

It’s okay to take small, methodical steps, as well as larger, bolder ones.

Leaving behind the comfort zone doesn’t mean recklessly throwing caution to the wind. Every step forward is progress.


1. Do everyday things differently.

In everyday life, there are ample opportunities to challenge yourself.

  • Turn off your smartphone and television while having dinner, decide what to wear more quickly, or just slow down to take in the surroundings on a walk.
  • These changes break you out ...

2. Expand your professional skillset.

Growing your skillset can foster creativity and refresh your self-confidence, as well as increase employability.

Skills like public speaking, negotiation, and leadership can rep...

3. Try a new diet.

Many people want to improve their diets and stop relying on ‘comfort foods.’ Doing so often means trying something new.

Sticking to a healthy diet can be as challenging as it is rewarding, with self-efficacy growing as you hit milestone goals along the way.

4. Take workouts to the next level.

Similarly, many aspire to this goal. For some, it can mean running their first 5K, but for others, it might be completing a triathlon.

Aiming high with exercise is emblematic of leaving the comfort zone and a great way to get the ball rolling.

5. Get creative.

Creativity – anything from writing a poem to building a business – usually involves an element of risk.

Creative endeavors are about stepping into the unknown, with failing and subsequent learning as expected outcomes.

Exercising creativity is a good way to train...

6. Challenge your beliefs.

While exploring alternative perspectives can be uncomfortable, it enables growth and insight by challenging entrenched beliefs.

This might take several forms, such as reading varied book genres, diversifying who you talk to, and visiting new places.

It’s easy to get ...

7. Practice honesty.

When employed sensitively, honesty can be a tremendous catalyst for personal growth.

Whether being straight with yourself in a private journal or tellin...

Tony Robbins

All growth starts at the end of your comfort zone.

Brian Tracy

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

Alex Honnold

My comfort zone is like a little bubble around me, and I’ve pushed it in different directions and made it bigger and bigger until these objectives that seemed totally crazy eventually fall within the realm of the possible.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Carol Dweck

Becoming is better than being. The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming. They have to already be.

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.

Benjamin Franklin

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.

Nassim Taleb

You have calibrated life when most of what you fear has the titillating prospect of adventure.

Tom Bilyeu

The level of effort you tolerate from yourself will define your life.

Nelson Mandela

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.

A Take-Home Message

  1. It’s crucial to cultivate a mindset that lays strong foundations, paving the way toward the growth zone.
  2. This includes seeing yourself as inherently adaptable, reframing stress, and believing in your ability to endure fears and doubts.
  3. You can settle for wha...

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