Self Improvement


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.



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."
The G.R.A.C.E. Practice

The practice was created by a Buddhist teacher named Roshi Joan Halifax. Many people are adopting this practice because it helps us guide ourselves and support ourselves in any given situation.

Even the name itself invites the body and the mind to calm down and alleviate any stresses with the heart. Before practicing this method you must first find a comfortable position for your body and practice long deep breaths to soothe your mind.

  • Gathering Attention. It means to place your focus on a sound or an object where you're most comfortable at
  • Recalling Intention. This is to allow yourself to discover new ways to be resilient and engage in self-care.
  • Attuning to Self and Others. We need to check ourselves and to keep in mind that we are interconnected with others.
  • Considering What Would Serve. It means that self-care is not selfish.
  • Ethical Ending and Engagement. We should reflect on what we can do better moving forward.
Ingredients for a happy life

After reviewing many studies that explored the science behind a happy life, a deceptively simple, yet reliable formula has been created for a joyful life.

Most of the ingredients to this recipe are very accessible. We know the joy of splashing in the summer rain; we have someone to support us in laughter and pain. It is possible that we are already leading a happy and meaningful life but are unaware of it.

  • Mindfulness is a valuable stress management mechanism. Practising mindfulness can lead to higher life satisfaction, greater self-esteem, and optimism.
  • Narrative. Listen to the stories of others and share your stories, too. See what you can learn from others' trials and victories.
  • Play. Ensure you make time for fun.

A happy life is full of positive emotions. In particular:

  1. Compassion. The Dalai Lama advises: "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."
  2. Gratitude. Being grateful improves relationships, encourage happiness, resilience, and better physical health.
  3. Awe seems to help us move away from the daily details and view life in its entirety.

To nurture our social connections, we need cooperation, touch, and forgiveness.

  • Cooperation. There are many ways to cooperate, such as being kind, inclusive, and charitable. Help someone in need. Express appreciation.
  • Touch can activate the reward centres of the brain. It can build relationships, signal safety, and trust.
  • Forgiveness is possibly the most difficult. Forgiveness can improve our physical health, such as reduced anxiety and pain.
The science of (smart) luck

People find comfort in certainty. We form organisations; we structure our activities and strategies around the idea of certainty; we find satisfaction knowing that planning will bring fruition. But the unforeseen makes the greatest difference to our futures.

We look out for the unexpected every day - for example, when we use a pedestrian crossing, we still look out for the unexpected driver who might race through the red light. That awareness of the unexpected is at the core of understanding the science of smart luck that we can use to our benefit.

  • Trigger - the moment when something unusual or unexpected happens.
  • Connect the dots - observe the trigger and link it to something seemingly unrelated, thus realising the potential valued within a unique event.
  • Sagacity and tenacity - the ability to follows through and create an unexpected positive outcome.

Many of the world's leading minds have developed a capacity to use the unexpected in a positive way.

You can develop a serendipity mindset in yourself. Serendipity is not a passive luck that just happens to you. It is an active process of seeing and connecting the dots. It is about seeing bridges where others see gaps, then taking the initiative to create smart luck.

It is vital to be open and alert to the unexpected.

In one experiment, two people were chosen. The one saw themselves as 'lucky,' the other as 'unlucky.' Both participants were taking separate trips to a coffee shop. On the pavement was a £5 note, and inside sat someone posing as a successful businessman.

  • The 'lucky' person picked up the £5 and struck up a conversation with the businessman.
  • The 'unlucky' person failed to notice the money or talk to the businessman.

This experiment shows that your mindset, and how you think about the possibility, can affect your ability to find opportunities in the moment.

Preparation is the main factor for creating smart luck. It is mostly about removing the mental and physical barriers to serendipity. These include overloaded schedules, pointless meetings, and inefficiencies throughout your day.

An unprepared mind often discards unusual encounters and misses the opportunities for smart luck. Preparation is about developing the ability to employ the positive coincidences that come up in life.

Our habits and preconceptions can prevent us from spotting serendipity. Three major biases stand in the way:

  • Underestimating the unexpected. Once we start to accept that the unexpected happens all the time (bad and good) can we begin to view it as a potential benefit or opportunity rather than a threat.
  • Hindsight bias. When we construct stories of past events, we often think there was a linear trajectory, but it was probably a squiggly path. If you habitually remake the many unexpected events, you'll miss the importance of the unpredictable parts.
  • Functional fixedness. When we use a tool, we're so accustomed to its usual specific function that we're often unable to see its usefulness in other contexts. Similarly, people familiar with specific problem-solving strategies are unlikely to devise simpler or better ones.

Beginners can set a timer for two minutes, then list in two columns the parts of your day that led to positive outcomes and parts that did not. Examine what parts worked really well, and what was inefficient, stressful or unfulfilling.

You might notice patterns that stand out for good or bad. Sometimes, it's the smaller things that deplete your energy and alertness.

  • You might discover patterns that stand out from your journaling that is cluttering your life. Consider why it doesn't work well. What was the underlying assumption that you based your decision on? What could you do instead?
  • Another part is to clean up the small things so that they no longer take up space in your life. Pay the bills where you can, go to the dentist, plan your meals so that it no longer take up headspace.

Serendipity often requires an incubation period. Some efforts result in an immediate spark, while others are like planting seeds that will produce fruit in the future.

Respect your time. Diarise this time like you would a business meeting. Give yourself space to manage your focus, interests and creative energies.

There are simple tools that can further help you exploit serendipity.

  • The serendipity hook strategy. Whenever you meet someone new, cast a few hooks: Find out about hobbies, vocation, current interests, creating space for common ground and shared passions.
  • Try reframing mistakes or challenges as opportunities.
Introversion is not defined by what it is not

Academics often define introversion by what it is not: extroversion. What everyday introverts think about introversion is not really factored in.

As early as 1980, this problem was identified when a study found that the scientific and common-sense definitions of introversion were not the same.

Introverts tend to turn inward rather than outward, but beyond that, it is more complex. There are four types of introverts:

  • Social. The preference for solitude or socializing with small groups instead of large ones. It is not the same as shyness.
  • Thinking introversion. They don't share the aversion to social events. They do tend to be introspective, thoughtful, and self-reflective.
  • Anxious introverts seek solitude because they feel awkward or self-conscious. They tend to ruminate on the things that might or could go terribly wrong.
  • Restrained or reserved introverts prefer to think before they speak or act. They might take a while to get going.

Many introverts are a mix of all four types.

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