what if you get out of your comfort zone

Dear Bloggers,

You probably all had it once that you were pushed out of your comfort zone. And hopefully it got start thinking about the ones who do that and especially why are they doing that. My reaction is that they try to get rid of their own bad feelings by pushing someone else over. I am one of those people that has been pushed to all the edges of life and yes I learned a lot out of these experiences. You've seen in your life some inspirational quotes that encourage you to get out and do something strange. Something you wouldn't normally do, like for example bungee jumping or parachuting but getting out of your routine just takes so much work. There's actually a lot of science that explains why it's so hard to break out of your comfort zone and why it's good for you when you do it. With a little understanding and a few adjustments, you can break away from your routine and do great things.



It's important to push the boundaries of your comfort zone, and when you do, it's kind of a big deal. But what is the "comfort zone" exactly? Why is it that we tend to get comfortable with the familiar and our routines, but when we're introduced to new and interesting things, the glimmer fades so quickly? Finally, what benefit do we derive from breaking out of our comfort zone, and how do we do it? Answering all those questions is a tall order, but it's not too hard to do. Let me get started.

Simply, your comfort zone is a behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk. Yes it's that simple. It provides a state of mental security. You benefit in obvious ways: regular happiness, low anxiety, and reduced stress.


The idea of the comfort zone goes back to a classic experiment in psychology. Back in 1908, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson they explained that a state of relative comfort created a steady level of performance. In order to maximize performance, however, we need a state of relative anxiety, a space where our stress levels are slightly higher than normal. This space is called "Optimal Anxiety," and it's just outside our comfort zone. Too much anxiety and we're too stressed to be productive, and our performance drops off sharply.

The idea of optimal anxiety isn't anything new. Anyone who's ever pushed themselves to get to the next level or accomplish something knows that when you really challenge yourself, you can turn up amazing results. However, pushing too hard can actually cause a negative result, and reinforce the idea that challenging yourself is a bad idea. It's our natural tendency to return to an anxiety neutral, comfortable state. You can understand why it's so hard to kick your brain out of your comfort zone.



Even so, your comfort zone is neither a good or bad thing. It's a natural state that most people trend towards. Leaving it means increased risk and anxiety, which can have positive and negative results (which we'll get to in a moment). We all need that head-space where we're least anxious and stressed so we can process the benefits we get when we leave it. Question is what will you get when you break free and try out new things?

Optimal anxiety is that place where your mental productivity and performance reach their peak. Still, "increased performance" and "enhanced productivity" just sound like "doing more stuff." What do you really get when you're willing to step outside of your comfort zone?


You'll be more productive as comfort kills productivity because without the sense of unease that comes from having deadlines and expectations, we tend to relax and do the minimum required to get by. We lose the drive and ambition to do more and learn new things. We also fall into the so called “work trap” where we feign "being busy" as a way to stay in our comfort zones and avoid doing new things. Pushing your personal boundaries can help you hit your stride sooner, get more done, and find smarter ways to work. Using the brain is not painful.


You'll have an easier time dealing with new and unexpected changes. Let me explain to you that one of the worst things we can do is pretending fear and uncertainty as they don't really exist. By taking risks in a controlled fashion and challenging yourself to things you normally wouldn't do, you can experience some of that uncertainty in a controlled, manageable environment. Learning to live outside your comfort zone when you choose to can prep you for life changes that force you out of it. It sounds so easy but still you are the one that needs to take these steps.


You'll find it easier to push your boundaries in the future. Once you start stepping out of your comfort zone, it gets easier over time. As you step out of your comfort zone, you'll become accustomed to that state of optimal anxiety. "Productive discomfort," as they call it, becomes more normal to you, and you're willing to push further before your performance falls off. You'll see that if you challenge yourself, your comfort zone adjusts so what was difficult and anxiety-inducing becomes easier when you repeat it.


You'll find it easier to brainstorm and harness your creativity. This is a soft benefit, but it's fairly common knowledge (and it's easily reproducible) that seeking new experiences, learning new skills, and opening the door to new ideas inspire us and educate us in a way that little else does. Trying new things can make us reflect on our old ideas and where they clash with our new knowledge, and inspire us to learn more and challenge our tendency to only seek out information we already agree with. Even in the short term, a positively uncomfortable experience can help us brainstorm, see old problems in a new light, and tackle the challenges we face with new energy.
The benefits you get after stepping outside of your comfort zone can linger. There's the overall self-improvement you get through the skills you're learning, the new foods you're trying, the new country you're visiting, and the new job you're interviewing for. There's also the soft mental benefits you get from broadening your horizons.


How to break out of your comfort zone. Outside your comfort zone can be a good place to be, as long as you don't tip the scales too far. It's important to remember there's a difference between the kind of controlled anxiety we're talking about and the very real anxiety that many people struggle with every day. Every one's comfort zone is different, and what may expand your horizons may paralyze someone else.
Here are some ways to break out (and by proxy, expand) your comfort zone without going too far:
Do everyday things differently. Take a different route to work. Try a new restaurant without checking. Whether the change you make is large or small, make a change in the way you do things on a day-to-day basis. Look for the perspective that comes from any change, even if it's negative. Don't be put off if things don't work out the way you planned.


Take your time making decisions. Sometimes slowing down is all it takes to make you uncomfortable, especially if speed and quick thinking are prized in your work or personal life. Slow down, and observe what's going on, take your time to interpret what you see, and then intervene. Sometimes just defending your right to make an educated decision can push you out of your comfort zone. Think first, don't just react.

Trust yourself and make snap decisions. We're contradicting ourselves, but there's a good reason. Just as there are people who thrive on snap decisions, others are more comfortable weighing all of the possible options several times, over and over again. Sometimes making a decision is in order, just to get things moving. Doing so can help you kick start your personal projects and teach you to trust your own judgement. It'll also show you there's fallout to quick decisions as well as slow ones.


Do it in small steps. It takes a lot of courage to break out of your comfort zone. You get the same benefits whether you go in with both feet as you do if you start slow, so don't be afraid to start slow. If you're socially anxious, don't assume you have to muster the courage to ask your crush on a date right away, just say hello to them and see where you can go from there. 
 
There are lots of other ways to stretch your personal boundaries. You could learn a new language or skill and it doesn't have to be expensive or difficult to do. The experiences you have may be mind-blowing or regrettable, but that doesn't matter. The point is that you're doing it, and you're pushing yourself past the mental blocks that tell you to do nothing.



You can't live outside of your comfort zone all the time. You need to come back from time to time to process your experiences. The last thing you want is for the new and interesting to quickly become commonplace and boring. This phenomenon, called hedonistic adaptation, is the natural tendency to be impressed by new things only to have the incredible become ordinary after a short time. It's why we can have access to the greatest repository of human knowledge ever created (the Internet) at our fingertips (on our smart phones) and still get so bored that all we think of is how quickly we can get newer, faster access. In one way it drives us forward, but in another it keeps us from appreciating the subtle and the everyday.



You can fight this by trying new, smaller things. Ordering something new at a restaurant where you get the same thing every visit can be eye-opening the same way visiting a new country can be, and both push you out of your comfortable spaces. Diversify the challenges you embrace so you don't just push your boundaries in the same direction. You still get the challenge, but you broaden your horizons in a different way.


Take it slow, and make stretching your boundaries a habit of its own The point of stepping out of your comfort zone is to embrace new experiences and to get to that state of optimal anxiety in a controlled, managed way, not to stress yourself out. Take time to reflect on your experiences Then do something else interesting and new. Make it a habit if you can. Try something new every week, or every month. Just what suits you. I have committed myself to doing something weird and new every month, just to test my own boundaries.
Similarly, don't limit yourself to big, huge experiences. Maybe meditation pushes you out of your comfort zone just as much as bungee jumping. Try the former if you've already done the latter. The goal isn't to become an adrenaline junkie. You just want to learn what you're really capable of. That's another reason why it's important to return to a comfortable state of mind sometimes and just relax. 

 
Just don't forget to bring back as much as you can carry from those inspired, creative, productive, and slightly uncomfortable moments as it is your luggage in life.


The Old Sailor,

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