If you’ve been in the self-development world for any amount of time at all, chances are you’ve already heard that the key to growth is to get outside of your comfort zone. You’ve heard wild stories of people packing up and moving across the country thousands of dollars in debt, people maxing out their company card to make business investments, and things probably even wilder than that. While these are often amazing examples to look up to of getting uncomfortable, chances are you’ve asked yourself, Do I really need to take such a HUGE risk? There’s a lot to put on the line. Is doing something crazy, and potentially dangerous to my future the only way to truly grow?
Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone is Easier than You Think
I don’t believe it is. I don’t think getting outside of your comfort zone to grow needs to be a huge, crazy action. In fact, the way I see it is you need to start small. Take baby steps towards growth and increase your tolerance for discomfort. You wouldn’t go to the gym if you’ve never worked out before and expect to be able to lift 100lbs. Not only will you not be able to do it, but you’re sure to get injured too! You know that working out is something you need to work towards, and slowly push the boundaries as your strength gradually grows. Getting outside your comfort zone is the same. If you increase your bubble of security by gradually doing small uncomfortable things, it will grow the boundaries of your comfort zone and make the big uncomfortable things eventually seem less scary. Remember:
The key to getting outside your comfort zone is to grow it.
For example, if you are struggling with meeting new people and making friends, here are some small things you could do to increase your comfort around strangers:
- Ask the grocery clerk how their day is going. Be the first to say hello. You don’t have to have a conversation beyond this, but it opens the door to a conversation, and since you’ve taken the first step, meeting new people is now less scary.
- Say hello to strangers on the street when you pass by them. People appreciate it more than you would think!
- Compliment strangers on something you genuinely like (ex. Their hair, makeup, clothes…)
- Go to dinner by yourself. Ask your server how their night is going (and tip well!)
- Go to a fitness/yoga class (without a friend)
- Go to a meet-up with like-minded people. Since you already have something in common with the strangers at the meet-up, it will be much easier to start conversations.
- Do more work in public places like cafes. Being in a setting like this opens you up to the possibility of meeting new people.
- Take a conversation class in a foreign language. Nothing breaks you out of your comfort zone faster than trying to communicate in a new language!
As I’ve touched on before, sometimes in the personal development world, people paint the picture that going into a huge amount of personal debt is the only way to grow. I don’t believe this is necessary all of the time, but getting comfortable with spending what you perceive as a lot of money in your personal growth is essential at times. There will be instances where you know you need to spend money you might not have in going to school, buying a property, investing in your business, or hiring a coach. This is something you have to follow your gut on. Or maybe you just have some fears in spending more money on things that you know will make a difference in your life in the long-run, but don’t make an immediate visible difference, such as organic foods or proper shoes. If you have a lot of resistance towards financial “risks”, here are some ways you can slowly get over your fears:
- Invest in small things that will make a difference if you aren’t ready to put thousands towards a course (for example, buy a highly-rated book on the same subject)
- Donate unworn clothing instead of selling it (to prove to yourself you already have more than enough resources)
- Give more to the homeless than you are comfortable
- Tip more to your waiter/the barista than you are comfortable
You want to approach all of this with curiosity. What happens when you try these new things/habits? See it as “reality testing”. Some things will go well, and some things won’t, but it’s all okay! Make sure you keep track of what you have done that’s uncomfortable, and how you feel about the results. Maybe saying hello to someone on the street ended up in you petting their cute dog – I’d count that as a win!
Remember, this is all just a philosophy for getting better and better at doing the difficult things every day. It is about allowing yourself to organically grow as a person. Use these ideas if they resonate with something you are going through right now, or brainstorm the small ways you can get closer towards the big steps you know you need to take. By doing these small things, you will build up resilience towards doing the bigger things, and can move forward with less anxiety. It can sometimes be too overwhelming to take a big leap outside your zone of security. If this is the case, take a small step, and your bubble will grow with you.