You may call yourself spontaneous, or people may know you as someone who has a fixed plan for every second of his life.
Regardless of what personality you have or what your status is, you have a set of standards and norms that you base your entire life on. These standards and norms set the way you make decisions and decide on paths that you’re going to take.
These set up the walls around you, creating a marked territory for you to stay in.
This is what marks your comfort zone.
Understanding Comfort Zones
Before you can figure out how your comfort zones affects your life and what impact it has on others around you, it’s better for you to understand what a comfort zone is.
A comfort zone is a mental or physical area that has very minimal risk and stress potential. Your comfort zone includes all things familiar to you, from people you know and faces you see, to activities you enjoy and places you always go to.
If there’s one thing that a comfort zone offers, it’s security.
Your comfort zone will not allow you to suffer anything that you have never gone through before. You may think that life is worthless enough as it is, but there’s a huge chance that this feeling of worthlessness is also part of your comfort zone – it’s an excuse for you not to do something different in your life.
Why People Don’t Leave Their Comfort Zone
Yes, there is a scientific explanation why people do not leave their comfort zones.
It’s not just about laziness.
Your comfort zone is directly related to your anxiety levels. The lower the anxiety levels are, the closer you are to your comfort zone. And mind you, just because you’re in your comfort zone does not mean that everything is peaceful and calm.
Have you ever seen people who always look for conflict? People who thrive under pressure?
There is a possibility that the state of conflict, the presence of pressure, this is what defines their comfort zone. Try making them calm down or stay at a quiet corner without conflict or stress. There’s a huge chance that they’ll savor it for a moment, but they’ll jump right back into looking for something to pick on.
Their comfort zone lies in the stress, the pressure, the conflict. They become anxious when it’s gone.
This means that comfort zones do not exactly have a single definition or description. Comfort zones vary from one person to another, and where one person finds peace and quiet to be their place of comfort, some may find comfort in chaos.
So the moment your anxiety levels rise, this is a clear sign that you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone.
In 1908, an experiment was done using mice. Through this experiment, the mice were given tests that rose from one level of difficulty to another.
When the tasks were easy, the anxiety levels were lower. Jack the level of difficulty up a notch and the anxiety levels rose. However, performance rose at the same time as well. This was the pattern as the challenges become a lot more difficult.
Eventually however, the tasks became too difficult to handle. The anxiety levels soared to its peak. And with this incredible increase, performance also started to drop.
Look at yourself and how you handle life. Did you react the same way as these mice?
The place where the tasks were easy and automatic and the anxiety levels were low is your comfort zone. The moment the challenges become a little harder, performance also increases. This is now the learning zone. The moment the tasks become too difficult to handle, performance drops right back. This is now the panic zone.
Where Anxiety Comes From
So where does all this anxiety come from?
One reason why people become anxious is because of the fear of facing the unknown. When you step out of your comfort zone, you encounter something that you’re not used to, something that could give you different outcomes you do not know about just yet.
It is this uncertainty that makes people cower in one corner and make their comfort zone even smaller than it already is. According to studies, any form of uncertainty that results in a negative occurrence become more upsetting, more traumatic to the person experiencing it.
This is why people cringe at the thought of leaving their comfort zone. They become over-anxious at the negative stuff that could happen due to the uncertainty.
Why You Should Break Free
No matter how comfortable you are within that zone however, there are so many good reasons for you to start breaking free.
- It helps you learn new things.
When you break out of your comfort zone, you start adapting to the new situation and the circumstances that surround it, allowing you to learn new skills. These are skills that will not only be beneficial to you today, but even in the future as you encounter more challenges to win over.
- It strengthens your performance.
Remember the mice in the experiment? Performance improved as they were pulled farther from their comfort zones. Why? Because you now find the need to work at your optimum.
All of a sudden, mediocrity just won’t cut it anymore. You find out that there’s so much more than you can achieve the moment you decide to put in more effort at what you do. And eventually, this higher level of performance becomes natural, automatic, and comfortable.
- It enhances creativity.
Because this is something new, something you haven’t done before, something you aren’t familiar with, you are forced to do one thing – innovate and be creative.
When you are pushed outside your boundaries, you are forced to make do with what you have and mold it into something better, something that would allow you to transition into this new thing successfully.
- It takes away fear of failure.
One huge factor that affects people’s need to stay within their comfort zone is fear. People become afraid that they are going to fail, as this is one thing that they have never tried doing. They become afraid of failure.
However, the moment you take a leap and succeed, you immediately squash that fear. You’ll realize that the fear you felt was ridiculous. What if you do end up failing?
Well, go back to the first point. Make this a learning experience. This means that you know what to do and what not to do the next time another opportunity like this comes around, ensuring a higher percentage of success.
- It builds confidence.
A lot of people ask themselves, “What if I fail?” whenever they are faced with something new. Here’s a question for you, though – what if you don’t?
Leaving your comfort zone allows you to discover things about yourself that you never knew before. You realize that there is so much more that you can do. This discovery is something that could boost your confidence greatly, allowing you to take on bigger tasks that would produce better results.
These are just some of the benefits that you get the moment you start taking the leap and breaking out of your comfort zone.
Excited to jump in now?
Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone
Here’s how you do it.
- Mark your comfort zone.
You won’t be able to leave a place if you don’t know where its boundaries are. Figure out what and where your comfort zone lies. This way, you can easily tell if you are really starting to inch your way beyond it, or if you’re just fooling yourself to believe it.
Start with routines. List down things that you often do the moment anything that makes you uncomfortable comes in. This is going to be a great starting point.
- Change the way you think.
It all starts with the way you think. If you used to think that you are incapable, start seeing yourself as someone who is capable. If you believe that the world will let you down, force yourself to think that the world will push you all the way to the top.
- Start small.
Just because it requires you to take a leap does not mean that you would have to be suicidal. You can’t just start selling everything you own, quitting your job, and backpacking your way around the world.
Start small. You can start by altering your routine little by little. Learn a new skill. Read a new book. Juggle your schedule around. These are baby steps that would eventually lead to bigger steps.
- Meet new people.
Sure, your friends are awesome, but they are also part of your comfort zone. We’re not telling you to end your friendship with them, we’re just asking you to add a few more.
Try meeting people who are interested in completely different things. This is a great way for you to explore your options. Find out what their opinions are and should anything differ from your own, hear what they have to say. Be open to agreeing to disagree.
- Monitor your progress.
Nothing else can boost your confidence than seeing how far you’ve gone. Keep a diary of the things you do and accomplish day by day. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find out.
One day, you could find yourself allotting 30 minutes of meditation time right before you go to bed at 9PM. If you look back at yourself 6 or 7 months ago, and realize that you would probably still be at the office around this time, crunching numbers, then you’ll find yourself being proud that you learned how to love yourself enough to break away from that.
Leaving your comfort zone is not an easy thing to do.
It’s going to be challenging, dramatic, and emotional.
But the moment you find yourself a few paces away from where you used to be, you’ll also notice the impact that it has on your life, allowing you to do things that you never realized you could do before. That’s where the rewards come in.