Part 3 of a 3-Part Trapped in Your Comfort Zone Series
Does life feel dull? Have you not tried something new in a long time? Do you often say no when people ask you to do something outside of your routine? Does different seem like an inconvenience or risky? Do you feel personally stagnant? Do you hear yourself making excuses like “I can’t” or “It’s not the right time”? Do you feel dissatisfied, but doubt whether you are capable of reaching for something higher? Do you feel jealous when your friends accomplish something big? Is your focus on surviving and managing your anxiety? Do you feel insecure and play life safe in order to avoid causing waves? These are all signs that indicate that your comfort zone might be holding you back.
A ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it is built for. – Albert Einstein
Breaking out of your comfort zone will bring a freshness into your life that you have been longing for. Often just taking the first step will give you the perspective and momentum you need to advance. By learning how to push ourselves, we can cultivate a life of fulfillment and success. In my previous articles in this series, I discussed obstacles that keep us trapped in our comfort zones and the rewards of challenging those comfort zones. In this article, I offer six practical tips that can help you to confront the uncharted waters outside your comfort zone.
1) Find Your Why
The unknown can be extremely daunting. However, creating a personal mission statement identifying why you are stepping outside your comfort zone will provide you with purpose and structure. Your mission statement will help you to become clear on what you aim to overcome. In the midst of insecurity, focusing on your why will keep you grounded and will inspire you to push forward. To uncover your why, start thinking about what you desire to improve, learn, and accomplish. Imagine your life without the limitations of fear, doubt, or judgment. How would you live differently? What would a life look like without regrets? What does it mean for you to be daringly authentic? What areas of your life do you need to change? What intimidates you but also interests you? What dreams and goals do you desire to achieve in your lifetime? By reviewing your mission statement, you train your brain to dwell on benefits rather than drawbacks, and you subsequently filter out negative emotions that might derail breakthrough. Continue to meditate on your mission statement so that you can embody it. Spend time each day visualizing your success. Make new goals and recommit yourself to the process. By daily practicing the positive thinking exercises mentioned above, you can create new neuropathways in your brain to enable you to accomplish your dreams.
2) Choose Challenge over Comfort
If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done. – Thomas Jefferson
We are creatures of habit and can become stuck in our routine. But our old ways do not open new doors. To accomplish anything significant, we have to stretch ourselves beyond what we know we can already do. On a regular basis, intentionally seek out smart risks that push against the grains of your fears. You want to find situations that force you to adapt to a tension that is above what you normally experience. Once you find an unfamiliar circumstance, remain there until it becomes familiar to you. The goal is to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. The more you do it, the easier it will become and the more likely you will be to embrace new challenges in the future. After repeated exposure, you will attain new skills, improve performance, and grow personally. Start small. Maybe mix up your daily routine. Then work your way up the ladder of your fears. Try to compliment a stranger, start yoga, enroll in a public speaking class, or travel to an exotic place.
3) Just Jump In
Do you often hear yourself saying “someday”? Do you procrastinate? The problem for a lot of us is that we wait. We wait for the “right time.” You may find yourself waiting until you feel calmer or more in control. But here’s the thing: If you don’t feel uncomfortable, you probably aren’t aiming high enough. For any sustainable progress to occur, you need to move in faith despite your feelings. It is totally normal to feel awkward and anxious. You just have to break through the fear barrier and jump in. On the other side of fear, you will gain a new outlook on life and feel energized by the endorphin rush. The more you jump in, the less you will hesitate. Be sure to identify what you are avoiding. We learn the most about ourselves during the moments we feel most uncomfortable. Instead of making excuses, admit your fears. You will position yourself in a better place to confront the real problem and increase your prospect of success.
4) Stop Over-Valuing Being Right
Perfectionism will hold you back. We pay a high price when we buy into the fear of failure. People become paralyzed by even the thought of making a wrong decision. Think about the last time you over-analyzed a decision. It probably resulted in a delay or in total avoidance of the situation. When we don’t take smart risks, we miss out on so many opportunities to grow, prosper, and experience real life. Spending your life striving for perfection may even cost you your destiny. The pathway to your dreams is a collection of experiences, both positive and negative, successes and failures. Brian Tracy says, “Failure is a prerequisite for great success.” Any time you step outside your norm, mistakes are to be expected. Accept it. This is simply a necessary part of the process. Learn from it, self-correct, and press on. Sometimes we just have to detach ourselves from the outcome. Let go of your expectations and take the plunge for the sake of experiencing something new. God does not ask for perfection. He asks for faith. Did you know that God honors your risks of faith? He looks at the heart, not at a score sheet. Be encouraged that God is bigger than your worst blind spots, and wants you to succeed more than you do.
5) Reframe Fear
Fear keeps us imprisoned in our comfort zones. However, if we reframe the meaning of fear in a positive light, we take away its power to control us. The battle is in the mind, so we need to orient our thoughts towards success. Try to look at fear through a spiritual lens. Fear is the enemy’s intimidation tactic. Why would Satan go through all that trouble to protect something that wasn’t worth fighting for? I love how Kris Vallotton reframes fear. He says that whenever you feel fear, you should realize that there must be a treasure nearby. Consider the Israelites who had to confront their fears in order to receive their promised land. If you believe there is something positive to gain by pursuing fear, you will more likely go after it. The next time you feel fear, try using some of these reframing statements: “My largest fear carries my biggest breakthrough. Beyond my fears is my destiny. By pushing past fear, I am upgrading my life. Facing fear is refining me. I am living a life without regrets.”
Christian Counseling to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
As a Christian counselor, I am aware that the avoidance of pain can be a lifelong habit. However, you can break that pattern by intentionally exercising your courage muscles.
“Pick the Lock,” courtesy of stux, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “In the Zone,” courtesy of Unsplash.com Joshua Earle, unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Jumping into the Life,” courtesy of Splitshire.com
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