I don’t know about you, but stepping out of my comfort zone is one of the things that I have continuously struggled with. For me, this usually implies putting myself in different social situations: joining a new school club, getting ready for a sports competition, even going to a party with either friends or people I’m not familiar with. If I had done things entirely my way ever since I was little, I would probably still live in my cocoon and avoid social situations with any chance of making me feel awkward.
But the reason I am writing this post is because I have stepped out of my cocoon enough times to know how enriching each experience can be. Tackling that incredibly hard math question. Running the extra mile to increase your endurance. Doing that extra thing that you wouldn’t normally do will reward you with a long-term benefit. In my case, my uncomfortable zones usually involve social interactions, and for you it may be similar, or completely different. Maybe you thrive putting yourself out there, and actually struggle at doing something else, like switching up your environment every once in a while.
Whatever it is, you know it. But why should you step out of your comfort zone? Why should you, if you already have a nice home and family, a solid group of friends, stable life, all in your nice hometown? Because you don’t know what’s out there until you decide to open the door for yourself. There is nothing wrong with settling down in the place that has given you the greatest satisfaction and happiness for a long time. Nothing beats that homely feeling. But in every year of our lives ever since we enter school, our teachers and family try to encourage us to move forward gradually, to get acquainted with different situations and learn.
Learning is an everlasting process that we, as humans, have the privilege of doing. We explore, learn and share. I was encouraged to try different clubs and be more ‘social’ while at school that that pretty much became my motto. I explored different clubs (even founded one on my own), took charge of my House’s sports competitions (while one of my biggest fears involves performance in front of a crowd), and pretty much pushed myself out there. These situations made me feel anxious, uncomfortable and tense at the moment, but they made me realize that stepping out of my comfort zone is not such a big deal as I was making it to be. It enabled me to get to know myself better, and seize new opportunities.
How can you step out of your comfort zone and become a better individual from it? Here are 5 steps that can help guide you:
1. Identify what means stepping out of your comfort zone.
What is that one thing that you wish you could do, but aren’t doing due to some kind of fear (social anxiety, lack of confidence, etc.)? By identifying your fears are, you will understand what kind of person you are and learn how to address them better in the following steps.
2. Why do you have these fears?
Right after step 1), you should already be trying to break down why you haven’t overcome these ‘fears’ that are preventing you from stepping out of your comfort zone. Maybe they have something in common. Maybe you’re avoiding all situations which involve taking risks, or that give room for embarrassment, or that are too social. Again, this will enable you to show yourself what kind of personality you have. Bear in mind, however, that the purpose of this step is not to highlight your deficiencies, but rather enable you to understand the way your mind works, so that you can adjust your life accordingly.
3. Take baby steps
Just like everything that you aim to hone or perfect, stepping out of your comfort zone is not easy to do. Even if you think it’s an absolutely ridiculous and simple thing that everyone but you find it hard to do – don’t push yourself too hard.
Personally, I hated swimming classes. But I had to take them as part of my Physical Ed class at school, so what I did was take advantage of my summer vacations to try and improve my swimming skills. On some summers I took (beginners) classes, and on others I swam on my own. When I went back to school again, the fear and panic was still there, but at least I didn’t feel like I was about to drown all the time.
4. Fail, and fail again
This should be a given, but it’s definitely not something that should be overlooked. When you fail at something that is at least of some importance to you, you will most likely analyse why you failed. And once you get over it, you will realize that maybe it wasn’t such a big deal as you thought it was. The next time you put yourself in such situation again, you will be standing a little bit taller than last time.
5. Have a purpose and meaning
Whenever I am doing a task or any other activity, I always think about why I am doing it. Is this going to help me become a better… musician? leader? at writing? When you are tackling your own task(s) at hand, always know your purpose. Finding your ‘meaning’ is something similar, but I consider it more intrinsic. For instance, I want to become a better musician so that I am always in touch with the spiritual and artistic side of myself.