How to get out of your comfort zone (and why it's important).


Have you ever heard the quote, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone?”  If so, I’m guessing that you probably nodded agreeably, noted that it is indeed true but that you’re too busy to think about changing things up right now. You’ll think more about it tomorrow or after you finish working or driving the carpool or getting through your to-do list or whatever. Well, today is “tomorrow” and I’m going to challenge you to think about it right here. 

While most of us would agree that we don’t enjoy being uncomfortable or even that we "don’t like change,” probably none of us would say that we don’t appreciate growth. We know on an innate level that growth is what it’s all about and it's when we get out of our comfort zone that  we stretch and grow. Our comfort zones are generally reliable places where we can catch our breath in a crazy world, but it’s easy to get stuck there without even realizing that’s what’s happening. 

We don’t like to get out of our comfort zones because it means we might not do something "perfectly." 

We are our own harshest critics and we don’t like doing things “badly.” But staying in the perfect zone keeps us stuck, predictable, and small. If you want some change in your life you have to be willing to tolerate some level of imperfection as you explore the areas outside of your personal comfort zone. Last year I joined a local community theatre and performed in "Guys and Dolls" (here's a little post about that experience) and I was way out of my comfort zone - especially with the dancing. But I allowed myself to kind of suck at it at first and ultimately did the best I could which was just fine. I had a blast, made some new friends and am already in rehearsals for this year's play.

It can feel vulnerable and scary to try new things.

If it didn't, then breaking out of your comfort zone would be easy and we'd do it all the time. Here’s the thing though: you can’t just do it one time and expect real change. You have to be willing to add stepping out of your comfort zone into your regular practices.  According to Brené Brown, “the willingness to show up changes us. It makes us a little braver each time.” 

There’s a difference between getting of your comfort zone and going into anxiety or stress. These days we typically spend too much time in the “anxiety zone” and that’s not what this is about. This is about questioning your habitual daily life with curiously and awareness, seeing where you’d like to make some changes or just deciding that it’s high time to stretch a bit. 

Maybe it involves stopping a certain behavior instead of adding in a new one.

When we do things like check Facebook or Instagram every 30 minutes, look at our phones while we eat or automatically pour a glass of wine when we walk in the door from work or start making dinner, it can become part of our routine. But we’re often using those behaviors to simply avoid an uncomfortable feeling like boredom or fear or loneliness. Sometimes allowing the feeling (or even just identifying it) can help create a shift.

Our personal comfort zones can be vastly different so something that may feel challenging to you might feel tame to someone else.

Here are 25 random ideas to consider when making an effort to switch things up:

  1. Try a new exercise routine. If you’re a yoga person, try barre. If you are a runner, try Zumba. You get the idea. I've been doing a 30 day yoga challenge at Bala Yoga and it has been kicking my butt! I can't tell you how many times I've been out of my comfort zone but I'm so glad I decided to do it.
  2. If you’re starting your own business or side hustle, try using the 3-2-1 rule. This is something I learned from one of my teachers, the fabulous Susan Hyatt. It involves making 3 phone calls, writing 2 thank-you notes and having one face-to-face every day while trying to grow your business. It can be very uncomfortable! It can also be very effective.
  3. Talk to strangers, especially your neighbors! You may be surprised at the connections you make.
  4. Join Toastmasters. If public speaking is something you want to do but fear is keeping you back, star here. 
  5. Take your fitness routine to the next level: try that headstand in yoga, add in some HIIT,  jog for 3 minutes on your regular walk.
  6. Try balancing on one foot and then the other while brushing your teeth.
  7. Try a new recipe or food that’s not in your regular repertoire.
  8. Take an art class, pottery class, cooking class or music lessons.
  9. Eliminate sugar for 30 days. It will change your life.
  10. Hire a running coach and start running again. Beth Baker from Running Evolution is the best one out there!
  11. Train for a triathlon.
  12. Try an improv class. We all know how important it is to be in the moment. An improv class is a great way to practice being in creative response to whatever comes up in the moment.
  13. Using your non-dominant hand, write a little love note to yourself every day for a week. 
  14. Bake cookies for an elderly neighbor that you wave to but rarely have an actual conversation with.  
  15. Get quiet and still and watch your breathing for 5 minutes every day. Set a timer. Do it for at least 21 days and see what happens.
  16. Skip around the room, dance in your kitchen, go sledding, be silly! 
  17. Learn a new language. 
  18. Unplug for a day. Yes. One whole day. 
  19. Take tango lessons, learn to ballroom dance, or try line dancing.
  20. S L O W   D O W N. If you are a “go go go” person, what are some ways you can eliminate at least one of those “gos?” 
  21. Do some volunteer work. All those times you thought you could/should be doing something more? Now’s your chance.
  22. Take yourself on an adventure. Book a ticket, get in your car, take the train - whatever works. Not sure where you’d go? Make a bucket list of all the places you want to visit or things you want to experience and start getting things in motion.
  23. Quit that Starbucks habit and start saving $5 a day.  After 100 days you’ll have $500 to play with.
  24. Take yourself on a date. Whether it’s to the movies, on a hike, to the beach or to the aquarium, get out of the house and spend some quality time on your own.
  25. Start a daily writing practice. Whether it’s a journal, a gratitude list or The Artist’s Way, getting things on paper can help you grow and that’s what this is all about!

Do any of these make you uncomfortable? Good! Pick the one that resonates with you the most and get started.