From a psychological standpoint your comfort zone is an artificial mental boundary within which you maintain a sense of security and out of which you experience great discomfort.
For the most part your comfort zone is a reflection of your self-image and how you think and expect things should be.
When you are in an uncomfortable situation, or one that doesn’t fit your expectations, you usually do whatever you can to make yourself comfortable again.
For many people, even if they are unhappy or unfulfilled, their natural inclination is to stay within the comfort zone simply because it is familiar and safe. Many stay in jobs, relationships, and situations that have long since lost their relevance only because they are afraid of the unknown. The truth is that security does not reside in anything outside of ourselves; instead, it lies within us.
Unfortunately, if you choose to remain in your comfort zone you will never find out what your true potential is or what you are capable of achieving. Nor can you really succeed at anything without venturing out of the comfort of your safety net.
If, however, you make the decision to move beyond the circumstances, people, and experiences you are familiar with, you move out of your comfort zone and onto the path of personal development. It is a path that forces you to stretch yourself, push your limits and become more than you were.
Of course you don’t have to do anything extraordinarily out of character, like climbing Mt. Everest or swimming the English Channel if you have no inclination or desire for it. Stretching yourself does not have to be that extreme.
Anyone who takes a new subject in school, learns a new language, takes up a new sport or starts a new job, operates out of their comfort zone in the beginning.
Ultimately, if you ever want to achieve anything noteworthy or out of the ordinary expanding your comfort zone is a must!
Here are some other things you can do:
- Break from a routine or habit you’ve had for a long time and find a different, perhaps better way to do it.
- If you’re typically a sedentary person take a break from reading or the computer and find a physical activity you can enjoy and partake in. If you’re normally very active, learn to wind down, read or relax.
- Read a book, watch a movie or listen to music in a genre you’re not familiar with. If you usually read mysteries, try reading an inspiring biography, if you like action movies, try a romantic comedy, if you just listen to rock, try some jazz music.
- If you happen to be a shy person and have trouble speaking in front of people, join a group like Toastmasters International where they encourage you to speak in public by using positive and helpful techniques. The more practice you get, the more comfortable you’ll be and the better you will feel about yourself.
- Go to an ethnic restaurant and try a dish from a culture different from your own. It will stimulate your taste buds and possibly open up a whole new cuisine.
- Volunteer at the downtown mission or soup kitchen for a day and realize how comfortable your life really is, while helping someone at the same time.
Benefits of expanding your comfort zone:
- Enhances your enjoyment and experience of life
- Stimulates brain activity and therefore boosts your mental health
- Increases self-confidence
- Makes you more resilient
- Helps prevent getting stuck in a rut or becoming depressed
- Challenges you to improve yourself
- Prevents atrophy
Stretching yourself and expanding your comfort zone is an important part of personal development. Each step advances you to the next level and keeps you on the path of self-improvement.