“As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.” -Robin S. Sharma
If you want to start running, you aren’t going to put your hand up for a monster marathon. You’ll begin with some light jogging and build your way up slowly.
When you want to get into a swimming pool, you tend to dip your toes in first to test the water.
Even though you know it’s not the best strategy to get in so slowly, it still feels easier than taking the plunge and jumping in.
Why not adopt the same approach when it comes to stepping out of your comfort zone?
You know your boldest goals and dreams are on the other side of your comfort zone but taking this giant plunge seems a little too daunting.
Take some time and reflect on why your big idea is still a picture on your vision board or on an old new year’s resolution list? Why isn’t it scheduled into your calendar?
The reason you haven’t taken the leap yet comes down to fear. What is really stopping you?
Put your fear under a microscope and use it as a compass. Fear is a reaction to a thought, but courage is a choice.
How can you practice dipping your toe into your courage zone to give you the confidence to take the leap? We all have different fears that hold us back, here are some ideas to get you started.
If these don’t apply to you, then take the concept into your own life:
If you are afraid of stillness:
“People who have had little self-reflection live life in a huge reality blind spot.” Bryant McGill
There is a commonly held limiting belief that stillness=stagnation. The mental talk becomes ‘if I take time to reflect and have some quiet time, I’ll fall behind and miss the ‘success’ train’.
The safest way to dip your toe into the courage zone of reflection – meditation.
Your comfort zone is constant activity and inventing reasons to be busy. You want the maximum return on each moment even if you’re exhausted.
Meditation is about sitting and literally doing nothing other than focus on your breath. When your mind wonders into thought, simply bring it back to your breath.
Not only do you reap the benefits of being more focused, less emotionally reactive and have better concentration, but you develop the muscle of contentment. You are giving yourself permission to merely focus on your breath for that 5-minute period. You are freeing your mind from having to be somewhere else.
You don’t need to commit to a 3-day yoga retreat, that would be the equivalent of jumping into an ice bath. Commit to at least 3 minutes every morning and you will find the benefits astounding.
If meditation really isn’t your thing, what about taking 10 minutes to go and sit outside with a cup of coffee during your day? No screens allowed. Just you and your thoughts.
It will feel awkward at first but that’s because your body is not used to being still. You’ll be astounded at the clarity you develop when you just allow some time for it to find you.
Once you have mastered the art of being still and seeing you are in fact more productive, you can begin to take longer breaks between tasks and create white space in your calendar for planning and reflection time.
If you are afraid of losing control:
“You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both.” -Brene Brown
Your comfort zone may be an addiction to control.
How can you dip your toe into the courage zone of control?
Do not check your email after 7PM and on weekends.
The thinking is ‘let me just check to see nothing urgent came in’. By constantly hitting refresh, you are not only draining your mental and physical battery but also keeping yourself in a chronic state of stress and anxiety.
By setting boundaries on when and how often you check your email, you are moving out of the comfort zone of control. You need the courage to put stricter boundaries in place and prioritise your self-care.
Remember – it is going to feel incredibly uncomfortable not to check in, but the truth is that if something urgent comes in after hours, you will get a phone call.
If you have managed the art of boundary setting, here is another fun way to practice letting go of control.
When was the last time you played the board game Monopoly? If you are usually quite cautious, then play a round totally out of your natural character.
If you tend to save and hoard, purchase every property and play aggressively. Build houses when you don’t have a lot of back up money. It’s just a game. Laugh at yourself!
It sounds silly but it’s fascinating to watch people’s personas follow them into the game. What have you got to lose?
If you are afraid of rejection:
“Outside your comfort zone is the only place worth living.” –Karina Bliss
Perhaps your dream is to become a writer, a speaker or produce a new product. What is most likely keeping you in your comfort zone is a fear of rejection and judgement.
How can you dip your toe into the courage zone of rejection?
Reach out to famous people.
I do it often. If I read an interesting article or book, I always reach out to the author. I tell them who I am and how their work has impacted me.
I don’t do this with any expectation other than wanting to genuinely thank them. If I receive a response, it’s always an added benefit. If they don’t reply, I assume it’s because they receive hundreds of mails like mine daily and they also need to manage their boundaries.
It isn’t personal – it’s the same with creative work. Although you are the creator, feedback is never personal. It’s about the work.
Let me tell you – I have connected with some of the most amazing people in the world include Seth Godin, David Goggins, Chip Conley, Steve Chandler and Derek Sivers.
If you are afraid of not being perfect:
“Comfort is your biggest trap and coming out of your comfort zone is your biggest challenge.” -Manoj Arora
This is a huge barrier to stepping out of the comfort zone. There is a belief that you need to be proficient in the task or activity before you can share your work.
Perfection is a fancy excuse for procrastination.
Done is better than perfect. You need to produce the work before you can perfect it.
Here’s an interesting way to dip your toe into the courage zone of perfection – be anonymous.
If you want to become a writer, don’t focus on the end product of a book. Can you write one article to post on a platform where you are anonymous?
When I wanted to write something that is out of my comfort zone, I first posted it on platforms such as Medium.com because nobody knows me.
When you want to create something, there is a fear of judgement from colleagues and peers and therefore you haven’t hit publish yet on your website or LinkedIn.
Circulate your work in a space where you won’t take any possible criticism personally. There is no emotional charge, it is simply the work. Once you can get comfortable sharing your work on one platform, you will start to build up the confidence to repeat it.
Another way to dip your toe into the comfort zone of perfection – adult colouring.
I have a client who is such a perfectionist that facing an adult colouring book was too stressful for her. The choice of the colours worried her, what if they don’t look good, what if it takes me too long to finish?
Colouring is a great hack to perfection because it is a safe way to experiment. Take colours that probably won’t look good together and test them out. Play, have fun – it isn’t about precision. It is about being comfortable with the possibility that – “this may not work”. And if it doesn’t, so what!
If you are afraid of being a beginner:
“Be brave enough to be bad at something new.” -Anonymous
When was the last time you did something for the first time? That raw beginning where you feel completely out of your depth…
Did you learn a new skill, take a new course, become a parent or was it so long ago, you cannot even remember?
Your comfort zone is exactly that – comfortable. You know what to do and can execute without thinking too much about it.
Moving into the space of a clean slate with new knowledge and new skills is scary. It’s like having to learn to drive again. It’s so awkward initially but after a while, it becomes unconscious competence where you can do it without thinking.
How can you dip your toe into the courage zone of humble beginnings?
Watch a new Masterclass or sign up for an online program.
There are hundreds of courses and programs available online – some paid for and some free. Research something that has interested you and take an online class. No exams, no tests – the only requirement is showing up to it.
Masterclass is a phenomenal platform where you can watch classes from selling to cooking. I watched a masterclass on video game design because I was curious about the human psychology side of gaming and design thinking. I didn’t need to go and study a new course but merely expose myself to new thinking.
“Everyone has a comfort zone worth considering: how hard (and how often) are you willing to work to get out of it? You can turn that into a habit if you choose” – Seth Godin
There is a hidden gift to moving from your comfort zone to your courage zone. You develop the muscles of resilience and confidence and these will play out in every area of your life.
The catalyst for change is often because an external situation or circumstance has taken away the choice – you have no option but to show up.
If you can get comfortable being uncomfortable, that is the greatest reward of all. We don’t know what 2021 is going to bring and what new challenges are going to arise.
Don’t wait to be pushed into discovering your true strengths, take your power back by dipping your toe at your own pace into your courage zone.
When the external circumstances do arrive, you will be ready to dive headfirst.
Here’s to owning your courage zone,