By: Sydney Levine
The middle mark of summer has passed which means it’s time to reflect on these past few months. We have new opportunities ahead of us – some of us know what our next move is, while some of us may still have no clue – and that is okay. Some of you reading this may already have jobs and careers. We may all be in different places in our lives, but we do share one commonality: an understanding that our willingness to step outside of our comfort zones is critical to our future success. I’m sure we have all heard of this term, but what exactly does it mean, and why are so many people willing to stay within this so-called “zone”?
Your comfort zone is the place where you feel most at ease. It consists of the activities and behaviors that produce the least amount of anxiety and stress. Comfort zones are a psychological, emotional, and behavioral construct that defines our daily lives (5 Benefits of Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone, n.d.). This “zone,” as we shall call it, is where we are relatively stress free, have knowledge of what is going on, and exists where there is little to no risk being taken. This is all well and fine, as intense amounts of stress and anxiety combined with no sense of routine can be overwhelming and not good for us physically or mentally (11 Signs and Symptoms of Too Much Stress, 2018). However, some levels of stress and discomfort can be beneficial, when experienced in healthy amounts. When we get comfortable, complacency begins to creep up to us. Think about it: if you get too comfortable with performing the same activities, learning the same things, and meeting the same type of people throughout your life, you will never be able to develop new skills and have the chance to learn new things about the world, and, more importantly, yourself. I’m aware this can be daunting – stepping out of your comfort zone and trying things you may never have considered doing – but if we don’t at least attempt, we will be stuck on a path that restricts us from unleashing our full potential. New experiences make life more exciting; change and discomfort are okay.
True success, achievement, and fulfillment do not happen within your comfort zone. Think about your life: at some point in time, you’ve had to go beyond what you were comfortable with. If you attended a college far from your hometown, you stepped out of your comfort zone. If you took that new job in that new city, you stepped out of your comfort zone. If you decided to change career paths or go back to school, you stepped out of your comfort zone. I can tell you with confidence that without these experiences, you wouldn’t be the same person you are today.
There are three important benefits that result in your decision to step out of your comfort zone that I would like to highlight.
- First, taking risks and challenging yourself allows you to tap into unknown passions, knowledge, experiences, and skills. You won’t know what you’re capable of accomplishing if you don’t at least try. A saying I’ve valued throughout my life thus far is that the only way you can fail is by not trying. This can relate to any aspect of your life – personal or professional. The point I’m trying to make here is that we have to do the things that dare to make us uncomfortable. This does not have to be some huge risk. It can simply mean finally choosing to speak up in a class, adding more weight to your exercises in the gym, or applying to that job you have always dreamt of.
- Secondly, stepping out of your comfort zone will help foster a mindset that rejects mediocrity. We live in an ever-competitive world that rewards those who step out of their comfort zones. Yes, you can make the argument that one can be successful in their comfort zone, but that success will be like a flat line – steady and consistent. However, if you push yourself to try new things the rewards will be greater, allowing you to rise above that metaphorical flat line. We all know the phrase “the greater the risk, the greater the reward.” Begin applying that motto to your goals and priorities. We cannot be afraid of failure; we have to become go-getters and chase after what we want to avoid that feeling of being stuck.
- Third, getting out of your comfort zone helps you learn and adapt to change. Change within our lives is inevitable, so we have to strategize in order to help us cope with it. Otherwise, when change occurs, there is a greater possibility that we become overwhelmed and anxious.
While this is all much easier said than done, we can all help each other to expand past our comfort zones, support one another, and bring out the best in each other. Each time you get uncomfortable or do something that scares you, you gain a little more confidence, and we all know that confidence is the key to success. Try something new today, or this month, or this year – are you willing to go beyond what makes you comfortable?
There is no better time to start than now. Share something that you have always wanted to say or do but the voice in your head has been holding you back. Maybe with a little bit of support from each other, we can finally achieve it.
5 benefits of stepping outside your comfort zone. (n.d.). Psychology Today. Retrieved April 14, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-flux/201512/5-benefits-stepping-outside-your-comfort-zone
11 signs and symptoms of too much stress. (2018, January 7). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/symptoms-of-stress