Why they exist, what we gain from them, and why stepping outside of them is necessary.
Until pretty recently I have been very familiar with my comfort zone. You could say we’re well acquainted. Besties even. We spend Friday nights together. =P
But seriously, even as far back as elementary school, I can remember teachers writing in my report card that I needed to “take more risks”. My parents had to bribe me with chocolate just to get me to try water-skiing.
I am not a risk taker. I make calculated decisions. I do everything possible to minimize the chance of failure. And in a lot of ways, that strategy has worked out well for me. But it’s also not always that much fun!
So what keeps us inside our own little bubble? Why do our comfort zones exist?
Well, from an evolutionary standpoint they exist to help keep us alive. Once upon a time, the best way not to die was to stay within your tribe. Don’t try that new berry – it could be poisonous. Don’t venture too far outside your camp – you might get eaten by a tiger. Make sense?
But the fact is, while our day to day environment has changed a lot, our minds have not evolved at the same pace. We still often feel that sense of anxiety and fear when it comes to taking risks, even if the potential negative consequence is far from death.
We also gain something psychologically from staying inside our comfort zone. Whether we want to believe it or not, every negative thought comes with some sort of mental gain. A prime example of this is the victim mentality.
I’ll never lose weight … therefore I don’t have to try. I always end up in bad relationships … therefore why bother going on dates to try to find a good one. My boss doesn’t like me … therefore I’m not going to vie for that promotion.
By telling ourselves these types of things, we GET to stay inside our comfort zones. We CONVINCE ourselves it’s the smart thing to do. We justify the shit out of it. And it feels good, at least in the short term, because our comfort zones are, well … comfortable.
But with big risk sometimes comes big reward.
If you look at all the people out there that are killing it at life – I guarantee you they’ve had to step outside their comfort zone a LOT of times to get where they are. J.K. Rowling was rejected 12 times before someone agreed to publish Harry Potter!
So how can we push past the fear and get outside our comfort zones?
Here are a couple of helpful mind-shifts to explore.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Seriously. What is the worst that could happen? Play it out in your mind. Then ask yourself if it’s something that will have any consequence on your life in 5 years.
When I was toying with the idea of starting / sharing my blog, it felt scary! But the worst-case scenario was that nobody would read it, or they would and think it was silly. Everyone would forget about it in a month and I’d be no worse off than if I’d never done it in the first place. So was the risk really as big as I was making it out to be in my head? Absolutely not.
What’s the best that could happen?
Now shift gears and think about what it might look or feel like if the universe had your back and everything went exactly in your favor!
Picture it down to the most minute detail. What would you say or do? How would people respond? What positive things would it bring to your life? It’s amazing right?! How can you let that opportunity go?!
And finally …
When in my past has taking a risk actually worked out?
Instead of using your past experiences as a reason NOT to take a risk, try calling to mind a time when you’ve put yourself out there and it went better than expected.
It’s natural for us to dwell on negative experiences, to the point that they often overshadow the positive ones. Reflecting on the GOOD rather than the bad helps build your confidence. Every time you flex that muscle it gets easier and easier to step outside your comfort zone and take a risk.
So if there’s something you’ve been thinking about doing that feels uncomfortable, I challenge you to push through and go for it. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? What’s the best that could happen?