Do you have a goal for yourself, but taking the steps to achieve that goal makes you feel anxious or uncomfortable? This means that taking those steps requires you to leave your comfort zone. This isn’t easy. Your comfort zone is a place, by definition, that makes you feel comfortable and at ease. Leaving your comfort zone, be it by moving, taking on new responsibilities, or being vulnerable around new people, isn’t easy. Maybe you’re scared because you’ve never done a certain thing before. Or you’ve been hurt in the past. That’s okay. As you read this information on leaving your comfort zone, remember you are not alone. Everyone experiences discomfort, but facing that discomfort often results in growth.
Do you want to grow? Do you want to achieve things that you don’t have right now? Getting there requires that you step outside of your comfort zone. And with the right mindset, you’ll be glad you did.
Remember What Lies Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Stepping outside your comfort zone might mean signing up for an advanced class in a subject that intimidates you, such as advanced mathematics. It's daunting, but you stand to gain knowledge and confidence. In contrast, doing something that causes discomfort without any personal growth benefits, like helping a friend cheat on a test, not only violates moral principles but also risks serious consequences without any real gain. While the former can lead to personal enrichment, the latter will likely result in regret and loss of integrity.
If you encounter something outside of your comfort zone, consider the possible benefits of seizing that opportunity. Write them down! Don’t worry about the likelihood of each result or the possible downsides or risks of seizing the opportunity. Give yourself the space to
High Risk, High Reward
Moving to a new place is outside the comfort zone of many people. A new city or country comes with the daunting tasks of making new friends, learning where everything is, or even adapting to a new language or culture. But, like any move outside your comfort zone, the higher the risk, the higher the reward.
Think about it this way. If you want to move one town over, you’re not taking a huge risk. You can probably drive home whenever you want and maintain the same group of friends that you had before. There are things to be gained: independence, a new favorite coffee shop, or a faster commute to work. But compare this with what you could gain by moving to a new city or country. Moving farther away from your home allows you to see more of the world, make new friends, and learn from a culture very different from your own. Aren’t all these things worth the extra risk?
Try Leaving Your Comfort Zone Just Once
What happens if you leave your comfort zone once? A Reddit user shared their experience on the socialskills subreddit:
“My friend told me he was going to a party and I asked him whether I could join. He said yes…The confidence I gained from talking and dancing with girls the entire night is huge. It will be much easier the next time and I’m looking forward to it.
I also learned that people focus on their own fun. If you want people to like you, you have to provide them fun. And if they leave you to chill with others, then you can’t take it personally.
And I learned and did so much other things. All because I asked if I could join a party with people I don’t know.”
One experience helped a person learn and grow. If you have heard about neuroplasticity, you’ll know that every new experience helps the neurons in our brain form new connections and reinforces existing ones. Even if you learn something “the hard way,” leaving your comfort zone just once will teach you something and likely encourage you to keep expanding your comfort zone further and further.
Work on Your Relationship with “Failure”
The most successful people know that there is no such thing as “failure.” There is no such thing as losing. This is true because even if you do not walk away with the result you wanted, you can gain something. You can gain a lesson, a new perspective, or even a skill you didn’t have before.
Let’s say you’ve written a novel, and you want to go out of your comfort zone and send it to agents and editors. This is your first time writing a query letter, a synopsis, or any materials needed to share your novel with professionals in the publishing industry. As you go through this process, you don’t end up selling your book or signing with an agent. Did you fail? No. You may not have gotten the expected outcome, but you learned so much. Now, you know what it takes to pitch a book. You connected with people you would have never met otherwise. Your friends and family read the book and gave you good feedback. This is all a win.
It’s easy to look at a “failure” and turn the blame on yourself. Humans like having explanations for why certain things occur. Failure is no different. But the way you might be explaining your failure may be preventing you from taking risks and leaving your comfort zone later.
Martin Seligman, a positive psychologist and the author of Learned Optimism broke down how we explain failure into three dichotomies: global vs. local, permanent vs. temporary, and internal vs. external. Essentially, if you can view failure as local and temporary, you are more likely to try again with the belief that success is still within your grasp. If you blame the failure on yourself, you can apply your growth mindset to your experience and do better next time. If you blame the failure on external factors, you can at least feel comfortable knowing that you have done everything correctly and need to adjust your external surroundings.
There is a difference between moving outside your comfort zone and doing something that generally makes you uncomfortable. Moving out of your comfort zone is a deliberate choice to grow, even if the process is challenging. In contrast, engaging in uncomfortable activities without a purpose can lead to negative consequences and is often unproductive.
At this juncture, it's crucial to consider the impact of an individual's locus of control—whether it's internal or external. Understanding the difference between an internal and external locus of control can profoundly affect how we approach these challenges. Individuals with an external locus of control might view the prospect of moving outside their comfort zone skeptically. They feel that external factors—luck, destiny, or the actions of others—dominate their chances of success. This mindset might deter them from embracing growth opportunities due to a belief that the system is inherently unfair or out of their hands.
Conversely, those with an internal locus of control see themselves as the architects of their destiny. They perceive challenges as chances to advance and shape their path. When confronted with a situation that requires stepping out of their comfort zone, they recognize it as an opportunity to develop new skills and capabilities. For example, rather than resorting to cheating on a test—a behavior stemming from an external locus of control—a person with an internal locus would opt to study harder or seek assistance, trusting their ability to learn and triumph through their efforts.
This internal locus of control not only fosters a resilient mindset but also empowers individuals to learn from failures and to seek personal and professional development continuously. It encourages a proactive approach to life, where actions are seen as influential and meaningful, shaping the trajectory of one's future.
Can Someone Be Your Comfort Zone?
Your comfort zone is any opportunity or environment where you feel at ease and in control. The factors in your environment can be the place where you are living, the expectations you must live up to, or even the people you interact with every day.
If you only feel comfortable making a big decision after consulting your friend, your friend may be in your comfort zone. If you feel anxious going on a trip alone, the people who would normally accompany you may be in your comfort zone. This is not to say that you should discard them entirely, but do not let an opportunity pass you by just because you’ll be away from certain people, and therefore, the opportunity is out of your comfort zone.
Good friends, family members, and colleagues will encourage you to grow and leave your comfort zone.
Quotes About Leaving Your Comfort Zone
- “Do one thing every day that scares you.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
- “The further you get away from yourself, the more challenging it is. Not to be in your comfort zone is great fun.” - Benedict Cumberbatch
- “The biggest rewards in life are found outside your comfort zone. Live with it. Fear and risk are prerequisites if you want to enjoy a life of success and adventure.” -Jack Canfield
- “Very successful people don’t seek comfort, they seek success and are willing to do what is most uncomfortable. But most of the world is seeking comfort and familiarity, which are traps that cause you to settle for the mediocre. If you want to get to the next level of your business, you’ve got to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” – Grant Cardone
- “I constantly get out of my comfort zone. Looking cool is the easiest way to mediocrity. The coolest guy in my high school ended up working in a carwash. Once you push yourself into something new. And a whole new world of opportunities opens up. But you might get hurt, you will get hurt. But amazingly, when you heal — You are somewhere you’ve never been.” -Terry Crews
- “What I find interesting is to try and mix it up, to push myself and try different things. I don’t want to stay in my comfort zone. I want to take risks and keep myself scared.”- Michael Fassbender
- “The best advice someone has ever given me was ‘do it scared.’ And no matter if you’re scared, just go ahead and do it anyway because you might as well do it scared, so it will get done and you will feel so much better if you step out of your comfort zone.” - Sherri Shepherd