Humans are creatures of comfort. Once we get into a routine or habit, it’s hard to change our ways. This can be the influence of society, personality, or even evolution–which calls on us to keep ourselves safe above all else.
It can be easy to fall into a rut in our love lives, professional efforts, or leisure activities. This place is known as the “comfort zone,” and it can be a hard place from which to escape. Luckily, there are many strategies and tips that will help you stretch yourself beyond the limits.
1. Understand your own comfort zone.
One of the first steps toward leaving the comfort zone is understanding what makes you comfortable. Why do you do what you do? What keeps you feeling safe, and comfortable? What makes you afraid? This requires no action except for meditative thought on your mindset.
2. Randomize your reading.
Whether you’re an avid reader or only sometimes pick up a book, it can be easy to turn to the same sorts of material time and time again. Try something new. Pick up a book that’s the opposite of what you normally gravitate to, or even pick a book at random. It’s a great way to get a new angle on life. Self-made billionaires read to stay on top of trends and gain insight into the world around them.
3. Turn off the tech.
This stretching challenge can truly be excruciating in our modern world. Try turning off all of your tech. This includes your cell phone, TV, desktop, and tablet. See if you can go 24 hours without looking at an electronic screen. By tuning out your tech, you’re getting out of your routine and making time for new activities.
4. Go somewhere new.
Most of us have a house and a workplace where we spend most of our time. When you’re trying to get out of your comfort zone, you’ll have to change the scene. Go somewhere new. This doesn’t even mean trying something new. It just means putting yourself in a new environment.
5. Be a “yes” person.
When we’re in our routines, we know what is expected of us. We know our duties at home and at work, and it can be tempting to stay in those bounds. If you’re able and willing, try saying “yes” the next time someone asks you to help them out, ride along, or try something new. The “no” will resist, but this is a great exercise to get out of the zone.
6. Get feedback.
Whether you’re a business person, an artist, or a stay-at-home parent, it can be easy to get stuck in a feedback loop. Work in the office? Sit down with a coworker you don’t know and ask how you might improve your efforts.
Like to sing as a hobby? Record yourself and put it on Youtube. Stay at home with the kids? Use an online parent group to ask for pointers on a child-care strategy. Hearing fresh voices can help you stretch yourself in the future.
The next time you’re away from home, talk to a new person. It could be a coworker you don’t normally interact with, someone waiting at the bus stop, or a lonely looking person at the bar. Opening up for a conversation is perhaps the most human way to stretch your boundaries.
8. Be competitive.
Whether you consider yourself competitive or not, you can step outside of the comfort zone by invoking your more aggressive instincts. Your opportunity may be professional, social, or even romantic. No matter the context, try to see how you can outdo everyone else—including yourself!
9. Seek success.
You may consider yourself a successful person, but there’s usually someone out there doing it even better. Find that person and make them a mentor. Seeing someone else working or playing at something successfully can be great inspiration to grow.
10. Involve a friend or colleague.
The next time you’re working or playing, call a friend. It doesn’t have to be a regular event, or a special occasion. Just involving your friend in a simple activity can offer new perspective and get you out of the comfort zone.
11. Wreck your routine.
One strategy that seems almost too obvious is breaking habits. This can mean making big changes, or small ones. Do you always brush your teeth before you shower? Reverse the order. Always take a certain route to work? Take a different path tomorrow. You might be surprised how a tiny change make you feel.
12. Evaluate motivation.
We often live our lives as robots: waking up to work, coming home to be with family, sleeping to until the next day. Try breaking your day into smaller chunks. Ask yourself why you’re doing what you do. Looking at our lives in terms of discrete moments of motivation can offer a way out of the zone.
13. Make a move.
This can be difficult, but try making a big move toward a goal. Our dreams and aspirations can often get lost in the daily grind. Take time to make an audacious leap forward toward a goal you’ve got, no matter how crazy it might seem.
Too often we let fear of failure hold us back. Whether it’s for one moment, one activity, one day, or beyond, let yourself accept the notion of failure. When we understand that not everything has to be a success, we understand that we can try new things we never thought possible.
15. Have fun.
We all live busy, hard-working lives. We lose sight of fun far too often. Sometimes letting go of work, our responsibilities, and our serious side can help us leave the comfort zone in a hurry. Loosen up, relax, and have fun.
16. Take it to the limit.
Push yourself a little more. When you’re working or playing, take it just a little further. Program a few more lines of code, write a few more hundred words, work on that painting for a few for minutes. Just when you feel ready to stop, push forward. As with a physical workout, this can be when we experience the most growth.
17. Write it down.
Journaling can be a fantastic way to step outside the comfort zone. Try writing down your feelings, thoughts, and fears. Being able to read over these components of your psyche can help shed light on why you do what you do.