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Challenging yourself to get outside your comfort zone

July 10, 2023
Jo Gray

Have you ever heard the phrase “growth begins at the end of your comfort zone”? As cliche as it sounds, there’s something to be said for it.

Living inside our comfort zone generally means sticking to what we know and not taking risks, whether that’s ordering the same takeaway every time or staying in a ‘safe’ job rather than chasing a dream. According to research, 55% of British people live entirely in their comfort zone, with 31% saying that they can’t remember the last time they did something new.

When we consider how the human brain works, it actually makes a lot of sense that so many of us prefer to err on the side of caution; our minds have been evolutionarily wired to avoid danger and stick to what feels safe and familiar. This can also mean fitting in with others and not wanting to go against the grain.

There isn’t anything wrong with hanging out in our comfort zone from time to time. In fact, there are positives, like feeling less stressed and having more time for ourselves. However, when we spend too much time there, it can actually sap our confidence, energy and motivation. That’s why it’s important to mix things up; the more that we challenge ourselves, the more we can get out of life.

Why is it good to get out of your comfort zone?

While no one likes the idea of feeling uncomfortable or stressed, placing a certain amount of pressure on ourselves can be a good thing. If we never pushed ourselves to try new things or meet new people, we’d simply stay stagnant and life could become quite boring.

Stepping outside of our comfort zone may feel scary to start with, but when we push past that fear, we can learn new skills and give ourselves the opportunity to grow as people. This can give us a greater sense of purpose, help us to realise our ambitions and achieve our goals.

And, the more regularly that we push ourselves, the more that our comfort zone will expand. Another benefit of this is that we become better at facing the unknown, so when life throws us unexpected hurdles, we are more resilient to stress and know how to respond better. Read more about this here.

How to step out of your comfort zone

  1. Reframe how you see challenges

    When something feels uncomfortable, unpleasant or scary, it’s tempting to write it off as a bad idea and avoid it altogether. Remember that this is our brain’s way of trying to protect us from a potential threat, but actually, challenging ourselves is supposed to feel uncomfortable and there’s a lot to be gained from new experiences. You can find some useful tips about how to support yourself during times of change here.
  2. Prioritise what's important

    There’s no point in making ourselves feel uncomfortable for no reason - the aim is to gain something from the experience. Pinpoint the areas of your life where you want to challenge yourself further; what are the potential rewards and are they worth the stress and inconvenience of putting yourself out there? Once you’ve identified these, you can make a plan of how to go after what you want.
  3. Expand your comfort zone gradually

    While challenging ourselves can be a wonderful thing, it’s also important that we don’t pile on too much pressure and become overwhelmed. Everyone’s stress threshold is different and some people can handle more significant changes than others. Keep in mind that stepping out of our comfort zone should feel rewarding, whereas if we push ourselves too hard, we may just feel panicked.

Start by noticing how much time you’re spending in your comfort zone and whether it’s holding you back. Is there more room for growth in certain areas? If so, challenge yourself to a degree that feels right for you, even if that’s just stepping one foot out of your comfort zone to begin with and building it up over time. Be patient with yourself on your journey (here are some tips in case you find yourself procrastinating) and remember to celebrate your wins, big or small.

ieso offers online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that can help with managing stress and anxiety. Find out more on our website.

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This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.
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