Despite all of the motivational quotes that say getting out of your comfort zone is essential for a happy life, it’s still a struggle breaking from regular routine. Taking a risk is always a scary prospect at first, if only because the unknown is so uncertain. Yet as it turns out, there’s science backing why we’re so reluctant to explore new boundaries and so complacent in staying where we are.
What exactly is a comfort zone? Well, its scientific roots go back to a classic psychology experiment by Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson, where the scientists deemed a state of relative comfort was necessary to create a steady level of performance. Yet to maximize performance, we need to reach a level of optimal anxiety, where your stress levels are slightly higher than normal. Too much anxiety will lead to a drop in performance since we’re too stressed by internal and external expectations. While this idea of figuring out what is just enough of a challenge without being overwhelming isn’t anything new, anyone knows that when you put your mind to a goal, pushing yourself can really pay off. Your comfort zone is a space for balance, and is neither good nor bad. It’s simply a natural tendency we all have, and while leaving it can induce anxiety and stress, it’s often for the best.
The benefits to leaving your comfort zone are multifaceted, impacting not only your emotional health but also your work-life balance. For instance, your work productivity will increase because you’ll no longer be stuck being complacent in tasks that are easy for you. Rather than pretending to be busy, you’ll feel the impact of a deadline and strive to learn from new experiences. By breaking out of your comfort zone, you will be prepped to deal with new and unexpected changes in life. Brene Brown, a research professor at University of Houston, explains this phenomenon further, where “one of the worst things we can do is pretend fear and uncertainty don’t exist. By taking risks in a controlled fashion and challenging yourself to things you normally wouldn’t do, you can experience some of that uncertainty in a controlled, manageable environment. Learning to live outside your comfort zone when you choose to can prep you for life changes that force you out of it.” You’ll find a renewed sense of optimism regarding obstacles, and brainstorm to utilize creativity to get yourself to your desired goal.
So, how do you break out of your comfort zone? It’s important to keep in mind striking the optimal anxiety level for you, so here are easy life hacks to get out of your comfort zone. Try doing everyday things differently, like switching up your workout routine from morning to night. Volunteer yourself for a task you’ve never done before and learn from the experience. Transform your decision making by taking a long or short time making choices, depending on what’s normal for you. Slowly take small steps toward facing your fears, and you’ll find the original boundaries of your comfort zone will have expanded to a newfound sense of freedom.
Getting out of your comfort zone is definitely a way to challenge yourself in a beneficial way, as long as you’re aware of what your limitations are for just enough anxiety and stress. You can stretch your personal boundaries to do amazing things, like climbing Kilimanjaro or meeting new people. As you break out of your comfort zone though, make sure you take time to recover mentally by coming back to your routine occasionally so you don’t burn out. Soon, you’ll find yourself making it a habit to leave your comfort zone to pursue greater, better things.