Comfort Zone

You’ve heard people say you need to step out of your comfort zone, right?  You need to stretch yourself, they say. It’ll be good for you. Everyone seems to agree with this idea, but where is the Comfort Zone? The Comfort Zone, as defined by Lifehacker, is a “behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk” - the operative words here being stress and risk. In our comfort zone, there is a sense of familiarity, security and certainty. When we step outside of our comfort zone, we’re taking a risk, and opening ourselves up to the possibility of stress and anxiety. We’re not quite sure what will happen and how we will react. There are benefits you get after stepping outside of your comfort zone - the overall self-improvement you get through the skills you're learning, the new foods you're trying, the new country you're visiting, and the new job you're interviewing for. There's also the mental benefits you get from broadening your horizons.

The featured photo above was captured on the beach in Runaway Bay, Jamaica while I was on vacation. The hotel security team did not allow neighboring residents near the protected area of the beach to sell their goods. So, these entrepreneurs devised their own cook shop on a bamboo raft that they pushed with very long sticks along the beach.  It was my first time witnessing guests, swimming out to purchase cooked food from a raft in the ocean. This raft had freshly caught seafood (as described by customers) cooked to order on a gas grill. How fresh could it be, like did they just catch the lobster on their way towards the hotel?  The men would blow a horn to signal their arrival and only accepted US Dollars for the sale. No restaurant reviews and no food prep inspections. Yes, hotel guests clearly stepped out of their comfort zone and many did upon the floated kitchen arrival. The word quickly got around the hotel and some just wanted the experience. Not Me. This was far out of my comfort zone and I can't even swim. Every year I get out of my comfort zone on our family vacations, by taking day trips to locations that I have not been before. But, I am a snob when it comes to my food and get overjoyed with many other little things.

Please note. . . I'm not an advocate of sky diving over the ocean, trekking in the amazon without protective gear, or swimming with sharks. Just simple ways to break out of your comfort zone without going too far:
  • Do everyday things differently. Take a different route to work.  Go vegetarian for a week, or a month. Whether the change you make is large or small, make a change in the way you do things on a day-to-day basis. Look for the perspective that comes from any change, even if it's negative. Don't be put off if things don't work out the way you planned.
  • Take your time making decisions. Sometimes slowing down is all it takes to make you uncomfortable - specially if speed and quick thinking are important in your work or personal life. Observe what's going on, take your time to interpret what you see, and then intervene. Sometimes just defending your right to make an educated decision can push you out of your comfort zone. Think, don't just react.
  • Trust yourself and go with your Gut.  Just as there are people who thrive on snap decisions, others are more comfortable weighing all of the possible options several times, over and over again. Sometimes making a snap call is in order, just to get things moving. Doing so can help you kickstart your personal projects and teach you to trust your judgement.
  • Do it in small steps. It takes a lot of courage to break out of your comfort zone. You get the same benefits whether you go in with both feet as you do if you start slow, so don't be afraid to start slow.
  • Enlist Friends. Doing something new on your own can make it even more challenging. There’s no reason you can’t rely on friends or family to help you get out of your comfort zone! Pick someone who’s naturally adventurous to be your partner in trying new experiences.
    You can't live outside of your comfort zone all the time. You need to come back from time to time to process your experiences. The last thing you want is for the new and interesting to quickly become commonplace and boring.  What you do is noticed by others, whether you realize it or not. People are watching you, and what you do gives them an inspiring role model for growth and change.

    What holds most of us back from stepping out of our comfort zone however, is Fear. We all have such a huge fear of failure in our lives. Any new skill always feels awkward and stressful at first, but the more you do it, the more comfortable it will be. The best way to step out of your comfort zone is to Travel to some place, away from your city, town or country. You will find people just like you doing the same things. You get to experience the culture, and make so many friends from all over the world. We Grow, we Learn, and we Enjoy!

    Have you stepped out of your comfort zone and enjoyed yourself?