Shallow breath, heart racing, sweaty palms, all five senses at full attention -- that terrifying yet thrilling moment when you step out of your comfort zone and fear enthralls you. Lifehacker defines ‘comfort zone’ as a “space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk”. Sounds pretty boring, right? While venturing out of that safe space may cause you to feel uneasy, it can also lead to some of the most rewarding experiences of your life. When fear confronts you, you have two choices - you can shy away and stay in your comfort zone, or you can face it head on. Here’s why we think you should choose the latter every time.
It opens your mind and expands your horizons.
As human beings, we tend to find a comfortable routine and stick to it. Even when it seems stagnant and lifeless, we continue to chug along. It’s only when you step into a new element and decide to do something that scares you - like traveling to a foreign country alone or trying surfing or skydiving for the first time - that you see things in a new light and perspective. Getting out of your comfort zone as often as possible is a great way to open your mind to new possibilities. Not only will you learn more about what the world has to offer outside of your daily bubble, but you will have richer experiences to draw from to harness creativity in your everyday life.
It’s extremely empowering.
In order to thrive in life, it’s essential to constantly grow and evolve as a person. How often do you pass something by because of fear? Because it’s much too far out of your comfort zone? Until you try something, how will you know if you actually enjoy it or not? Succeeding at something you thought you would fail at, or never considered trying because it’s just too far out there, will show you just how powerful you actually are. You will start to realize that you are the agent in your own life and that you can rise to the occasion and triumph whatever it may be that you choose to do.
Repeated exposure to that uncomfortable feeling will even help push the boundaries of your ‘comfort zone’. The more you challenge yourself, the more your body adjusts to that feeling of anxiety and the more you start to trust yourself to make snap decisions successfully. So maybe you tried skydiving and weren’t crazy about it, but knowing you can survive the experience and grow from it is an irreplaceable feeling.
In the end, you’ll only regret the things you didn’t do.
Paint this picture. You’re 100 years old, sitting on your porch, sipping a cup of tea and telling your great-grandkids how you decided not to scale Mount Everest with your buds because you were just too scared. Too bad they all returned safely to tell you how it was the most mind-blowing, eye-opening trip of their lives. We were not put on this earth to merely watch from a distance, so don’t let fear hold you back from once in a lifetime experiences. Look at it this way -- if you were watching the movie of your life -- would you be bored or would you be completely absorbed, unable to look away? Challenge yourself daily and avoid a life which would make any audience yawn. Regret is almost a worse feeling than fear.
So how exactly can you work on getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing more of what the world has to offer?
Identify and evaluate your fear.
As a first step, it’s good to stop and ask yourself if you are really in a situation that you may be harmed. Generally, the fear you feel when you are preparing to take a leap of faith into the unknown is manifested by your mind. Brene Brown, a professor and author who researches the topic, relates fear to vulnerability, “I think the first thing we have to do is figure out what’s keeping us out of the arena. What’s the fear? Where and why do we want to be braver? Then we have to figure out how we’re currently protecting ourselves from vulnerability. What is our armor? Perfectionism? ... Control? … It’s not easy to walk into that arena, but it’s where we come alive.”
A steady breath is often one of the first things to go when fear or discomfort takes over. Practicing breath and mind control is arguably an essential part to overcoming any mental obstacle. Knowing that there is a safe, peaceful space existing within you that you can control and come back to at any time will help you maintain your cool when experiencing new, scary things. It can also be helpful to visualize yourself safely completing the activity that you are taking on. Whether it’s overcoming a physical fear or a mental block, you can free your mind a little by slowing down, going through the motions and feeling what it feels like to step into discomfort before you actually get there. Then practice breathing through that feeling. Repeating a mantra to replace fear with positivity is also extremely powerful in these situations. For example, if you are pushing your body to new physical limits, something like “I am capable, I am strong, I can overcome anything.” can be extremely empowering.
Make small changes to your daily life.
The statement go big or go home does not apply when it comes to trying new things! Don’t be afraid to start small. If you’re terrified of public speaking, signing up to speak in front of a massive crowd of people right off the bat will not be in your best interest. Opt instead for a smaller event or venue with people you feel comfortable around.
Whether it’s trying a new food or a new running trail, making yourself a little uncomfortable on the reg can help you get a new perspective and put you in more control of your fears. It’s okay to work your way up to the big stuff, just make sure you’re moving in the right direction.
As Arianna Huffington stated: “We will never completely eliminate fear from our lives, but we can definitely get to the point where our fears do not stop us from daring to think new thoughts, try new things, take risks, fail, start again, and be happy.”
So go find out what the world has to offer and conversely, learn what you have to offer the world. Grow, stretch, reach for the unimaginable - open your mind and then fearlessly take that leap of faith.