How much do you love your comfort zone? My comfort zone is my favorite place in the world. It’s where I feel safe, where I know everything that could possibly happen. There’s nothing wrong with having a comfort zone; there’s not even anything wrong with wanting to be in it. However, there are times when a comfort zone becomes a comfort cage.
The prospect of stepping outside of your comfort zone-even for just a few minutes-can be terrifying, particularly if you rarely do it. The world outside the safety net is full of potential unknown perils.
I know this fear well. When I studied in Los Angeles last semester, I found myself in situations where I had no choice but to leave my comfort zone by engaging in activities I would never normally have considered doing of my own free will.
I practically lived outside of my comfort zone for weeks at a time, and the experience changed me. Venturing out into the nerve-wracking and unfamiliar world around me instilled more confidence and a new excitement in me.
Only when I left my comfort zone did I understand the difference between comfort and delight. Comfort is soothing and reassuring, but it doesn’t excite or delight. Inside my comfort zone I felt safe and consoled by the familiar, but I was missing out on the enjoyment of trying something new and learning more about myself in the process.
Going outside of your comfort zone enables you to grow and to learn more about yourself and others. Sure, the world can be scary, but it can also be fun and exciting. If you try to never leave your comfort zone, you’ll never learn what else you can do.
Leaving your comfort zone takes practice. It isn’t always easy to get started. Here are some suggestions for how to begin.
Set a goal for yourself to perform a certain number of “out-of-your-comfort-zone” activities each week or month. It helps to share this goal with someone you trust. Accountability partners aren’t just for prayer or Bible studies. If the thought of doing something new and unusual scares you, then find a friend to join you. Having company automatically makes the prospect less intimidating.
If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, make a list of activities you do on a regular basis and a separate list of things you rarely ever do. (Avoid including anything illegal on either list. I’m not encouraging anyone to break the law, even if that is outside your comfort zone.)
Another method is to try going somewhere you’ve never been before or somewhere you wouldn’t normally think to go. The key is to be deliberate about it. If interacting with strangers makes you uncomfortable, make it a point to talk to someone new every day.
In my own experience, I had to take a class last fall that required me to do a short routine of stand-up comedy and later to rap in front of a large group of people.
The point of these exercises wasn’t to be good at them. I have no interest in pursuing a career as either a comedian or a rapper. The point was to prove that I could have fun doing something I previously considered outrageous and uncomfortable.
That’s why I think it’s important for everyone to experiment with leaving his or her comfort zone, especially if he or she doesn’t do it often. In the end, stepping outside of your comfort zone is not about snatching a new experience and then scurrying back to a cozy cage. It’s about expanding the comfort zone and growing in the process.