What if I told you I’d give you £1,000 to make an important speech in front of 500 people? Would you take the offer? Does the mere thought of it make you feel sick even though the money is appealing? What about jumping out of an aeroplane or scuba diving with sharks?
When the very thought of certain activities drives fear or anxiety inside us, it’s because they’re outside our comfort zone. Public speaking, for example, is outside most people’s comfort zone and is often reported as our #1 fear. Our comfort zone is the sphere of activities that we feel comfortable with and that we can accomplish without any negative emotions like fear or anxiety. It also includes people, places, and things that result in only positive thoughts and feelings for us.
How Important is conquering your comfort zone?
Our comfort zone can limit our capabilities and cause us to put aside or delay our dreams and goals, or it can spur us on to great things.
Just like us, everyone’s ‘zone’ is different in size and shape and our ability to expand it can determine our potential for success.
The most successful people achieve their goals because they have learned to expand their comfort zone in order to get what they want.
The good news is that we can too!
By mentally conditioning ourselves, over time, to become more comfortable in new situations we can learn to overcome our fears, achieve our goals and even live our dreams.
Here’s 5 tips to get started on expanding your comfort zone
1. Understand your mindset.
Mental conditioning plays a large role in developing our comfort zone. This means that how we form our comfort zones begins in our own minds. Each of us already has preconceived ideas about what may feel comfortable or not for us, and we set up mental guidelines to stop us from stepping outside our ‘zone’.
These guidelines often surface as the stories that we tell ourselves about what we can and can’t do. So for example… “I’m not confident enough to do public speaking!” or “I’m not clever enough to start my own business.”
So essentially, we choose our own comfort zone boundaries! Becoming aware of and acknowledging our boundaries and the self-talk that comes with them is the first step to being able to expand them.
2. See the opportunities outside your comfort zone.
Often our comfort zone can stop us from seeing amazing opportunities because we effectively screen them out if they mean we’ll overstep our boundaries. Being more aware of the limitations we place on ourselves can help us raise our heads above the walls of our comfort zone to see the exciting, shiny and rewarding opportunities just waiting for us.
And guess what… once we see them we’re more likely to want to go after them. So go on… take a peek!
3. Assess the true risk of a situation.
When fear grips us and our boundaries fly up we can take a moment to stop and become aware of what the true risks are, as opposed to what we think or feel could happen. Recognising this difference can help to place our thoughts and feelings in reality rather than surrounding them with the barriers of our comfort zone.
The often-quoted advice to ask ourselves “what’s the worst that could happen” doesn’t always help though! Instead let’s try asking “what’s the BEST that could happen” as a way to see the potential benefits of stepping outside our comfort zone.
4. Take action: start disobeying some of your self-imposed rules.
Once we recognise our self-imposed boundaries we need to learn to conquer them. This means breaking the internal rules that our mind thinks are ‘keeping us safe’.
This isn’t easy!
Why? Well, because at a fundamental level our minds don’t always see the difference between our fear of one thing or another. So for some people their fear of public speaking or having a spider crawl up their arm is as great as jumping out of an aeroplane even though the actual danger is much less.
So how do we start?
Slowly! We need to gain confidence in our ability to overcome our boundaries by starting to take action and slowly breaking some of our self-imposed rules. And, importantly, this also includes changing our story. The combination of thought and action is more powerful than either on their own.
So, to take the public speaking fear or boundary we could:
Change our self talk from “I’m not confident enough to do public speaking!” to “I’m not confident enough to speak in front of 500 people yet, but I can speak in front of 5 people.”
Take action by picking a time when we’re with 5 people we trust and practise talking about something.
Yes, it’s a small step, but if we frame it as an action we’re taking to overcome our boundaries, it’s a step in the right direction. And every step forward will build our confidence.
Over time as our confidence grows we can push a little further, overstep a little more, break another rule, rewrite another story, to get where we want to be.
When stepping outside our comfort zone makes us feel good, the benefits start to outweigh the risks.
Free download: use these daily affirmations to help retrain your self-talk.
5. Be patient and kind to yourself.
Whenever we try something for the first time, it can feel really uncomfortable! We’re all conditioned to fight change and stay in our comfort zones.
Being patient, being aware of our self-imposed limitations and taking action in small steps allows our comfort zone to expand at a gradual, comfortable pace. The positive experiences we have as a result – like having fun doing our mini-talk to 5 people for example – help to reduce our fears and build our confidence to move forward.
So keep your dreams in sight! Who knows, perhaps conquering your comfort zone is all that stands between you, your goals and living a life you love?
Michelle Reeves is a goals and success coach for women, a mum of two under 8s, a PND survivor, MIND charity ambassador. She is craaazy passionate about helping busy mums find the space and grace in their day for THEM and grow their positivity, power and productivity. Check out her free resources, affordable courses and 121 coaching programmes at MichelleReevesCoaching.com or grab her free 5-day mini course ‘How to Overcome Overwhelm’ at bit.ly/goodbyeoverwhelm.