Living Outside Our Comfort Zone

What is your comfort zone? It's an expression we use when we don't want to do something that scares us. We might say "that's out of my comfort zone." But it's more than just an expression.
Carolyn Ziel is a holistic coach and writer.
stepping out of your comfort zone
Carolyn Ziel is a holistic coach and writer.

Carolyn Ziel explains the benefits and difficulties of stepping outside of your comfort zone and outlines three helpful prompts to begin your journey.

Stepping Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

The Science Behind It

Science defines comfort zone as a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person and they are at ease and in control of their environment, experiencing low levels of anxiety and stress.

So, if that’s living within our comfort zone, what does it mean to live outside of our comfort zone?

Robert M. Yerks and John D. Dodson, two psychologists, explained in 1908 that a state of relative comfort created a steady level of performance — which is not a bad thing. But what if you want to maximize your performance? What if you want to live a bigger life, one that is more satisfying and dare I say magical?

The State Of Optimal Anxiety

To do that we need a state of relative anxiety, a space where our stress levels are a bit higher than normal. They called this space outside of your comfort zone optimal anxiety.

You’ve heard it before: “Outside of your comfort zone is where real life happens.” That when you push yourself to do uncomfortable things, you grow, you gain a deeper understanding of who you are as a human being. You learn what it means to become a more well rounded and flexible person. You come to understand that risk isn’t necessarily a bad thing, that failure isn’t either, and as Winston Churchill said: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

When you choose safety and comfort over risk, you aren’t living to your fullest capacity. In fact, you may feel unfulfilled. You may feel stuck. You may feel, given that you’re in your comfort zone, a little uncomfortable, a little restless, a little wondering what’s next.

You have to find your own stride in doing this, your own balance. This is your journey. You don’t want to create too much anxiety in your life. When we become too stressed, we’re not productive. In fact, our performance drops off sharply.

Read more: Learn how the feeling of discomfort—in yoga, meditation and life in general—is an important aspect of personal and spiritual growth.

We Want To Feel Safe

But before we investigate different ways to break through the barriers of our comfort zone, the walls that hold us in, we’re going to look at why we’re here in the first place. What keeps us here? And before you start beating yourself up, “Gee, why am I here? No one else is.” FYI, this is normal. It’s our wiring.

We are wired for it as human beings, we want to feel safe. Why do we feel safe in our comfort zone? Because it’s familiar. It’s scary on the other side.

Read more: Explore how to overcome fear of judgement, let go of insecurities and stop caring about what others think.

The thing is, outside of our comfort zone, that’s where all the awesome stuff happens. That’s where all the really neat, really cool, really exciting stuff happens in our lives. Everyone’s comfort zone is different. My comfort zone is different from your comfort zones.

So I’d like to start this journey together by taking a moment and doing some writing. Writing is a brilliant tool. Because of how our brains are wired it allows us to discover things about ourselves. You can use writing to discover. Right now we’re going to take a moment and turn toward our journals together. Open a blank page and I’m going to ask you some questions.

Three Questions For Understanding Your Own Comfort Zone

I’d like you, without overthinking, to just write the answers as they come to you.

Take a moment to get centered, to get comfortable. Close your eyes and just follow your breath, just for a moment, breathing in, breathing out, letting go of any preconceived thoughts or ideas that might be in your head right now. Just be open. Say to yourself “I am open to discovering maybe something new about myself. I am open to discover.”

  1. Your first prompt is: what makes you feel comfortable, what makes you feel uncomfortable?
  2. For this second prompt, I want you to be as detailed as possible. Describe how it feels for you when you are living within your comfort zone. Use a lot of feeling words and think about how it feels in your body, how it feels in your mind, how it feels in your life. This question, this prompt may take a little while for you. You may need to step away and come back and that’s okay.
  3. For this last prompt, try to be even more creative, more detailed than you were in the prompt before. You can use color and images, you could create scenes. It doesn’t matter how you do this. What I want you to do is to describe in detail a life where you are living beyond your comfort zone. If you feel that you’re not sure what this life would be yet, that’s okay. Just try. You can always come back to this question later on. You can come back to all these prompts later on. You can review them down the road.

Meditate with Carolyn: You find it hard facing a blank page? These hand-picked meditations led by Carolyn Ziel help to turn toward your creative process with a new found outlook and let your imagination flourish:

  1. Mindfulness In Your Creative Practice Carolyn Ziel 10:36
  2. Surrendering To Your Creative Process Carolyn Ziel 10:41
  3. Let's Set An Intention: To Be Love In The Room Carolyn Ziel 10:01

You may come back to these prompts in six months because the nature of the comfort zone is we’re always pushing beyond. We don’t push beyond our comfort zone just once and that’s it, we’re done. The nature of life is that we’re continuing to push beyond. We get comfortable, we move on.

For now, review what you’ve written here. Did anything new occur to you? Any aha moments, anything that struck you? And drop your thoughts about that as well.

You have made the first attempts of stepping outside your comfort zone. In her 10-day course on Insight Timer “How To Live Outside Your Comfort Zone”, Carolyn Ziel teaches you how to identify the hidden barriers that keep you in the comfort zone and how to eventually break through.

Meditation. Free.