We are all creatures of comfort and familiarity. Whenever we step outside our comfort zone, sometimes also referred to as our familiar zone, we experience a level of discomfort or unease.
On such occasions, we can either challenge ourselves and keep moving forward, or we can retreat and step back into our comfort zone. If we want to continue to develop and grow, then we must be willing to step out of our comfort zone on a consistent basis.
The good thing is stepping out of our comfort zone doesn’t necessarily have to be something gigantic. I personally think it’s wiser to build up our confidence to challenge ourselves gradually and then over time, we can attempt the more challenging things like changing careers, starting a new business, or relocating to a different state or country.
One of the most challenging things I have done in my life is learning to speak in front of an audience. In my previous career, I had some experience of speaking in front of groups but they were mainly related to work or company issues, and the audience size was usually less than 50. Plus most of the presentations I gave were mainly focused on sharing information, not necessarily motivating or inspiring the audience to take action towards an outcome.
When I started learning the skills of professional speaking, I found it extremely challenging. Being an introvert, standing in front of an audience and sharing my story brought up so much fear in me that many times, I considered quitting. However I knew that learning to speak well in front of audiences was a skill that would serve me in the future, so I stuck with it.
I looked for speaking opportunities wherever I could in the early days. I called up Rotary clubs and asked if they were looking for a guest speaker. Luckily, most Rotary clubs were always needing guest speakers so I was able to gain valuable experience and improve my skills speaking in front of audiences ranging from 20 to 70 in size. Since then, I have been able to speak at business events, conduct corporate training programs and even speak internationally on a TEDx stage. This was all possible because I decided to challenge myself and was prepared to go outside of my comfort zone.
Stepping outside of our comfort zone allows us to tap into reserves we didn’t know we had plus it increases our confidence and awareness of what’s possible for us. Here are 15 ways to challenge yourself every day and step out of your comfort zone so that you gradually expand what you believe you’ve capable of achieving.
- Learn a new language. Instead of trying to learn a new language quickly and in a condensed period of time, consider the power of spaced repetition over a long period of time. That way, the chances of the new language staying with you increases dramatically.
- Watch a show or video in a foreign language. Similar to the previous point, your brain will be stimulated while it tries to make sense of what you are watching and listening, which can also help with your retention level if you’re learning a new language.
- Have a conversation with a stranger. Most of grew up being told not to talk to strangers. What could be a better way to challenge that belief than to actually talk to someone you don’t know. Who knows, that stranger may turn out to be someone valuable in your life.
- Do not touch your phone for a few hours. As much as our phones are now an integral part of our lives, it can also prevent us from having real conversations with those around us. Challenge yourself to just be present rather than reaching for your phone to find out what is going on in the world, especially the social media world.
- Go a day without complaining. Let’s face it — we all complain and moan about things that we do not like or agree with. When you’re able to experience a day without complaining, you will realise how much energy is wasted focusing on things that ultimately do not matter. Instead, it is better to direct all the energy towards something meaningful.
- Meditate a couple of times during the day. Meditation improves our ability to concentrate and provides us with much better clarity. Starting and ending a day with meditation will help you relax more and refocus on what you’d like to achieve.
- Turn off the television. If we’re really honest, we’ll admit that we don’t need to watch television. Instead of spending time in front of the box, use that time to have a conversation with a loved one or a friend or do something productive.
- Learn a new word. If you learn a new word every day for a year, that’s an additional 365 words you can add to your vocabulary. Multiply that over five years and that’s over 1800 new words that will now know. This can easily be done by subscribing to a word of the day service.
- Repair or mend a broken relationship. The relationships we have with others play an important part in how we see ourselves and how others see us. If there is someone that you are no longer on good terms with, challenge yourself to make that relationship better.
- Give someone a genuine compliment. People love compliments and saying something nice to someone can give them a boost and make them feel good about themselves. Plus you’ll also feel good for giving the compliment.
- Strengthen your opposite hand. It can be something simple as cleaning your teeth or preparing a meal. If you want to take it to the next level, try writing with your opposite hand.
- Describe your day in a journal. Being able to reflect back on your day takes discipline and effort, however the benefits are enormous. If you reflect back on your day, you give yourself the chance to extract lessons and reflect on how you can improve if you have a similar experience in the future.
- Have a sugar-free day. More and more studies are showing that processed sugar isn’t good for our bodies. The sad truth is we are exposed to foods with sugar every day. Start small and go one day without sugar and if you can, increase that to a few days a week.
- Smile more. It is actually much harder to frown and be angry than it is to smile. Plus smiling makes us and those around us feel good. Choose to smile more each day and you will have a different experience of work or life each day.
- Take one action towards a major goal. The process of setting goals is easier than the process of achieving them. Therefore by taking just one action every day towards a goal, it is inevitable that the goal will be achieved in due course. The actions you take daily will compound to generate the momentum you need to achieve the goal.
Stepping out of our comfort zone does not need to be hard nor does it need to be scary. By getting into the practice of doing something challenging each day, it will strengthen our resolve and our ability to deal with life’s challenges.
Question: What is another simple thing that can be done to step out of our comfort zone every day?
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