My friend Susan isn’t very adventurous. In fact, when anyone suggests a trip to another country or even another state she turns them down flat. “I’m not much of a traveler,” she’ll say. The truth is, the very thought of traveling to a strange place makes her feel uncomfortable and pushes her out of her comfort zone.
Wikipedia describes a comfort zone as “a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.”
There are inspirational quotes that encourage you to get out and do something you wouldn’t normally do, but those ignore or downplay just how much work it takes.
There’s a lot of science that explains why it’s so hard to break out of your comfort zone and why it’s good for you when you do. But when you push the boundaries of your comfort zone it’s a big deal. That’s because your comfort zone is a space where your activities fit a routine that minimizes stress and risk. It gives you a state of mental security– which is a comfortable place to be.
Strange as it may seem, breaking out of your comfort zone can maximize performance, if you don’t overdo it. It’s called Optimal Anxiety. Optimal Anxiety is the ideal. It slightly boosts your anxiety level to just outside your comfort zone, but there are so many benefits when you do:
- You’ll be more productive. Comfort can kill productivity. Without the sense of unease of deadlines and expectations, we tend to “phone it in” and do the minimum required to get by. We lose the drive and ambition to do more, do better, and learn new things.
- You’ll have an easier time dealing with new and unexpected changes. By taking risks in a controlled way and doing things you wouldn’t normally do, you experience uncertainty in a controlled, manageable environment.
- You’ll find it easier to push your boundaries in the future. Once you start stepping out of your comfort zone, it gets easier and easier. You’ll grow accustomed to that state of optimal anxiety.
- You’ll find it easier to brainstorm and harness your creativity. Seeking new experiences, learning new skills, and opening the door to new ideas inspires us and educates us in a way that little else does. Trying new things can make us reflect on our old ideas and identify where they clash with our new knowledge. It inspires us to learn more, see old problems in a new light, and tackle the challenges we face with new energy.
There are reasons that you should step out of your comfort zone occasionally, the most important is the overall self-improvement you get through learning new skills, trying new foods and exploring new locations.
you did something for the first time?