How to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Do you ever feel stuck?  Ever feel like you’re in a constant position of treading water, with no forward movement?

Chances are, you are.

We are creatures of habit, and we all do this thing in which we repeat the same patterns over, and over, and over again.  Not surprisingly, when we repeat the same patterns many times over, we also yield the same results many times over.  And we get stuck.

So if you want a change, and if you want to yield a different result, you have to break the pattern.  Do you want to?  Are you ready for that?

The thing about change is that it is entirely possible, and entirely up to you.  If you are someone who feels like it’s not entirely up to you, then honey, we’ve got some more work to do.  If you feel like the world is happening to you, and that you are where you are because of what someone did or didn’t to do and / or for you, you need to back up to a place and start changing your thinking, and come to accept that you are not a victim, and rather hold the key to your own growth, your own path, and ultimately your own life.

Once you understand that, all you need to do is decide to make the change.  Sounds simple enough, right?

The catch is that making changes will disrupt your comfort, interrupt your regularly scheduled program, and will challenge you from what you knew, or your way to finding out what you will know.  It is messy, uncomfortable, annoying, challenging, and sometimes just plain hard.

Until it isn’t.

Think of the example of wanting to lose weight.  If you’ve ever been in this position, you know you essentially have two choices in order to lose weight: eat differently, or work out differently.  Eating differently can feel annoying, because it hones your focus to be more disciplined to make better, healthier choices.  Working out differently is annoying because it changes the routine of your day, from what you were doing, to what you have to now do.

Both options feel annoying, until they become your new normal.  When they become your new normal, you’ve made it through the change; you feel great, because of the effects it has on your emotional, mental, and physical health, and your brain is happy again because it gets to slip back into ease mode, having adopted these new patterns that it now just has to follow rotely.

Our brain does not like change very much; it likes things simple, predictable, routinized, safe, repeated.  Change busts down those old familiar doors – even if they are continuously unhealthy for us in any way – and forces us to develop new ways of being, new ways of thinking, new ways of acting.

Picasso said that “every act of creation os first an act of destruction,” and this is no exception: in order to create a new way of being, we have to destroy the old way.  Hence why the discomfort.  Hence the need to step outside of that very comfortable zone, in order to make any real change.

Makes sense?

So the question is how?  If our brain is happy doing what it’s doing right now, and doing what it’s always done before, how do we step outside our comfort zone, and make the space for real change to occur?

Like this.

1. Decide you want the change: no joke.  This might sound simple and trite, but it’s the foundation of change.  DO YOU WANT IT?  Do you want a better relationship (with your partner, parents, kids, friends, self…), do you want a better career path, do you want to feel healthier?  Only you can make this decision, and only you will know when it feels right.  You will never be able to make any lasting change in your life because someone else wants you to – that drive MUST come from within.

2. Pull a George Costanza: also, not a joke.  There’s a Seinfeld episode that totally nails this concept.  You know, the one where George decides to do everything differently in his day:

Start challenging yourself to do things differently, especially where your thinking is involved.  For example, things you would have said “no” to before?  Try saying yes.  Typically an over planner?  Try letting go of the control for a while.  Always go to the same place with the same people?  Try somewhere new, and invite someone new along.  Shy?  Say hi to someone random.  These are small and subtle changes that will start to teach you what it feels like to live outside your comfort zone, and to relax into what that discomfort feels like.

3. Stay conscious: While you are learning to do something new, you need to be mindfully aware of that learning process.  You know how you can ride a bike now, or swim, or even drive standard without even thinking about it?  Now think back to when you were learning each of these new skills, and the conscious awareness / attention it took to learn them.  When you are aware, you can start to recognize what triggers your old patterns, that starts to lead you into old behavior.

It’s nighttime, therefore I snack.  I feel lonely, therefore I text an old – and bad – boyfriend.  I feel stressed, therefore I have a beer.

When you are paying attention to your feelings, you can talk yourself through them and make an alternative decision.

It’s nighttime, and I am not hungry, it’s just a pattern.  I’ll make some tea to hold and drink.

I feel lonely, and I know that I feel worse when I reach out to him.  I’m going to write in my journal instead.

I feel stressed.  I don’t need to numb that stress, I’ll go outside for a walk and think it through.

After some practice, you will teach yourself to get outside your comfort zone more comfortably. I don’t think it’s ever easy, but it gets easier as you learn what it feels like, when you learn that it passes, and when you learn how glorious it feels to have embraced and integrated the change into your life.

The times when you feel most resistant to something are often the times you are most ready to make the change.  Apathy isn’t a huge motivator; those moments of inner child “but I don’t waaaaaaaant to” are usually the markers, the little clues that you subconsciously DO want to, and that you’re more ready than you think.

Your challenge this week is to do something – even one thing – differently than you usually do.  Do something that challenges you, scares you, makes you feel resistant at first.  Use the above three steps as a guide, and allow yourself the courage to push through, and feel the wonder of coming out on the other side.

Change your thinking, change your patterns, change your behaviour, change your life.  One chicken salad sandwich on rye at a time.

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