We’ve all heard the phrase ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you’…but do we truly understand its meaning? We’re all guilty from time to time of choosing the easy path, or the path of least resistance, because that’s how we’re designed. It’s a daunting concept to truly test our physical, mental and emotional limits.
It widely thought that it is outside the safety and warmth of our individual comfort zones that we experience the most growth, yet we choose to rarely go there. We’re comfortable being comfortable so why would we? Why aren’t we more comfortable being uncomfortable?
When we talk about leaving our comfort zone, and imagine what it would feel like, most of us instantly imagine a worst-case scenario. Whether it be in sport, exercise, business, our relationships, we immediately think ‘what is the worst possible thing that could happen to me in this situation’, when in fact, the growth that we speak about that happens outside of our comfort zone, requires only a small amount of discomfort, which, more often than not, does not last for very long.
This means that to achieve growth by spending more time outside of our comfort zones is a lot more achievable than we think, and each time we push that little bit harder in the gym, or have that potentially difficult conversation with our colleagues in the office, we are expanding the boundaries of our comfort zones, and testing our limits that little bit more each time.
This is something we should actively look to do regularly. The more often we deliberately put ourselves in potentially uncomfortable situations, the more we learn from them and the more we grow. This will look different person to person, as we all view discomfort differently, so we need to make sure we challenge our own views of ‘comfort’ and how situations of discomfort make us feel.
Using exercise as an example, think back to the last time you were working out and the exercises you were doing. Think about how difficult you found it on a scale from 1-10 (1-easy, 10-hard). Were you closer to 10 or closer to 1? If you were closer to 1, decide on what it is you would need to do to take you out of your comfort zone. This could be using more weight, doing more reps, or it might even be trying a different/new exercise that you haven’t tried before. It might only be 1% harder than last time you did it, but it is the sum of small efforts after all, and pushing yourself 1% harder every week for 3 months…well…you do the maths.
The same applies to all areas of our lives, not just from a physical activity point of view. For example, if you’re that person in the office who would rather send 15 emails than pick the phone up and call someone, maybe try sending 14 emails and making 1 phone call, then the week after send 13 emails and make 2 phone calls. Over time you’ll find yourself making more and more calls, and if you typically don’t like picking the phone up, you’ll find that each call you make will feel that little bit easier.
However it looks for you, try and become more comfortable putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. You’re probably a lot more capable of completing uncomfortable tasks thank you think, as it is usually our brain that limits us, so even if we do have the skills/know how to do something, as soon as there is the slightest bit of doubt, your brain is going to do everything it can to prevent you from doing it. Life is full of many opportunities to thrive outside of our comfort zone, however it’s taking those opportunities that is the difficult part.
A few things to consider/try when you’re wanting to experience growth and develop outside of your comfort zone:
1. Go about your day to day routine a little differently – each day provides us with plenty of opportunities to experience discomfort, take one, go with it, see how you feel afterwards.
2. Challenge your own skillset – look to develop new skills in areas you thought previously you weren’t very good at.
3. Be creative – think outside the box, make that crazy suggestion to your boss, try that complex looking exercise you saw on Instagram.
4. Challenge your own belief system – explore ideas that are different from your own, change who you go to for advice on a certain topic, be open to seeing things from other peoples point of view.
Most importantly of all…
'May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears'