7 Simple Ways to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone Without Feeling Anxious
The world is changing faster than our ability to keep up. The only ones who will survive are the ones who keep adapting to new circumstances.
Adaptability is the ability to become flexible and efficient in any situation. It’s an important meta-skill that amplifies other deep skills like learning, resilience, and decision-making.
Like your willpower, concentration, and biceps, adaptability is a muscle that gets stronger with use. An effective way to use this muscle is to step outside your comfort zone regularly.
But that sounds like a frightening idea. Even successful people feel nervous—if not terrified—while stepping outside it. It might be hard to believe, considering the amazing results they achieve. The truth is they just have a larger comfort zone, one which they’ve built with practice.
You can do the same. The best part is that don’t need to bungee-jump or do the thing that frightens you to get out of your comfort zone. You can conduct tiny experiments daily—so tiny that the stakes of failure are negligible.
The more you step outside your comfort zone, the larger it grows. It’s like driving or lifting weights: with consistency, your skills and strength improve.
Here are seven simple things you can do to step outside your comfort zone without getting overwhelmed.
1. Visit a new dine-out.
Eat a dish you’ve never eaten at a café, restaurant, street cart, or food truck you’ve never been to before. The worst that could happen is that you’ll have one bad meal.
2. Read a book outside your genre of interest.
If you’re a fiction aficionado, read a non-fiction book and vice versa. Start with a book a good friend recommends. If you don’t enjoy it, put it down.
The worst that could happen is that you’ll read a few boring pages. But if you approach this experiment with curiosity, your mind will feel engaged and stretched. You can do this for movies and Netflix series as well.
3. Explore a new path with the GPS turned off.
For many people, the GPS has become as important as air. There’s no problem with it. But an over-reliance on Google Maps limits our capacity to explore.
So here’s a harmless experiment: Once a week, turn off the GPS and explore a road you’ve never been on.
The worst that could happen is you’ll reach a wrong place or a dead-end, and you’ll have to spend 10 minutes returning to the correct road. The best that could happen? You’ll discover a spot or a shortcut you never knew about.
4. Delay renewing your Netflix subscription by 2 weeks.
The worst that will happen is you’ll get bored (or struggle with FOMO because you didn’t watch the latest episode of Money Heist) in your spare time and renew your subscription before the two weeks are up.
The best that could happen is that you could fill that spare time with more rewarding activities. Like getting regular with your exercise, meaningfully engaging with your partner or children, or connecting with a friend you haven’t heard from in a while.
Speaking of which…
5. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in 6 months.
It takes courage and humility to reach out to someone you haven’t been in touch with.
Courage because the task appears daunting. You wonder what they’ll think or whether they even want to talk to you. (In fact, any phone call feels daunting to most people today.) Humility because we have to suppress the “let-them-reach-out-first” feeling, which is nothing but ego.
In either case, biting this bullet pushes you outside your comfort zone.
The worst that could happen is they won’t answer the call nor will they call back. Or you’ll have a dull conversation, which will signal that the friendship is no longer what it used to be.
The best that could happen? You could have an amazing time catching up. The conversation could leave you feeling good for hours, if not days. You’ll be surprised how many people will say they’re glad you called and how many confess they’ve been meaning to call you because something reminded them of you.
A genuine back-and-forth while talking for even 10 minutes feels far more fulfilling than text messaging for two hours.
6. Learn a new word.
Learning is important, but it also feels boring to many people. This is because they carry an incorrect notion—that learning, like during our school days, is boring because it’s all about rote memory.
Also, “learning something new” is a broad term. And learning something new every day either is unsustainable or becomes superficial very quickly.
Instead, just learn a new word in your language or a different one—a friend’s, colleague’s, or an acquaintance’s.
The worst that could happen is you won’t grasp the word or you’ll forget it within a minute. That’s not so bad, is it? But if you keep doing this, learning will become fun over time. And you won’t feel averse to diving into more complex things.
By the way, today’s new word for today is dilettante: a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge.
7. Take a break during a busy day.
Switch off for 10 minutes on a busy day. And I mean actually switch off.
When you have a lot on your plate, just put all your electronic devices on silent, lie down, and focus on taking deep breaths. Each time you catch your thoughts wavering, bring them back to your breaths.
This could feel frightening. So much could be happening outside that you’re missing out on. (Hey FOMO!) But trust me when I say your family, team, and the world can function just fine for 10 minutes without you.
The worst outcome of an enforced break is you’ll get to know about something urgent 10 minutes after everyone else. Honestly, 10 minutes is nothing. The upside of tiny breaks far outweighs this trivial outcome.
Your brain’s beta-wave activity will drop, reducing your stress levels. You could experience an “Aha!” moment for a problem you’ve been stuck with. And each break will rejuvenate you and let you focus on the next task with more energy.
Stepping outside your comfort zone feels tough. But it becomes easier if you conduct tiny experiments whose results can be quickly reversed.
Get out of your comfort zone and return to it quickly. Process what you experienced. Over time, the results will compound and yield amazing results.
You’ll feel less anxious and be more open to challenges. You’ll become adaptable. And you won’t even know when you’ll turn into an amazing person you never imagined you could become.
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