“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” American author Neale Donald Walsch’s famous quote goes. The gist of the saying is that, by deviating from your routine, and even placing yourself in situations that may at first be uncomfortable, you can grow as a person. It’s advice you’ve likely heard repeated numerous times throughout your life, but as Lifehacker points out, it’s often easier said than done:
“Your comfort zone is a behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk.”
So why, then, would you want to take the risk being uncomfortable in a new endeavor, and how can you accomplish it? Explore the science and reasoning behind taking the leap.
Exploration is backed by science
Apparently, a bit of stress is good for you. Studies going back as far as 1908, like those performed by psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson showed that with just a bit of stress, humans could maximize their performance, improving their productivity, creativity and the ability to handle unexpected changes:
Efficiency Boost — When you’re comfortable, you’re more likely to do the bare minimum required to “get by.” When you’re uncomfortable, however, you’re more likely to go above and beyond in achieving your goals.
Brainstorming Power — “Necessity is the mother of invention,” they say, and when you’re uncomfortable, you’ll feel a great deal of necessity to view challenges in a new light to get them solved.
Optimal Anxiety — This state of higher-than-normal (but still manageable) stress was dubbed “Optimal Anxiety,” and maintaining that delicate anxiety-balance is a technique you can use to reap the bounties that stress can provide, doing more with your time and efforts than you previously thought possible.
Ability to Adapt — Over time, the discomfort associated with Optimal Anxiety will still exist, but you’ll have an even easier time dealing with it and harness its power. When new situations arise, you won’t be so hesitant to jump right in.
HOW TO GET COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
It’s one thing to understand how stress can serve as a performance aid, but quite another to get comfortable with the idea of deliberately inserting yourself into stressful situations. Here are a few strategies that might help:
Start With Small Steps — Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your ability to dive headfirst into uncomfortable situations. You should take time building your resilience, taking small actions that will each take you a step closer to your ultimate goal. Today, it’s something simple, like an industry event you might have been hesitant about attending, then the big stuff comes down the line.
Bring Passion Into the Equation — You’re more likely to stay motivated when you’re passionate about what you’re doing, so ask yourself what you find important and what direction you want your life/career to take. Think about the moves you make so that they will take you outside of your comfort zone while building toward the things you care about.
Work Up to the Challenge That Frightens You — We mentioned starting with small steps above. Each of those steps should inch you toward a big goal that scares you, like giving a public talk or taking your first travel assignment. When you feel you’re ready, go for it.
One more thing that can help with going outside of your comfort zone is being around a supportive team, like Triage Staffing. If you’re interested in becoming part of the family, take a look at our job search page to find out what opportunities we have available!