It’s easy to just keep doing what feels familiar—but here’s why you should sometimes resist that temptation. By Harvey Deutschendorf, from fastcompany.com Especially when things are stressful, many of us resort to staying in our comfort zones—doing, saying, watching, or eating things that we already know. That’s fine, of course. It is natural to want to stick with things to which we’re accustomed. But the more time we spend in this zone, the more difficult it will be to break free from that space. Many people will spend their entire lives there, never venturing outside to see what they could have or might be capable of achieving. But there is a cost for living our lives this way. While staying inside our bubble offers instant benefits, we end up sacrificing the potential for much better possibilities down the road. It’s worth remembering that getting out of your comfort zone doesn’t have to be a radical act. Maybe you challenge yourself to speak up in a meeting that you normally find intimidating or invite a new neighbor to go on a walk. Then you can gradually push yourself to take on bigger (strategic) risks. Here are five reasons it’s good to try to get out of your comfort zone:
1. IT DEVELOPS YOUR INNER STRENGTH We know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Yet that is exactly what some people do in their everyday lives, making themselves feel stuck and unhappy. Implementing something new that makes us uncomfortable (like picking up a new hobby or making a new friend) will help us build our inner strength. Even if we fail—which often happens—we will have an experience that we can draw upon in the future. Put together, these experiences will act as building blocks that allow us to lead a more meaningful life.
2. IT BUILDS YOUR CONFIDENCE Confidence is not something we are born with. It’s a skill we can build by setting goals, achieving those goals, and setting more goals to pursue. In order to develop confidence, we need to face our fears and take a risk. We all know the exhilarating feeling that comes with achieving something that we were not even sure we could do before. The more goals we set and achieve, the further our confidence will soar. 3. IT MAKES US MORE ADAPTABLE TO CHANGE The more time we stay inside of our comfort zones, the scarier new territory will appear to us. But the world is changing rapidly, and those who fear change risk getting left behind. For people who are already pushing their comfort zone, change will not appear as frightening. Instead, they’ll welcome a new project at work or learning a new language as a challenge that can open up possibilities for growth that were not there before.
4. IT MAKES US MORE CREATIVE There is nothing worse for our creativity than never straying from the path of what is tried and true. The longer we are unwilling to entertain new thoughts, ideas, and ways of going deeper, the more we slip into a rut. By trying something new, we stir up creative juices that will awaken our imagination.
5. YOU WON’T OTHERWISE KNOW WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN Those who never venture far will never know what might have been if they had tried to do things beyond what they initially felt they could manage. All successful people have taken risks, failed, picked themselves up, and risked again until they figured it out. In my book, The Other Kind of Smart, I tell stories about people who achieved things they never thought they could by pushing themselves beyond their comfort boundaries. Going outside of their comfort zones becomes a lifestyle for many successful people. While taking the safe route is alway tempting, it means paying a high price of regret down the road. In interviews with people who were at the end of their life, they often cite regrets about what they always wanted to do, but didn’t. I have never heard of someone saying on their deathbed that they were comforted by the fact that they took the safe way out and didn’t take any risks. If life is about preparing for our death, as some people claim, avoiding regret is perhaps the most compelling reason that we need to move out of our comfort zone.