Stepping out of your comfort zone is never easy, but it’s always worth it. Here’s why.
“Step out of your comfort zone!” Yeah, yeah, yeah. We hear it all the time, right? It’s become such a cliche phrase that when we hear it or say it, we no longer think of the benefits of actually doing just that.
But there are so many times throughout life that we’re holding ourselves back because we don’t want to step outside of our comfort zones. It’s, well, uncomfortable.
It makes me think of a work trip I went on not too long ago. Let me preface this with – I’m a Jersey girl. I don’t pump my own gas because it’s illegal here.
So while on this work trip, I had rented a car to get from the airport to the hotel and back. When I was driving back to the airport for my flight home, I remembered that I should fill up before returning the car.
Upon realizing this, I immediately began to sweat. I was in Georgia. Where people pump their own gas. I know, it sounds silly to anyone who lives outside of New Jersey, or any New Jerseyan who travels out of state a lot. Or any normal person. I know.
But at that point in time, I had only ever pumped my own gas once in NY and that seemed like a lifetime ago!
I debated just returning the car and paying the rental car company for the gas. I really didn’t want to make a fool out of myself in front of everyone at the gas station.
I was about to drive right past the station and onto the airport when it hit me – I was about to avoid a minor task that most people do all the time because I didn’t want to risk looking stupid or feel the stress of doing something I don’t know how to do.
So I pulled in and up to a pump. I was nervous and 100% certain that everyone was watching me. But in the end, I figured it out and I did it.
Just by doing that small thing, I got a burst of confidence. But an increase in confidence isn’t the only benefit of stepping out of your comfort zone.
The next time you’re thinking about avoiding something because it’s not within your existing skillset, remember these benefits that come from making yourself uncomfortable and it will push you to do it.
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Why You Should Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
If you’re not growing as a person, you’re not fully experiencing life. Think about the person you were 5 years, even 1 year ago. Most likely you’ve changed and are different than you used to be.
You went through a bunch of different experiences that taught you something new or gave you a new perspective.
You’re wiser. You’re continuing to grow into an even better version of yourself. You’ve probably stepped outside of your comfort zone a few times without even realizing it, or because you had no choice but to do it.
Imagine if you did it with intention? Your growth would be amazing!
About 12 years ago, I was working in a corporate job that really wasn’t the right fit for me. I really wanted to try teaching. So, I networked, found out about a teaching assistant job, and applied. I interviewed for it, gave my notice to my corporate employer, and enrolled in a Master’s degree program for teaching.
I’m making it sound very matter-of-fact. The truth? I was terrified every step of the way. But I knew there would never be an easier time in life to try this than at that point, so I went for it.
And guess what?
Teaching was not for me! After 6 months in the teaching assistant job and a semester in the teaching program, I realized that this wasn’t what I wanted to do after all.
I suppose one could look at this experience and say I failed or made a mistake. But I don’t look at it that way. Failure is one of life’s best teachers! I learned SO much – not only about the world of education but about myself, too.
When you purposely take on an opportunity that you know is going to help you grow, even though it scares the crap out of you and even if it doesn’t work out the way you had hoped, you’ll have gained so much more than if you simply walked away from it and never tried.
More confidence and higher self-esteem.
One of the reasons we’re so afraid of stepping outside of our comfort zone is that we don’t know what’s going to happen. What if we fail? What if we become a laughing stock?
It’s a risk, but I want to offer this up to you – it’s a win-win no matter the outcome.
Sure, you might fail, but as seen with my attempted career change, with failure comes more knowledge. At worst, stepping outside of your comfort zone enables you to feel more confident in your ability to bounce back if you do fail.
If you try something that’s beyond your realm of comfort, and it works out for the best, then your self-esteem grows even more. You become more confident to try new things again and it feels really good to see that you have an ability to figure things out.
After trying out a different career, I’d be much more confident and willing to do it again. Why? Because I did it once, and even though it didn’t work out, my life didn’t completely fall apart. I know that if it doesn’t work, everything will be ok and it’s just more experience I have to offer to others. And if it does work out, that’s just icing on the cake!
Life becomes more exciting and enriching.
Imagine if you never tried anything new, never traveled anywhere new, never met anyone new. You just woke up every day doing the same old thing you always do. Sure, you’d have very little stress because you’d know what to expect.
But wouldn’t you be bored out of your mind?! If you think of some of your best memories, I bet a good chunk of them are from times when you tried something new and different.
I’m a ridiculously nervous flyer, but I took an opportunity at one of my earlier jobs to attend a summit in Kalamazoo, MI with a colleague and close friend.
My fear of flying almost held me back. But I decided to just do it.
As luck would have it, our puddle jumper flew through a thunderstorm and my friend and I were certain that we were about to die in a plane crash. We were a sight to see!
It was scary at the time, but now when we talk about it we laugh so hard that we cry!
Every time you stretch yourself, you’re adding a new dimension to yourself, a new story, and a new memory. Your life becomes more interesting and so do you.
You discover skills you didn’t even know you had!
I bet you have a hidden talent you don’t even know is there. And the only way you’ll discover it is by doing things you’ve never done before.
Take public speaking for example. This is an incredibly common fear, and most people will avoid doing it unless they absolutely have to.
Joel Osteen is a pastor who speaks to millions of people every week. His father was also a pastor, and while he was alive, Joel worked in the sound room. He was afraid of public speaking and was content being in the background.
Joel’s father eventually convinced him to preach his first sermon. Days later, Joel’s father passed away from a heart attack and Joel began preaching regularly.
Whether you’re a fan of Joel’s or not, it’s undeniable that he has a gift for public speaking. And he would’ve never known he had this gift if he hadn’t agreed to preach that first sermon.
You’ll never fully know what you’re made of until you do something that scares you!
It gets you to your goals so much faster.
You know when you’re playing a board game and you get a card that tells you to move 2 or 3 steps ahead?
In real life, a chance to step out of your comfort zone is just like getting one of these game cards. It propels you forward and gets you to your goals so much faster than if you were to take the more comfortable path.
Let’s say you have a goal of making more money in your career. Applying for a new job that’s a step up can get you a higher salary relatively quickly – in just a couple of weeks or months.
But instead, you avoid doing that because having to interview and possibly deal with rejection is stressful. And if you do get the job, then you have to get to know a whole new team of people and way of doing things. It’s scary!
So, you stay in your current role working hard, getting your annual 2% raise, and waiting for a promotion. It might take a couple of years before that promotion comes to fruition, but hey, you’re comfortable, right?
Is it worth it? Usually not. That feeling of discomfort will be temporary and before you know it, you’ll forget you ever felt that way AND you’ll have gotten to where you wanted to be so much faster.
It builds your resilience and ability to adapt.
There’s a saying that change is inevitable and growth is optional. Change is gonna happen whether we like it or not. It’s up to us what we do with it. We can either resist it like hell or embrace it.
I’ve done both in my life, and I can promise you that embracing it is a much more pleasant experience than resisting it.
Resisting change actually causes more suffering than the change itself. If you learn to let it happen, you’re strengthening your resilience, and resilience is key to succeeding in anything you pursue.
It is said that Thomas Edison failed thousands of times before finally making a successful prototype of the incandescent light bulb. Talk about resilience, and it’s a good thing because years later his facilities would burn to the ground.
As he watched everything burn, instead of crying out in anger and giving up, he sort of shrugged it off and said he’d begin all over again in the morning.
It’s not that he didn’t care about the fire, but he chose to push through it and start again. He could have cried and screamed that this isn’t fair, and who would blame him! But what good does that do?
You become an inspiration to others.
It’s hard to step out of our comfort zones and it’s a common response to avoid doing it unless we absolutely have to. But when you see someone else do it, and see all the great things that come from it, doesn’t it inspire you and give you courage to do the same?
What’s even better than inspiring others is that when you pioneer something, you’re able to teach them, too.
If you start a business of your own and others are watching, it lights a spark inside of them. They think, “Hm maybe this is something I can do, too!”. And if your business succeeds, they will probably come to you and ask you to show them how you did it.
That’s an incredibly rewarding feeling!
A Final Thought
So, how many times have you avoided doing something because you were afraid of failing, looking stupid, or what other people might say behind your back?
I get it – we’re creatures of habit who are wired to want to fit in. Our brains are designed to keep us alive, and you’re alive right now so your brain is all about maintaining the status quo.
And so we can get in the habit of dodging things that scare us. The problem is that it causes us to pass up so many opportunities that have the potential to add really great value to our lives. Whether that’s in the form of happy memories, wisdom, or even materialistically.
The universe is just waiting for you to take advantage of everything it has to give you. But you have to want it and be brave enough to let it happen.
Caroline Myss said, “Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to require the most from you”.
In other words, if it scares you, it’s probably going to help you grow. That’s a huge part of having a fulfilling life – growing.
So be courageous and step outside of our comfort zone!
Here are some other posts to check out that will help you with stepping outside of your comfort zone!
How to Start Improving Your Self-Esteem TODAY (higher self-esteem makes stepping outside of your comfort zone easier!)
What To Do When Shit Hits the Fan (Tips to help you build your resilience)
7 Invaluable Lessons that Failure Will Teach You (If you’re not so afraid of failing, stepping outside of your comfort zone is less scary!)