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Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone

There is no disputing that change is hard. Whether we are thrown into it—as the world was during a global pandemic—or seek it out for ourselves, change is never an easy thing to welcome. Yet there is always an excitement in the unknown, something special, exhilarating, maybe even frightening. Most of us have been told this in our teenage years, and some have experienced it for themselves. Nonetheless, change is inevitable and crucial to the journey in which we search for our best selves.

Psychologists have developed models representing phases of the growth process, where the ‘growth zone’ is coined as the psychological state where individuals can fully thrive. But to reach and flourish in the growth zone, one must first take the fateful step away from the comfort zone and venture through the ups and downs of doubt, fear, discovery, and learning.

Our Greatest Nemesis: Fear

The feeling of fear is an adversary we would much rather avoid than confront. When presented with the option between fight or flight, taking off is a comforting choice. But when we do this, we are choosing to stay in our comfort zone: a state where we may feel safest but ultimately hinders our ability to grow. Succeed On Purpose illustrates this through the following graphic.

Image is courtesy of Succeed On Purpose.

As shown above, the only way to enter the learning and growth zones is by moving through the dreadful orange ‘fear zone.’ This can be accomplished by acknowledging fears, understanding them, addressing them, and working to overcome the barriers they present. It is a difficult step, but a necessary and worthwhile one as the rewarding zones of learning and growth lay just beyond. Once you have conquered the fear zone, you enter the ‘learning zone’ where you will acquire knowledge and build skills before establishing a new comfort zone. Through this, you will be granted the opportunity to experience wider perspectives, reach new heights, and achieve your greatest goals within the ‘growth zone.’

The Advantages of Abandoning Comfort

While comfort is predictable and safe, it can also be unfulfilling. According to Psychology Today, living within this space can bring rise to feelings of incompleteness, disappointment, and a lack of true purpose. Growth is a lifelong process, and the development of resilience, adaptability, confidence, and personal improvement are only a few of the gains you will see along the way. When growth is implemented in the actions you take, your outlook on life can improve as well. Rather than hold you back, fear will consistently be surpassed amidst the chase of new opportunities, goals, perspectives, and connections.

The Power of a Growth Mindset

Striving towards the growth zone can also develop a growth mindset. This way of thinking enforces the idea of challenges as temporary obstacles. In simple terms, this is the belief that our ability is not fixed, but instead can be developed through effort and perseverance. In her TED Talk, The Power Of Believing That You Can Improve, Carol Dweck shares the power of a growth mindset in learning. In a study that presented students with a challenge, those with a positive reaction and an eagerness to improve were able to engage deeper and learn from their mistakes. Meanwhile, individuals with a fixed mindset believed their intelligence lacked, and would resort to methods such as cheating or giving up.

Image is courtesy of Strengthscope.

Dweck provides further examples where students who are taught growth mindsets find success and thrive in learning environments. Ultimately, her research shows how the development of a growth mindset acts as an incentive to persevere despite failure. By moving away from the comfort zone, through fear and learning, and into the growth zone, you will be strengthening your mindset and adopting the powerful notion that we all have what it takes to mend our abilities into the best they can be.

The Staircase to a Summer of Growth

Leaving our comfort zone step by step is key to reaching a new circle of growth. Take a leap of faith by climbing your staircase of growth this summer and reaching your highest goals. Healthy Happy Impactful provides a list of 50 ways you can get out of your comfort zone. Here are a few favourite picks for teenagers to start facing fears and expanding their horizons!

  • Reach out to an old friend or someone you wish to catch up with

  • Introduce yourself to a stranger and/or make a new friend

  • Volunteer with an organization or cause you are passionate about

  • Try a new sport or activity (e.g. running, yoga, painting, cooking)

  • Read a book from an author or genre you never have before

  • Take up a new learning endeavor (e.g. a musical instrument or language)

  • Ask a mentor, friend, co-worker, etc. for feedback in your work

  • Begin what you have been putting off or procrastinating

  • Encourage yourself to approach new challenges with an open mind

  • Do an activity that boosts your creativity (e.g. writing, designing, making art)

Whether you are starting small or working your way up to bigger scares and risks, the space beyond your comfort zone is where to be. You might even consider collecting these ideas into an exciting summer bucket list!

Image is courtesy of Snapwire via Pexels.

The possibilities are endless, and what you choose to do is up to you. In summary, the wise words of Eleanor Roosevelt serve as a good rule of thumb: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” After all, what is scary now will only become resilience, bravery, and triumph in the long run. I wish you the best of luck as you venture through the valuable zones towards growth.

Article author: Victoria Huang

Article editors: Sherilyn Wen, Stephanie Sahadeo