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7 Steps For Breaking Through Your Comfort Zone

by Steve Scott | Join Him On Facebook

Are you letting fears and anxiety hold you back in life?

Unfortunately this is something that happens to most people. And if I’m really truthful with myself, it’s happened to me as well.

Like I mentioned in my personal goals for 2010, my goal for the upcoming year is to do a lot of traveling on my own. If I want to really make this experience enjoyable, I’m going to have to push the boundaries of my “comfort zone.”

Now I’ve come to realize that many people have problems with their own comfort zone. They want to do more in life, but they’re simply afraid to challenge themselves and expand push the envelope on what they think is safe.

So in this post we’re going to talk about your comfort zone. Specifically I’m going to give you seven steps you can use to push those boundaries.

What is a Comfort Zone?

Before we get to these seven steps, I think it’s important to define what I mean by a comfort zone.

A comfort zone is a self-imposed boundary where a person will refuse to push past. Doing so usually fills him/her with nervousness and anxiety.

As an example, let’s say you just started a new sales job. Probably there are certain aspects of this job that feel comfortable doing. Like talking to people on one-to-one basis. On the other hand, the idea of cold-calling fills you with anxiety. Basically you feel uncomfortable a doing anything that’s not a one-on-one conversation.

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of never pushing your comfort zone. The problem with this is it often prevents you from true success and happiness in life. Like I mentioned my article about lifestyle design, you have to test the limits of what most people consider ‘normal’ to live the life you want.

So let’s talk about breaking out of this comfort zone. As promised before, I’m going to give you seven steps for pushing the boundaries. (These are the exact same steps that I’m using in my life.)

Step #1- Get Information

Anxiety usually comes from a fear of the unknown. Usually we imagine the worst case scenario of what could happen when we push past the boundaries of what makes us feel safe.

To break through your comfort zone you need to first educate yourself. Your goal here is to find out about whatever skill or activity you’re pursuing. You’ll talk to people who have done the same thing. You’ll read books on the subject. And you’ll check-out articles on the Internet about this subject.

Information is power. And the more you know about something, the less scary and more powerful you’ll feel.

Example- Taking the example from the introduction, if you want to be an expert salesperson then your goal is to become comfortable with cold-calling. So you’ll talk to top sales people and learn what they did to overcome this obstacle. Then you’ll educate yourself about the process and the tricks that other people have used.

Step #2- Have a Plan

After educating yourself it’s important to create a plan of action.

With this step you’re going to write down a step-by-step blueprint for how you’re going to break through your comfort zone. You start with the easiest thing to do. Then you create a plan to get to each level.

In this plan you need to create benchmarks. These are mini-goals that put you one step close to pushing past your comfort zone.

Furthermore, it’s important to identify the key challenges you’re going to face and what you’ll do to overcome them.

Example- Back to the sales job. Once you’ve learned about the cold-calling process, you’ll sit down and create a plan for overcoming this limitation. Perhaps you would start with people you already know and work your way up to cold-calling prospects that are considered ‘dead leads.’

Step #3- Hold Yourself Accountable.

Accountability is another key to breaking through your comfort zone. You want to tell your friends and family about what you’re trying to do.

This is an important step because the people in your life will keep you on track. You want them to give you that ‘push’ as you’re pushing your boundaries. They will make it hard for you to quit because you know you’ll look foolish if you did.

Example- Using the previous example you’ll tell people that you want to become a master salesperson. Make a public declaration that you’re committing to making at least 20 calls a day. Hopefully if your friends and family care they’ll ask you each day if achieved your mini-goal.

Step #4- Baby Steps

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. ~ Lao Tzu

Breaking out of your comfort zone starts with the first step. Once you have a plan in place you’ll simply start with that crucial initial action.

Taking ‘baby steps’ is a great way to de-sensitize yourself to the feelings of anxiety. You’re not trying to become an overnight success. Instead you’re steadily pushing the boundaries of your comfort levels and working towards an overall goal.

(A great way to use the baby-stepping process is to commit to a 30 day habit trial where you try out a new behavior.)

Example- Like I said before, you’re going to take baby-steps with your sales job. First you would practice on friends and family. Then you would call the “warm leads” who are ready to buy. Finally you would work on those nasty dead leads who are really challenging.

Step #5- Aggressive Challenges

To really blast through your comfort zone you would do what I call an “aggressive challenge.” This is a rapid-fire approach where do a lot of something that makes you scared. The idea here is you’re shocking the system into becoming comfortable.

You won’t have time to think about your fear. Instead you’ll be so busy pushing your boundaries that you forget about what used to make you scared.

Example- An ‘aggressive challenge’ for your sales job would be to call 100+ prospects in set amount of time. You don’t think during this process. You just do it. If a person is rude or hangs up, you quickly dial another number and move on.

Step #6- Remain Positive

There will be times when you experience a negative outcome. Something that shakes your confidence and makes you feel scared. The trick is to not let anything prevent you from blasting past the point of comfort.

Recognize that you will have negative outcomes. It’s a natural part of the process.

Don’t allow negativity to creep into your mind. Remind yourself that it’s going to happen. In fact, you should recognize that you’re actually being given feedback about how you can do something better.

Example- With cold calling there is a large number of ‘rejections.’ People will hang up, they’re going to be rude, and some might even threaten to kill you.

The trick here is to create the mantra of “next.” Whenever someone is negative you quickly identify the mistake that you made and simply say next as you move on to the next phone call.

Step #7- Keep Expanding Your Comfort Zone

Never stop expanding your comfort zone. Even if you arrive at your stated goal it’s important to keep pushing those boundaries.

Look for new challenges. Find stuff that you would never imagined you would do. Like teaching a class on the subject that once filled you fear. Or you could work on a related skill.

Example- When finally comfortable with cold calling you’ll look for more challenging experiences. Perhaps you’ll mentor a younger sales person who is having problems with this area. Or maybe you identify another key area in your job and focus on mastering that skill. The important thing is to keep pushing the boundaries of your job.

How Do You Break Through Your Comfort Zone?

Breaking out of your comfort zone gives you more opportunity in life. Don’t let anxiety prevent you from doing what you truly want. Attack your fears and push the boundaries of what makes feel comfortable.

The truth is you might actually learn to like what you’re doing. Maybe you’ll find that this experience will provide an opportunity you never knew existed.

Before concluding this post, I want to ask a simple question: “How do you break through your comfort zone?”

I know a lot of the people who read this blog have achieved a lot in their lives. So I would love to hear your thoughts about what you’ve done to push past that point of anxiety. Please leave a comment below…

Take Action. Get Results.



{ 10 comments }

Steve Youngs

Hey Steve! (hmm, why do I feel like I’m talking to myself) 🙂

Your comfort zone is something that your self-image imposes on you. Your self-image comes from what you know about yourself, from past ideas, experiences, and how you’ve reacted to those. Your “comfort zone” kicks in when you are faced with something that is inconsistent with the ideas and values that make up your self-image.

Once you understand that you soon see that the only way to break free from your comfort zone, or to expand it, is to improve your self-image. And the way to improve your self-image is through better knowledge of yourself.

So your step 1, “get information” is right. But it is information about yourself that you need to be seeking. People with low self-image actually know very little about themselves.

How do you break through your comfort zone?

Through knowledge of myself.

thoughts about what you’ve done to push past that point of anxiety

Do now, think later. 🙂 No, I don’t mean you should be reckless or take risks. But the more time you spend thinking and worrying about something the harder it will be to get over the anxiety.

Kind regards,
Steve.

Steve Scott

All excellent points. Maybe I should I have added a step about “self exploration.” The one thing I have to say is a lot of people get too scared to try anything simply because they have a fear of the unknown. Once they educate themselves, they come to realize that it wasn’t bad as they thought.

Also good point about “do now.” I agree that people do spend too much time thinking. I feel you should have a plan, but not spend TOO much time planning. Get an idea of what you’ll do, then go out and do it. Do a “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach then come back and make adjustments along the way.

Ralph

Nice post with good clear steps. More important than any of them is this one: Start. I say this because I am a good one for planning. I can do the research. Form the plan. Develope all the details. Where I get hung up is actually starting.

Steve Scott

Agree with this. Like I said to Steve Y, I think people spend too much time planning. At some point you have to stop over-thinking things and just take that first step. Thanks for the comment!

butterfly

For me it was all about baby steps. I had to learn this. I was always trying to go big all my life, wanting everything big and right away, no more! Proceeding in small amounts is working much better for my self goals and want is necessary for sanity in life. Thanks Steve.
.-= butterfly´s last blog ..Score! =-.

Steve Scott

I do like the baby steps concept. I think the people who fail are the ones who try to do TOO much too soon.

Gail

I think I may be the odd one out here, my mouth has a tendency to commit me to things my brain and body would rather not get involved in, lol.
As an example, public speaking. As a young adult working as a prison librarian, I was shy, nervous and surround both by much older, experienced prefessionals, and criminals. Through an inate inability to say no, I found myself on the works council (basically acting as unofficial union rep) on the equal opprrtunities committee and working with the high risk assessment team doing an audit on staff attitudes to self harm amongst prisoners (at the age of 24) At the end of this, I had to give several presentations to magistrates, lawyers and health professionals which both petrified me and put me off public speaking for life, or so I thought.
Ten years later my partner was involved in a network marketing company and his sponsor (and cousin) was supposed to be hosting one of the events. She got an attack of nerves on the day and nominated me as her substitute, without telling me until five minutes before the presentation. Boy, was that one baaaad presentation.
But you know what, I survived, and within a few months was hosting and presenting for 50-150 people regularly. The most I’ve ever spoken in front of is about 2000 people (I wasn’t the only one on stage, thankfully) and before I left the business with my ex last year, I was actually quite comfortable in front of reasonably large crowds because 1) I knew my onions and 2) my biggest fear was fluffing my lines, forgetting what I was talking about mid sentence, or swearing inadvertently, and you know what? I’d done all three and survived, and still been asked to do the job again.
You know how they say your comfort zone is like an elastic band, once you’ve stretched it it never quite shinks back to the same size as before? I reckon my laggy band has stretched to the point it includes that nervous excitement you get when you anticipate doing something new and scary for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I still hate feeling sick to the stomach and curse my stupid mouth for dropping me in it yet again, but I know now it’s a precursor to a much better feeling of relief and elation when it’s all over. I’ve found I get that feeling even if the actual speaking part doesn’t go so well, since I at least got up there and did it, and have something to learn from. Heck, I even got up earlier this year and did karaoke for the first time.
.-= Gail´s last blog ..Investing in Junk Coins by Keith Hamburger =-.

Uzma

Very useful. It struck me that most of us never define our comfort zones at all. Its only when we define them can we uphold them and then push them. aha moment, here 🙂 thanks

Steve Scott

Glad you enjoyed it. You are absolutely right, you have to know what they are before you take action.

Jack Norris

Hi what a fabulous article and motivating too! The only way to reach our goals is through breaking out of our comfort zone. One thing I found helped me with dealing with the anxiety that can come with pushing boundaries is mastering proper breathing technique.
Found a description and howto here:
http://www.panic-and-agoraphobia.com/free-tips-coping-during-panic.html
This helped me and maybe it could help other readers
all the best
Jack

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