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.