Everything you read about personal growth and advancement says something about stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. Here let’s explore what that means and ways you can do so (these are all suggestions, as everyone has varying comfort zone levels).

What is our Comfort Zone?

Our comfort zone is everything within our personal boundaries. It is the bubble that surrounds us that we are 100% comfortable in. It includes doing things, saying things and partaking in experiences without hesitation or question.

Stepping out of your comfort zone can be difficult. It’s the equivalent of taking a step into the unknown; it’s taking a chance and trying new things; it’s facing your insecurities and fears and really putting yourself out there.

I’d like to present a few ways you can start to leave the comfort of your bubble.

Why is this important?

Because the more you leave your comfort zone, the more you contribute to your personal growth. You never know what you are capable of until you test yourself and force yourself to step up to a challenge. While your comfort zone offers you just that: comfort and therefore allows you to do things stress-free, activities that challenge your comfort zone can contribute to increased stress and anxiety. The key is to find what is called “optimal anxiety”. In other words, that area where you are uncomfortable enough to feel nervous, but that feeling drives you and helps you thrive, but not so nervous that you can’t function.

Each one of us has different boundaries in regards to what we are comfortable doing or hesitate to try. Our optimal anxiety and optimal performance will shift as we continue growing, experiencing and learning new things.

It’s easy to say that this is something you need to do, however, people struggle with this. I definitely have. It’s scary stepping into an unknown, or into a situation you aren’t familiar with. This list is meant to be a little bit for everyone. Sometimes what sounds to be easy on paper is actually hard to do in real life, and vice versa. So, use this for inspiration and determine what here is something you’d willingly do or if it sounds scary. Maybe reading some of these will make you think of something else you’d like to try.

Start With Small Steps

Just because you’re leaving your comfort zone doesn’t mean you have to jump into a major situation. Start with small steps. Identify little things that make you uncomfortable and promise yourself you’ll try them. For instance:

1- Go out to eat by yourself

I know so many people who are uncomfortable with this notion. I promise you, no one is judging you. No one is even paying attention. Everyone is focused on the food or their cell phones

2-Have a drink at the bar solo

Same as number 1. No one is paying attention. Plus, you have the added benefit of striking up a conversation with the bartender. These relationships are important people!

3 – At the next work meeting, make an effort to speak up when you have a question or something to say

Public speaking is a pain. I have an MBA (which requires a ton of presentations) and I still hate it. However, sometimes you have to do what you hate in order to get better at what you do. In regards to public speaking, only by doing this more and more will you get comfortable with it.

4 – Volunteer to give a speech/lecture

This goes hand in hand with number 3, but is a different scenario. Whichever is most out of your comfort zone for you, work on that.

5 – Ask a guy out on a date instead of waiting for him

In the era of cell phones and apps, this really shouldn’t be that hard. The person isn’t even in front of you! I’ll take this a step further and say: try doing it in person. See what happens.

6 – Stand up to that co-worker that always challenges you

We all have someone we work with that we’re like “UGH”. It can be so hard to speak up and stand up for yourself for fear of judgment or scrutiny or making everyone hate you. However, how will things change if you don’t try? How will you learn to face and deal with difficult personalities if you don’t at least start?

7 – Go to the movies alone

This may sound weird, but if you’re hesitant to do activities outside the home by yourself, then this is an easy way to get started. In a dark movie theater you’ll feel less self-conscious about someone staring at you, and you don’t have to worry about random people talking to you either.

Step it Up a Notch

Ok, now we’ve gone over some small things , let’s try some more serious activities to get you out of your comfort zone.

8 – Take a class by yourself

Wine and paint night, dance classes, cooking classes, joining a meetup of some kind – these are all activities that most people will do with a friend or significant other. However, you don’t need to wait for anyone to do them. You can sign up and go by yourself. Yes, it’s awkward. But once you’ve done this once, you’ll be set for doing any activity by yourself.

9 – Travel by yourself

Whether its a weekend getaway or you travel alone abroad, traveling is a great way to step out of your comfort zone on so many different levels. Even if you’re with a friend, going to different countries and trying local cuisine, practicing local language and immersing yourself in a new culture can all make you uncomfortable, and challenge you. Yet these experiences can teach you so much about yourself and contribute to your personal growth.

Take a Crazy Chance

10 – Find something you are not good at, and do it

We all have weaknesses, we all have things we frankly suck at doing. Often we don’t pursue those because who wants to continuously fail at something?

However, this is exactly what we need to push ourselves to do. We need to better ourselves by continuing to try and learn about our weaknesses. It can be a hard pill to swallow when you see others doing better than you at something; for anyone who’s competitive, it’s uber frustrating. But only if you step out of your bubble and allow yourself to fail, will you learn and improve.

11 – Say yes to something before you’re ready

For all you planners and preparers out there, this is super difficult. I know because I’m one of these people. It’s hard to try new things, to step out of your comfort zone without “being prepared” or “being ready”.

BUT, who’s ever really ready? Reality is often very different than what we anticipate or expect; so really, you’ll never be ready.

Instead, take a leap of faith; take a chance. One of my favorite empowerment quotes is about saying yes and then figuring it out later. Plus, what if the opportunity passes you by and you never see it again? If you say no because you aren’t ready, you may lose out on the only chance you’ll have at trying something new.

12 – On the flip side, practicing Saying NO

We too often pile on things on our to-do list that are not helpful. Whether it’s joining a committee, or volunteering for a project, or attending meetings, we put ourselves out there for the sake of growth either at work or in life.

Yet, often these activities don’t help us. They fill up our precious free time and take away from real progress because by partaking in activities that don’t help us, we no longer have time to really work on our selves.

It can be hard to say no. We want to impress people at work, we want to be a good member of the community, we want to maintain your friendships and relationships. Standing up for yourself, and your time, can be difficult and awkward. And how annoying is it when people lay on the guilt? However, I include this point because the most important thing to maintain is your relationship with yourself.

If you feel uncomfortable putting yourself first, then this is definitely something to try and work on. I’m not saying to ignore everyone else, but every now and again it is about you, and you should take the time to make it so. Plus, self-care and protection of your time is the best way to give yourself the opportunity to pursue what you’re really interested in, and to take part in some of these other activities that help you out of your comfort zone!

Challenge Your Comfort Zone

To summarize, the whole idea of stepping out of your comfort zone is to just challenge yourself. To be the best version of you, you have to try things you’ve never done, take a step towards actions you’re unsure about and push your limits. In the beginning, it will be stressful, but as you continue, you’ll find that you’re able to minimize stress and it’s easier for you to navigate your new situation. Plus, it doesn’t matter what people think about your efforts; what matters is what you think and how you feel.

Until you step outside your comfort zone, you won’t know what you’re capable of. Being in uncomfortable situations, dealing with adversity and trying to navigate your way through is a great life teacher.

So, go, push, learn, grow and be your best you.