Stretch Your Comfort Zone and Take the Comfort Zone Challenge
Fear getting in the way of you stepping out and reaching your goals?
Fear and anxiety can restrict and constrict your life if they hold you back from doing things outside your comfort zone. This post can help you learn how to stretch your comfort zone and expand your life.
What is a Comfort Zone?
We each have a comfort zone made up of those things we are used to.
I actually prefer the term familiar zone rather than comfort zone because there may be lots of situations inside the zone that are familiar but at the same time uncomfortable. Those things that we are used to may be comfortable for their familiarity and yet uncomfortable for their destructiveness.
A person who grew up emotionally abused and is now in an emotionally abusive relationship may fear leaving it because abusive experiences are familiar and somehow “comfortable” at the same time that they are uncomfortable for obvious reasons.
Fear, Anxiety and Your Comfort Zone
It is natural to experience fear whenever you consider doing something outside your familiar zone.
The fear that comes with thinking about doing something outside your familiar zone often grows into anxiety. Anxiety is heightened fear. You may become anxious just at the thought of doing something new.
You may think “I’m too scared to do that new thing now. I’ll do it when I’m not afraid of it.” But the only way to not be afraid of it—is to do it.
If you wait for the fear to subside before doing something you’re not used to, you’ll never do it. The fear can only go away when experience makes the object of the fear part of your familiar zone.
You have to decide to go ahead and do it while feeling fear. In that way, you stretch your familiar zone to include the thing you previously feared. Then you can do it with more and more confidence.
Dr. Susan Jeffers talks about this in her book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. It’s a great book that I read many years ago. My copy is full of highlighting and notes. In returning to the book to write about comfort zones, I found index cards I had created to remind me of the Dr. Jeffers’ “Fear Truths.” The concepts they represent helped me push through fears. You may find them helpful to boost your ability to push through fear too.
Dr. Jeffers offers 5 “Fear Truths” (Comfort Zone Quotes):
“Fear Truth #1: The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow.”
“Fear Truth #2: The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out . . . and do it.”
“Fear Truth #3: The only way to feel better about myself is to go out . . . and do it.”
“Fear Truth #4: Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else,”
“Fear Truth #5: Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.”
Here are a couple of points to remember:
- It’s important to assess that the feared thing is not truly dangerous to yourself or others before deciding to go ahead and do it while feeling the fear.
For example, fear is supposed to stop you from running out in front of a truck--don’t feel the fear and do it anyway. But speaking in front of your office mates at a meeting may be scary but not dangerous and you would do well to go ahead while you experience the fear so that you can stretch your familiar zone and become more comfortable with speaking to the group.
- To slowly stretch your familiar zone, break the scary thing down into more doable steps.
Something that is overwhelming can be made less scary by focusing on one step at a time. Figure out what the first step is in a sequence that will eventually lead to the accomplishment of a goal. Focus on the first step. Then move on to the next and the next.
Your Comfort Zone Stretching Challenge
Here's an exercise to help you step outside your comfort zone.
1. Pick one familiar-zone-stretching goal to work on.
What is fear stopping you from doing?
You might have a whole list of things that fear is getting in the way of you doing. Some of the things might be big, some small. It’s probably useful to start with a relatively small familiar-zone-stretching goal.
2. Analyze the fear.
What are you afraid could happen if you do this thing?
Is this something that you would do well to feel the fear and do it anyway? (If no -- think of another goal to achieve. If yes -- then move forward knowing that you will only overcome the fear by doing the scary thing.)
What would help you do this scary thing?
Would any of Dr. Jeffers’ fear truths help inspire you?
3. Plan for one step toward the goal.
Keep breaking down the steps toward reaching your goal until you get to a doable first step.
What would help you do that step?
Set a time goal for achieving this first step.
4. Take one step toward the goal.
- If you have trouble taking your planned step, notice what is getting in your way and figure out whether you want to go back and come up with a different first step or do something that would help you with the step. (go back to #2)
- After achieving the first step – take a minute to acknowledge your success. Yeah You!
Repeat 3 & 4 until you reach your goal.
You're stretching your comfort zone one step at a time!
When you've taken all the steps -- there you are at your goal!
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- Ann Silvers