Well, January is the month when we all tell ourselves we’ll make those changes, eat healthier food, do more exercise, tidy our desks, move jobs, start that business, be nicer to everyone and so on. These are indeed great intentions and often many of us really get off to a good start. But it’s never easy – the (very easy) Christmas eating and drinking habits are hard to break, weather can be cold, dark and wet depending on where you live, energy levels low. The good start is sometimes just that – a start, and often doesn’t last to become new habits.
Yet, the benefits of instilling these new habits are huge. It is so worth getting out of your current comfort zone. I view the traditional meaning of “comfort zone” as the place in life where habits and routines are designed to minimise worry and stress. This can feel like a place where you’re cosied in front of the TV drinking wine and eating chocolate. Sounds great right? Nice to have as few worries and as many comforts as possible. However, would a better “comfort zone” be – actually living the life you really want, earning what you need, being in a career you love, having lots of energy instead of staying put, never making change, and just worrying about it all the time. How fabulous would it be if you could upgrade your current comfort zone to a much better one – imagine the advantages of that.
- Instead of worrying about giving that presentation – you’d get energy from it.
- Instead of being depressed every time you look at all your wobbly bits in a mirror – everything you wear would look great on you.
- Instead of not being able to afford the nice family holiday, that meal out, that car upgrade – money wouldn’t actually be, a major issue.
- Instead of being the most out of breath person in the gym class – you’d feel comfortable there and even find you can train effortlessly (when this happens you can decide to just enjoy that feeling or enrol in a tougher class!)
- Instead of hyperventilating at the thought of yet another business networking event where you’re worried you won’t be interesting enough and nobody will speak to you – you’ll have developed a modus operandi to enable you to feel totally comfortable and seize the opportunities such events offer.
- Instead of being afraid of experiences that deep inside you want to have, like travelling to Bhutan (you want to go but you’re afraid you won’t like the food),cooking for your foodie friends (you’re worried your cuisine won’t be up to their standards), challenging your boss/colleagues about certain issues (you have lots of concerns about the fall-out from this) – you’ll find the strength to tackle what’s important to you and the benefit will be that you’ll worry no more about all of this stuff. You’ll have upgraded your comfort zone.
So, how do you upgrade your comfort zone?
- Firstly – make the choice to get out of that comfort zone and decide you want to. Pick one thing about your life that bothers you and list for yourself the benefits of changing this one thing. Be sure to make the right decision for you.
- Find friends, colleagues who are already successful at doing what you want to do, and who have a positive attitude – spend as much time as possible in their company. Stay away from the naysayers.
- This is important – write down the necessary steps it will take for you to reach “comfort zone” status with something that’s currently far outside that space, yet deep down you know you want to feel comfortable doing it.
- Keep on going – if the discomfort is tough at the start, try again the next day. Take small steps. Doing almost anything a few times, makes it easier. Practice, practice, practice.
- Stay calm – if you’re starting to panic, take yourself off to a relaxing space, whether that’s a walk, a coffee with a friend or a short snooze. Breathe deeply a few times. Science shows there’s an optimum challenge level for peak productivity – too little and nothing happens, too much and negative stress levels happen. If things seem too overwhelming, break down your actions into smaller steps. Take things one step at a time.
- Remind yourself of the benefits – constantly. If you can remember a particular time when you felt on top of the world, really happy and successful – remind yourself of how that felt. Recapture the positive emotions associated with that success.
- Reward yourself when you succeed. This is my favourite part. Be kind to yourself – so many people are kind to others, reward others for so many reasons, yet don’t give this kindness to themselves. Choose to reward yourself too for a job well done.
Getting out of what we know as our comfort zone even for a short while each and every day, is when achievements and excitement happen, when the changes you wish for begin to materialise.
When you look back on your life, I’m sure your favourite memories are not those when you sat in front of the TV for hours – maybe they are for some people, (really?), but for most people, the factors that make your life great are the exciting times that involved some element of a challenge that you, overcame. That may have been the time you gave a presentation that resulted in praise being heaped upon you, it may have been the time you know you looked fabulous for a particular occasion, when you had eaten well and worked out for a month or two beforehand. It may have been a family holiday where you made the effort to jump in the cold waves with your kids and surprised yourself with how much fun you had – or even a sales target that you smashed, loved it, and got that bonus you richly deserved.
Whatever “comfort zone” habits are holding you back – imagine your life where your comfort zone is just in a better place, you’re comfortable in many more situations – an upgraded comfort zone. Your fears are eliminated, your attitude is more optimistic, your life is full of fun and opportunity. It’s what a lot of us wish for – and the only way to get there is to upgrade your comfort zone to a place where you view your challenges as opportunities and not as things to be afraid of.
You deserve to live the life you want and the only person holding you back is you – time will pass by either way. Upgrade your comfort zone and enjoy!