This article was written by freelancer Lauren McCrostie
We can all identify as feeling creatures of habit. Sometimes we find familiarity and ease in making the same choices about routines, plans and behaviours. We know what to expect in these areas of comfort and how to manage our lives in them. And hey, comfort zones are helpful! They contribute to general wellbeing, giving us a huge amount of security and structure – like a nice old cosy sofa.
But staying in your ‘safe space’ can have negative consequences too. It could limit you reaching your potential. We all have ambitions sitting outside our comfort zones, so we must work to push ourselves beyond what we know and what we feel comfortable with in order to achieve them. So, what are the benefits of doing this?
Leaving your comfort zone can lead to success
I know, I know, you might be thinking ‘but if I’m nervous and anxious then how can that actually help me?’. Well, take it from Forbes who sing the praises of taking risks – they list countless reasons as to how feeling uncomfortable improves performance (the Yerkes-Dodson Law states how ‘increased arousal’ accelerates motivation to complete a task) and creativity (taking risks creates ‘new neural pathways‘, which allow you to think differently and in turn have a broad range of ideas) and also increased learning.
So whether it’s jumping into an industry you have don’t have experience in but have always admired, trying your luck in a new class or developing your passion project; taking time to push yourself can lead to favourable outcomes. At first you may feel reluctant and out of your depth, but if you sit with these feelings you will realise that they’ll soon pass and you’ll be greeted with all the positive outcomes of stepping outside of what you know.
From pure enjoyment, to building new relationships, gaining new skills, broadening your perspective, expanding your knowledge, boosting your confidence AND building a resilient work ethic; urging yourself out of what you know is big step towards developing yourself. So hop on out!
Your comfort zone is not a bad thing
Of course our comfort zones aren’t all that bad. They’re crucial areas we’ve created to find security, and by providing stability and clarity they give us a chance to live and go about to our jobs, relationships and interests. They’re harmless and protective;but this acts as a double edged sword. They keep us so safe and so comfortable that moving elsewhere may seem scary and too risky (just like leaving that good old cosy sofa in the midst of a box set binge). We feel satisfied with where we are, surrounded by what we know, so things which lie outside this perimeter become less achievable and meaningful.
But this is wrong! This is just a fear. There is only so much our comfort zones will allow us to progress, so we need to use them as retreats and not a place to live. We should use them as a space to come back to after dipping our toes in new and unfamiliar waters.
You will really enjoy doing it
Placing yourself in uncomfortable situations sounds pretty unappealing, yes. But, I can assure you that you’ll feel amazing afterwards. Not only will you feel pleased that you’ve tried something new , but even the things you didn’t think you’d enjoy will be great learning experiences. I speak from experience as I took part in an opportunity through Go Think Big last year, working for a creative agency. I was initially interested in a few of the aspects of the opportunity: sustainability and working in a creative format. But I was a complete stranger to the industry and although I had previous experience working in office environment, I usually work alone and not in a team.
Choosing something which had a combination of what I felt comfortable with and also challenged by was really important, as it gave me enough security to continue through possible difficulties. I really valued the opportunity and feel it made me a much more cooperative and adaptable worker. I learnt so much and built so many new skills – all things I wouldn’t have been exposed to if I hadn’t jumped out of my ‘safe space’. Stepping outside into the unknown allowed me to build on my existing skills and work with new tools, all of which I can use into any work environment – from writing, to researching to interviewing. It was a great experience I’m really glad I took part in the internship.
You will build confidence
Not only will you be able to develop new skills, but just stepping out of your comfort zone will keep you productive and learning and will boost your self-esteem. The University of Essex say that once you become “accustomed” to the difficulties of a new environment, you will start to be able to manage it, making you feel much more confident and capable. We also build strength and resilience when trying different things. We get more motivated to push and learn and succeed again – and this attitude is infinite and if managed well, can lead to whatever you want.
You will grow your community and network
Working in the same place means you’re stuck more often than not around the same faces. You may have moved and progressed as far as you can in your current environment. Moving yourself to a new environment can open you up to a new network and, even if the experience isn’t something you think you will use in the future, you never know who you might meet and who could help you towards where do you want to go. My cousin, who is renowned for her fear of heights, pushed herself to see the city from the London Eye when she came to visit last year. After a few pushes into the pod and a precarious take off, she was soon distracted by the view and started enjoying the ride round. But, most importantly of all she met her business partner on board! Had she not tested her nerves and leaped outside her comfort zone she may not have started her own business.
You will expand your insight and gain a new perspective
Whether you’re learning French for the first time or working in a floristry school, doing something out of your normal routine is beneficial because you’re able to see how other people work and live. Giving yourself the chance to look into this worldlets you appreciate other people’s skills and learn from them. You’re able to pinch tools, expertise and learning from different industries. Yale University concluded from a new study that when you’re in an unsteady state, your brain is in prime position to digest new information and learn. So the best place to grow and take in more information is when outside of your comfort zone. Step on out!
Becoming more skilled and experienced in something outside of your comfort zone can boost your self-esteem and your ability, but it’s also appealing to employers too. You can create a well rounded CV outside of your comfort zone, equipping you for new working environments and career opportunities. Employers will respect your proactive attitude to new experiences and you may stand out when applying for a new role.
We all have different goals and interests. Take a plunge and make a pledge to try something out of your routine this week. Book yourself into a new class, research a new skill to learn, invest time into a side hustle – do anything out of your ordinary! You won’t regret it.