Where The Heck Is My Comfort Zone and How Do I Get Out Of It?

Graphic by Cynthia Wylie

I’ve been trying to figure out where my comfort zone is so I can go outside of it because that’s where the magic happens, right? I want some magic to happen.

I’ve been thinking that the people I have liked hanging out with the most these days are at a stage of being severely challenged in their lives. For example, they may going through a divorce, career change, move, or fighting some illness. These are the same people that are also getting tattoos, drinking whiskey, smoking cigars and checking boxes off their bucket list. They seem to be moving outside of their comfort zones to start their own businesses, or living out of suitcases and traveling to destinations unknown. I wanted to move outside my comfort zone.

The only problem was, I wasn’t really sure where that was or how to move out of it. For quite some time, on my daily walks, I’ve clenched my fists and squinted my eyes talking to myself in discreet tones, grilling for the answers, asking how I can soar to the next level that I know, I know I am worthy of reaching.

I told myself that I’m willing to take chances. I’m willing to be uncomfortable and move out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t sure what that looked like or how to do it.

The last few months I started thinking about it in earnest, contemplating, ruminating, and mulling it over, while I walked for hours each week. I pondered it during my showers, and when I woke up in the middle of the night, a hot mess, throwing off the covers and finally sneaking to turn down the heat that always seems to be on and always unwaveringly oppressive.

This morning as I was walking to the gym too early for a Saturday morning after not more than two hours in a row of sleep, the answer came to me. Eureka.

Photo Credit: Cynthia Wylie

How do I identify the tasks that lay outside of my comfort zone? It is the things that I procrastinate and put off doing. That is the tell-tale sign for me, beating under the floorboards of my office, like Poe’s proverbial heart. Maybe that is the thing keeping me up?

I pretend that I am putting off those tasks because they require more attention than I have the bandwidth to give them. Or I will tell myself that other things hold a higher priority. Maybe they aren’t on my to-do list (because I haven’t put them on my to-do list mind you). Like many of us, I am very good at making up stories.

I’ve realized that it is because they are out of my comfort zone, which really just means that they are uncomfortable for me to do. Many of these things are uncomfortable for everyone: calling a customer who is overdue and asking them for money, cold-calling for a potential sale, asking a vendor for a discount, or negotiating an important contract.

If I really want to move outside my comfort zone, I need to start and more importantly finish things with a greater urgency — especially the things that I have been putting off. While this sounds like procrastination (on which I’ve done some research) and to be sure there is some overlap, it is more than that. This is putting something off, not because you’re a perfectionist or you’re afraid of failure or success, or you’re a control freak … but because it makes you uncomfortable.

The second part of my initial question is, now that I know where my comfort zone ends, how do I get out of it?

Photo Credit: Markus Spiske

I made a list of some of the ways that I could accomplish this feat. Keep in mind that doing these things are not just ways to get out of your comfort zone, but not doing them, clearly keeps you in your comfort zone.

1. Ask for help — Ask. For. Help. Hard to do. Gets easier.

2. Allow yourself to be vulnerable — Embarrassing yourself? Not the end of the world.

3. Learn — If you are afraid to sell, take a sales course.

4. Practice — Puts learning into action. The more you practice the easier it gets.

5. Set goals/to-do lists — Never underestimate the power of writing a thing down. Makes it real.

6. Rewards — Likewise, never underestimate the power of bribery. If I make this big sale, I will buy myself a Porsche.

7. Do a cost/benefit analysis — Make a list putting the costs of doing something next to the benefits which almost always outweigh the costs. If they don’t, don’t do it.

8. Write down the worst that can happen — Write down the absolute worst, and then go about finding a way to protect against it. Often the worst is just a rejection.

9. Hold your nose and jump into the water. Sometimes it is just that.

Photo Credit: Angelo Pantazis

Here are some of the things that I am going to do that I have been putting off: Read and negotiate an important contract with a potential licensee. Ask a company that owes me money for said money. Go into a local Target Store and confront the Lawn and Garden section to see how my Bloomers Island products are displayed and selling. Call another potential licensee. Then another. And then another. I really, really want to find a food company that I can work with for Bloomers Island healthy snacks. I’m going to call a CEO of one targeted food company. I’m going to put together a group of Curriculum Bytes for plant science and present them to a well-known school magazine.

What about you? What have you been putting off? How are you going to move out of your comfort zone to do them?