How To Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone By Building Momentum
Rusty The Hamster Can Teach You All You Need To Know
Most advice makes leaving your comfort zone feel like it’s a drastic step. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Time for a sweeping declaration.
“Hey Felix, why don’t you fly up to 128,000 feet and jump from space?”
But it’s not like that. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be. The more sustainable way for most of us to break out of our comfort zone is…
You need momentum. You can learn everything you need to know about building it from my friend Rusty, the hamster.
Let’s analyze how Rusty does it!
- On his first push, he’s thoroughly tossed about. The wheel makes half a turn backwards and he just slides right back down with it.
- Then, he gets some grip and the wheel starts spinning. You can see him slip back a few times, but he keeps running.
- Just before he really picks up speed, he’s thrown a curveball and takes a full turn together with the wheel — but it keeps spinning.
- He shakes of the setback, jumps back on his feet, attacks the wheel (he can’t give up now!) and a second later — swoop — he’s off the wheel.
In Rusty’s case, breaking out of his comfort zone might only lead to a headache, but in yours it will mean freedom, contentment and success.
What Rusty teaches us is that leaving your comfort zone happens gradually.
When I look back at the substantial progress I’ve made in writing, none of it felt substantial. I just kept writing and somehow ended up here.
Why is that?
The connection we’re missing
When people ask how they can break out their comfort zone, what they’re really saying is:
How can I be less scared of being different?
We think being less scared allows us to be more original. What we see is this:
The part we don’t see is that this is a two-way street. Being more original makes you less scared. And it doesn’t have to be a big difference.
In real life, you won’t even notice you’ve flown off the wheel at first, and that’s a good thing.
So how do you build momentum like Rusty?
Swinging in circles
In 12th grade biology, I learned about this thing called an ecotone:
A transitional zone between two ecological communities, as between a forest and grassland or a river and its estuary.
Here’s me at one in 2014:
There’s a lake, a forest, mountains and they all clash. Because several worlds collide, interesting things happen at an ecotone:
- Grasses change color.
- Plants change shape.
- New species emerge.
You can think of it as a big party, and the blurrier the barrier, the merrier the mingling.
You need to find the ecotone of your everyday life. Here’s what I mean. Let’s say most of your days are spent primarily with the following activities:
- Morning routine
- Evening routine
Most days, you stroll around the center of this circle, where you’re the most comfortable. You feel in control and everything goes its usual way.
But on some days, you have to get up earlier, use a different machine at the gym, cook faster or sleep less. Life pushes you closer to the edge of your safe zone. You feel a bit stressed, but you still manage.
What if, instead of waiting until life forces you to, you deliberately chose to live your life around the edges?
When you’re in charge, change isn’t stressful. It’s fun. Plus, you can always come back. Circle the center for a while. Recharge. Walk to the edge. Then come back again.
Make each step one halfway between what’s familiar and what’s uncomfortable until you start living entirely in your ecotone.
The longer you run around the edges, the faster you’ll get, until one day, like Rusty, you’ll break out.
Comfort is built on discomfort
Look around where you are. You might be sitting in a comfy desk chair, or at the library, or on your couch at home, reading this answer on your iPhone, coming from Facebook.
All of the modern comforts you and I now enjoy on a daily basis were built by the Rusty’s of the world.
- The desk chair was invented by Charles Darwin, who put wheels on his chair so he could investigate specimens faster.
- The iPhone came from a man who kept working for a decade through his battle with cancer.
- Mark Zuckerberg learned to code when he was 10 and did it every day for years.
What these people did is work on their momentum every single day. They raced along the edge of their comfort zone until they finally broke out — so you can now remain in yours.
So whatever you choose to do today, I hope you’ll spin that wheel.
Every step at the edge of your comfort zone is a step towards happiness.