Breaking Your Comfort Zone: The 7 Steps to Living a More Adventurous and Fulfilling Life
Why would you purposefully seek out activities that make you feel uncomfortable? It’s not as if discomfort sounds like something you would want to pursue… right?
For the past few months, we (Edwin & Jordy) have worked on an answer to this question. In fact, the question inspired us to create a journal for those who want to break free from the constraints of their comfort zone.
But more on that later…
We’ve known each other since we were 14, and started our journey of actively seeking discomfort 2 years later at our high school’s Christmas gala. For us, as teenagers, dancing in public felt like the most awkward thing ever.
Nevertheless, we knew we wanted to be the kind of people who could dance without shame, no matter who’s watching. Therefore, a new rule was created: “You’re never allowed to have your hands in your pockets while standing on the dancefloor!”
Even though it felt like the most difficult thing ever at that moment, we instinctively knew it was worthwhile to challenge ourselves. Since then, we’ve experienced how discomfort can create space for new experiences in life and lead to memorable adventures.
“It’s a strange and paradoxical fact that there is a reciprocal relationship between the worth of something and the difficulty of accomplishing it.”
— Jordan B. Peterson
Take a moment to think back to your most memorable experiences and worthwhile achievements. Moments in which you felt fulfilled or proud. Were they brought into existence by comfortably lying in bed, watching Netflix, with a box of chocolate chip cookies?
Probably not. Most likely, they were moments of great personal growth in which you had to challenge and stretch yourself. Either socially, emotionally, or physically (or some combination). In other words: You went outside of your comfort zone.
The fact is, going outside our comfort zone is often scary. It’s something we fear because it could have unknown (or known) consequences that are potentially harmful to us. However, breaking away from your current comfort zone can reap huge benefits in the long run.
And know this: research shows that people at the end of their lives regret the things that they didn’t do more than the things that they did do. People who rarely dare to push the boundaries of their comfort zone have fewer opportunities in life, fewer experiences, and therefore fewer special memories to remember and interesting stories to tell.
Yes, you see that right. I (Jordy) am sitting in a meadow reading to some cows. I might seem at ease, but I must admit I felt rather anxious. Up close, while sitting down, they seem quite huge and intimidating. Still, it was a fun experience, and I have a memorable picture that puts a smile on my face every time I look at it :)
So, what am I reading to these cows? It’s our journal! In it, we provide a list of 7 steps anyone can follow to overcome any kind of discomfort. Let us walk you through them.
Step 1: Identify the Area of Discomfort
Everybody is unique in what they find uncomfortable. For example, just because someone might be comfortable with their body, does not mean the person feels the same about expressing their feelings to a friend. Therefore, it’s important to determine what exactly makes YOU step outside of your comfort zone.
Remember that it’s important to be honest with yourself. Acknowledging your fears is hard, but it’s the only way towards true personal growth. The following questions may help you with this (make sure to write out your answers).
- “What is it that I fear but admire other people for doing?”
- “Looking back at my life, which moments would I’ve liked to have handled differently — but didn’t due to discomfort?”
- “If I were to grade my life on a scale from 1–10, what would need to change for me to make it a 10?”
“Whatever fears that may seem small are the most important. Because those small fears that you overcome allow you to overcome the bigger fears. And that’s the goal.”
— Peter Crone
Step 2: Articulate Why You Want to Grow in This Area
At this step, you identify your “why”. This is your purpose, cause, or belief that provides you with the reserves of energy and determination to continue even when it gets tough.
For example, you may have found public speaking to be the most frightening thing ever. However, your dream is to become a comedian, making people laugh — which requires you to be on stage talking to a big crowd. This “why” will be your motivator, that will continue to help you grow your sphere of comfort.
Step 3: Choose Your Challenges
Now that you’ve found your area of discomfort in which you want to grow, it’s time to think of some fitting challenges. The key is to try and come up with a diverse range of challenges.
For example, if you want to become more comfortable expressing and sharing your feelings with others, you may add these to your list:
- Thank someone in your life they did for you.
- Tell a friend your biggest fear in life.
- Book a (trial) appointment with a psychologist to discuss emotional issues.
Thinking of different challenges will stimulate keeping an open mind as to how to grow in this discomfort area. Additionally, having challenges with varying difficulties will enable you to choose a fitting level of discomfort for you at this moment. You want to be challenged, without freaking out — this is your “level of optimal anxiety.”
“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”
— Joseph Campbell
Step 4: Make a Planning
Next, you’ll have to choose which challenge(s) you are going to do and when. So, take out your schedule and plan your challenge(s). Plan as detailed as possible to increase the chance of actually doing it, instead of only dreaming about it. This can be done by answering the following W-questions:
- What will you do? Think of possible individual steps that you’ll take. If you become better at talking to strangers, already think of some conversation starters.
- When will you do it? This entails the date, starting time, and for how long.
- Where will you do it? This can be even as specific as, for example, picking out the exact chair in which you’ll meditate.
- With whom will you do it? This is only optional, but having someone to hold you accountable can help. Furthermore, it might be a fun bonding experience to go through some discomfort together.
Step 5: Take Action!
The moment has arrived to put theory into practice. Remember your reason why you wanted to do this and go for it. It’s okay to still be anxious about the challenge. Otherwise, the challenge wouldn’t be a good discomfort challenge. Who knows, you might even enjoy conquering your fears.
“Courage is not the absence of fear but action in spite of it.”
— Morgan Scott Peck
Step 6: Reflect on Your Experience
Open a document or a notepad and reflect on your experience. Reflection can lead to more insights about yourself, which is why it’s crucial that you’re completely honest. If there’s one person you should be able to confide your feelings to, it should be yourself. Having a more concrete idea of your comfort zone will eventually accelerate your growth.
After every challenge, ask yourself questions like:
- “On a scale of 1 to 10, how uncomfortable did I feel and why?”
- “Could I have handled a higher level of discomfort?”
- “What new things did I learn about myself and from the overall experience?”
Step 7: Repeat the Steps Until You No Longer Need the External Motivation
Overcoming your first discomfort challenge(s) is amazing and you can be proud of yourself. Also, it’s the first step in your journey to stop letting fear control your life. Therefore, repeat the previous steps until you no longer need the external motivation of planning and reflecting to embrace your specified discomfort area.
In other words, you’ll make a habit of actively seeking out discomfort. While one individual step won’t change your life, having a habit of taking these steps again and again will put your life on a trajectory towards the life that you desire.
That’s a Wrap!
To sum up, for any discomfort that you want to overcome in your life, you can use the following steps:
- Step 1: Identify the Area of Discomfort
- Step 2: Articulate Why You Want to Grow in This Area
- Step 3: Choose Your Challenges
- Step 4: Make a Planning
- Step 5: Take Action!
- Step 6: Reflect on Your Experience
- Step 7: Repeat the Steps Until You No Longer Need the External Motivation
However, there are many other tools out there that you can use to get the most out of discomfort and even life in general. This is something we cover in our journal: “Breaking Your Comfort Zone.”
Among other things, we talk in our journal about how to build healthy habits, the benefits of mindfulness meditation, and the teachings of Stoic philosophy. We’ve included these concepts to provide you with a mental framework that will change your relationship with discomfort.
This is based on the fact that they are all aimed at one thing: You being able to live the life you want.
We’ve worked on this for the past half year and are super proud of the result. Most importantly, it re-inspired us to challenge ourselves more, and break free from the constraints of our comfort zones.
After all, we want to look back at the end of our lives without regret for the things that we didn’t do and be inspired by those things we did do. To have had incredible experiences and memorable adventures, despite the discomfort those things inevitably create at that moment.
We believe, no matter who you are:
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
— Neale Donald Walsch
Edwin & Jordy
Want to know more about how to acquire our journal? Click the link below!