Space is limited inside your comfort zone, and with that we set our limitations. There’s no room for the thrill of the unknown, only the safe and the familiar. And so we distance ourselves from the fear of the unexplored.
The most common excuses people tell themselves:
I’m really good at this job/task, I don’t need to level up or learn something new. I will do what I know because I am already successful. I will save time and energy if I just stick to what I know.
I think it is so important to break this cycle of thinking, to know we can do more than our own set limitations. This post covers this through my experiences and how I broke out of my comfort zone.
A few months ago I gave a talk about breaking out of your comfort zone, at a Wolox event called Tech & Talk. During the talk, I noticed the audience reaction: as I shared experiences they too were looking back on their life adventures. Their faces are what motivated and inspired me to continue sharing my experiences. So, I encourage you to also look back on your lives as you read and compare your experiences.
Let’s start with the basics..
What is the comfort zone?
It is that zone where someone is happily confident with something, where our routine produces good results, where the anxiety and stress is low. We have everything under control and little to worry about. This can apply to different things:
- Work tasks
- Our position in a sport team
- The way we interact with people
For example: me as Software Engineer with some years of experience in Full Stack development, creating code with known frameworks is something where I flow and feel really confident. I know how to make things work and I loved it. So..
Why do I need to escape that zone?
To reach a different state where the magic happens, where you learn and discover your potential, new experiences, and new challenges or ideas.
Have you ever felt a deep pain in your stomach when experiencing something unfamiliar? (eg. talking to a person you admire, proposing a new project to your boss, talking in public).
Congratulations! That weird feeling is an indicator of you stepping outside of your comfort zone.
What happens when you get there?
You will start feeling anxious, a bit stressed, confused, a bit lost and maybe uncomfortable. But… it’s that place where you will:
- Experience new things
- Learn your limitations
- Learn new things
- Understand your real potential
and those are invaluable moments/feelings to experience. You need to know your potential and limitations to be able to surf future situations in life.
I consider myself an introvert. Every time I approach a group of people at an event, when I have to speak in front of an audience or when I have to give my opinion in a big meeting, I feel my heart beating out of my chest, incredibly nervous and anxious. With practice, that feeling lasts only a moment and then incredible things happen: I meet amazing people, I express myself in meetings. There are many things I would miss out on if I stay inside my comfort zone.
But… what happens if we go too far? You will enter something called the panic zone.
I remember when I was a child, I wanted to learn to ride a bike. I got my bike and started riding without fear. Finally, I ended up crashing into the only tree that I had in my garden and got hurt. You can picture something like this:
When you enter the panic zone you will feel really stressed, unmotivated and depressed. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes, make adjustments, and keep trying. I got help from my dad this time, and I succeeded.
So how do you escape from your comfort zone without failing?
Whenever you feel like trying something new, taking a next step, analyze the variables, your surroundings. I was really afraid of the water, the deep lakes and oceans, but I loved sailing with my dad. I remember sitting with the life jacket and staring at my dad to see how he reacted in difficult situations. Finally one day I asked him if I could steer the boat. I was really scared, but I felt prepared because I’d been learning a lot from watching him for years.
After that situation, I started getting more confident and wanted more, so I started piloting bigger boats, it became easy, so it was time for more, I was back in my comfort zone.
When you get out of this zone where you have total control, you are entering a new zone where you may have no knowledge, where failure can be imminent. Give yourself time to learn, to fail, and to move forward.
You will start getting new results. I started giving small talks, then some courses to students and started writing blog posts. All this took many hours of practice, patience, and self- awareness, but in the end, totally worth it. Without making all this effort, I may still be scared of giving my opinion in a crowd, or maybe never meeting all the incredible people that I share my everyday with at Wolox.
Every person is different. One’s challenge may be a simple task for another person. In some moments of our lives, being in our comfort zone might be the healthiest decision, but I promise it is worth it. Take that step, look forward to new challenges and escape your comfort zone!