Staying on Firm Ground: It’s Time to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

By Paige Bintz

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I used to be in gymnastics for most of my life and while it was the most memorable part of my life, it was also the most terrifying. The beam was a nightmare. You go onto four-inch-wide surface four feet off the ground, and you’re expected to jump, flip, and turn without falling off. Honestly, it’s a little crazy that someone thought this would be a sound idea of fun. I was learning a back handspring in high school and I never wanted to try it up on the beam. Are you kidding me? No thanks. It was terrifying, so I always had to try different persuasion tactics every practice. My coach would threaten me with push-ups or running stairs or I would give myself pep talks. But one day, I decided that I’m not going to think, and I am just going to go for it. I did and I fell, of course, but I got a different feeling besides the soreness of my butt hitting the mat. I felt pride and excitement. I did it. It was bad, but I did it. Then I could take this fall as a learning experience and motivation to get back up there and try it again, without the need of threat or persuasion.

This metaphor is always one I bring up when talking about comfort zones. I could have easily stayed in mine and said, “no thanks, I’d rather not. I am very comfortable staying on firm ground.” If I did that, I would have never broken down my fears and gotten a new skill. Comfort zones in general are psychological states of being where we avoid actions or situations that may bring about stress or anxiety. They are there for good reason, of course. It provides safety and familiarity and it is great to stay there sometimes. Sometimes, on the other hand, it is great to step out and experience a little stress and anxiety occasionally.

If you aren’t uncomfortable once in a while, you will be missing out on a lot. New experiences, skills, and challenges lie just outside, and these prepare you for larger life events of transition, change, and growth. So essentially, if you don’t step outside of your comfort zone, you will most likely become stagnant, which doesn’t really lead to a lot of life satisfaction. Why is it so hard to do challenge ourselves? We all fear rejection, failure, and humiliation, its human nature. However, these possible outcomes shouldn’t stop you from the possibility of greatness.

How do we do this? Here are 3 big steps to help you realize your true potential

Recognize your fears, let them fly, and respond positively.

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This is a process that contains aspects of mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy. When situations become difficult to deal with, your brain kicks in telling you, “hey, this might not work out. Just play it safe.” Now, what you need to do is recognize your fear. For example, noticing that you are scared about going to a fitness class for the first time by yourself. Notice what exactly are you afraid of. Maybe you are afraid you might look unexperienced, be out of shape, or not know anyone there. Alright, now let them go. Then give those thoughts a positive outlook. Tell yourself that all experts were beginners at one point, this is your first big step on your fitness journey, and that you have amazing social skills to make a new friend. Also, think about how satisfying it will feel to overcome this fear. You did it! Using this pattern of thinking and applying it to nerve-racking situations helps us step out of our comfort zones and into an area of growth.

Gather information and create a plan.

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When we don’t know about what will happen in a certain situation, we tend to think about worst-case-scenarios. These are what cause the stress and anxiety of trying something new or challenging. So, look up details in books or educate yourself in the topic on the internet. Maybe even, contact people who have done something similar where you can get their opinion and see their plan of action. Then take all this information and come up with your own plan of action. Write it out step by step and make these steps tangible and do-able. These “baby steps” will show you that growth doesn’t have to be overnight. That is a gross misconception. Steadily pushing your boundaries in small steps to reach your goal is a way to almost secure your success. Let’s go back to the fitness class example. First, start by knowing the day, time, and location of the class. This way you can guarantee that you know where you are going and won’t be late. Next, see if they have a class list and look to see if you recognize any names. If so, maybe reach out to them to carpool, and if you don’t, find a name of a person and make it a goal to reach out and talk to them. Knowledge is power and with this you can have the power to do anything.

Motivate yourself and hold yourself accountable.

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This is probably the hardest part, in complete honesty. Tips on how to be accountable and motive yourself is to really dive deep on why you want these goals in the first place. Why do you want to step out of your comfort zone? Why is this important to you? Answering these questions keeps your motivations in check and reminds you of the importance of doing the unthinkable. For the class example, you may want to do a vision board. Collect phrases, pictures, and quotes that inspire you about fitness and put them on a spread in your journal or in a frame. Place this board wherever you will see it the most, so you can glance at it and be motivated to stick to the class. For accountability, you can tell your goals to a friend or family member. They will help you keep track of your goals and accomplishments along the way. They will give you that extra little “push” to reach out. You might tell your mom about your class, so maybe next time you call, she asks about your progress and how it went. You don’t want to look silly and have nothing to talk about, so you’ll have to go. Overall, this step is super important in order to evaluate your inspirations and motivations so that you can truly make magic happen.

Comfort zones can keep us safe and grounded, but sometimes opportunities for growth and transformation are waiting for us right outside. So, whether you are doing a back handspring on a beam, going to your first fitness class, moving to a new city, asking someone out, or whatever seems uncomfortable to you, do not be afraid. Take these steps and any others that are personal to you. Then just find your balance, take a deep breath, and just go for it.

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