Do you feel like you’re doing the same things over and over again each day? Does every day feel like a carbon copy of the last one?
If that’s the case, you’re likely stuck in the dreaded place we like to call the comfort zone.
Staying in your comfort zone is not always a bad thing. Stability and predictability are a necessary component of our lives.
However, spending all of your time in your comfort zone is a one-way ticket to depression, anxiety, and emptiness. We are happiest in life when we are making progress, and progress usually involves retreating from the familiar and venturing into the unknown.
Today, we’re going to dive into a list of comfort zone challenges that will help you break the log jam of complacency in your life.
Why Am I Scared to Get Outside My Comfort Zone?
The simplest answer to this question is fear of the unknown.
As human beings, we are not wired to do things that are uncomfortable and scary. Your brain has one job — to keep you alive.
Quite literally, your brain perceives change and discomfort as a legitimate threat to your survival.
Why? Because it’s unpredictable. It’s not familiar.
Whenever you are about to do something outside of your comfort zone, your brain triggers the fear response. Your heart starts beating faster. Your palms may get sweaty. And your mind starts racing a million miles an hour thinking about everything that can go wrong.
This is your brain’s defense mechanism. It’s trying to keep you alive, and whatever you are about to do — whether it’s approach a stranger or ask your boss for a raise — is in direct conflict with this goal.
When most people attempt comfort zone challenges, they give into this feeling and let it have power over them
There’s a lot more than just fear of the unknown at play here too.
We Also Fear Failure. Most people don’t try new things because they want to avoid the feeling of disappointment that comes with losing. The idea of not trying and avoiding failure is far more attractive than playing to win and rising disappointment.
We Fear Rejection. One of the most powerful forces in our lives is the need to feel accepted by other people. We’re social creatures, which means the approval of other people is a biological need that we all have. Embracing rejection and taking social risks are a direct threat to this need.
The bottom line here is this — we don’t step out of your comfort zones because we’re afraid of the potential consequences.
It all comes down to fear.
The Downside of Your Comfort Zone
If you don’t ask your boss for a raise, you’ll never get it.
If you don’t force yourself to the gym when you don’t feel like, you’ll never have the body you want.
If you don’t introduce yourself to strangers, you’ll never have the social life that you desire.
The biggest downside of the comfort zone is that you restrict your ability to become the kind of person you want to be.
Growth doesn’t occur without change, and change can’t take place if you’re constantly repeating the same actions that have gotten you to where you are today.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
Fear is completely natural. No one is immune to it. Even the most fearless and courageous leaders of all time — Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi — all experienced intense fear before engaging in heroic displays of courage.
You don’t develop courage by getting rid of fear, you develop courage by acting in spite of it.
When you avoid uncomfortable situations and run from fear, your fear doesn’t go away. It comes back with a vengeance the next time you find yourself in that situation.
This is the paradox about getting out of your comfort zone — the more you protect yourself from fear, the more it grows.
For example, let’s pretend for a second that you’ve been crushing it at work and feel like you deserve a raise. As soon as you start thinking about asking your boss for a raise, your brain kicks into full gear:
What if he/she says no?
What if he/she laughs me out of the office?
What if I don’t appear confident and assertive enough and it actually hurts my credibility with him/her?
Within seconds, you’re already thinking about all of the possible negative outcomes that can occur if you ask your boss for a raise.
So you decide not to do it, and resolve that you’ll just, “do it tomorrow.” (How many times have you said that to yourself?)
Tomorrow comes along and the same thing happens. You still feel anxious, afraid, and hesitant to take control of your life and ask for what you want. So instead of having the risky conversation, you leave it be once again.
Typically, this leads to a vicious cycle that repeats itself day after day, and your fear just continues to grow due to your lack of action.
Eventually you get to a point where you’ve avoided the uncomfortable conversation with your boss so many times that your fear feels insurmountable.
Days, weeks, and in some cases months go by — and you still find yourself in the exact same position as you were in when the idea first popped into your head.
That is how the comfort zone ruins your life.
Benefits of Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
The life you deserve is out there waiting for you, you simply have to muster up the courage to go out there and grab it.
The main benefit of stepping outside of your comfort zone is that you figure out who you really are.
Most people embody an identity that doesn’t represent who they really are. For example, if you’re an introvert who doesn’t have many friends, is that your true identity?
Well, it depends.
If you’re truly comfortable with who you are and you don’t mind missing out on social gatherings because you enjoy your alone time, then you’re simply an introvert who is comfortable in your own skin.
However, if you’re an introvert with a small social circle who actually deeply craves social connection and wants to make more friends, then you’re living in a state of incongruence.
You aren’t actually an introvert who is okay with being alone. That’s simply an identity you’ve cultivated because actually having the social life you desire requires getting out of your comfort zone.
Here are some of the additional benefits of comfort zone challenges:
- Decreased anxiety. The only way to reduce anxiety is to expose yourself to anxiety-inducing situations. There’s a big difference between fear and anxiety. Fear is a natural response to a given situation. Anxiety is a result of continuous avoidance of that situation. It’s essentially “fear of your fear.” Exposing yourself to fear doesn’t get rid of it, but it teaches your brain that you can handle it and overcome it.
- Personal growth. Getting out of your comfort zone involves taking actions that you’ve likely already been thinking about for months, maybe even years. Taking on these challenges and embracing the discomfort that comes with them is a natural part of your personal growth.
- Failure is your best teacher. Taking risks, regardless of their outcome, are opportunities to learn. Your brain is actually really good at storing information about negative experiences. Use this to your advantage and course-correct based on the lessons that you learn from failure.
- You’ll never regret trying. Jim Rohn has an amazing quote about regret where he says, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” If you ever watch interviews with people who are in the last few years of their life, their biggest regrets usually come from the things they didn’t do — the person they never married, the job they never took, etc. If you step out of your comfort zone, there’s no guarantee it will go the way you want it to. However, I can guarantee you’ll regret not trying and seeing it through.
Before We Get Started
I’m about to give you guys a giant list of comfort zone challenges, but before I do that here’s a little guidance on how to pick which challenges to attempt.
These challenges are going to be broken down into categories.
My best advice is to pick challenges that correspond with your weaknesses and insecurities.
If you lack social skills, then focus on comfort zone challenges that will put you in uncomfortable social situations.
If you’re an introvert who tends to reject shifts in your environment, then choose challenges that will force you to embrace spontaneity.
Comfort zone challenges are like investments. You want to choose the ones that will give you the greatest bang for your buck. In other words, challenge yourself in a way that addresses your biggest flaws/demons.
Embracing Rejection Comfort Zone Challenges
Oftentimes, we don’t do the things we really want to do because we’re afraid of being rejected.
Some of these challenges may seem odd, but they all have one goal – make you comfortable with the judgement of others and being told NO.
- Lie down on the ground for 20 seconds and then walk away as if what you did was completely normal.
- Next time you go to a burger restaurant, ask for a “burger refill”. I actually got this idea from Jia Jxang, who is famous for his 100 Days of Rejection Challenge.
- Ask a random stranger for $20.
- Go to a grocery store and ask the cashier to speak on the intercom
- High-skip through the mall for 30 seconds
- Go to a thrift store and buy a ridiculous outfit. Walk around in a public place wearing that outfit.
- Go to a coffee shop and order your usual drink. After you order, ask for a free complimentary donut and see what the cashier says.
- Next time you go out to a bar, give it your best shot at putting together some dance moves. Stay on the dance floor for at least two minutes.
- Next time you go to a restaurant, ask for something that you don’t see on the menu and see if they can make a custom order just for you.
Social Comfort Zone Challenges
If you find it difficult to interact with others and attract new friends, then these challenges are perfect for you.
They will help you get comfortable with talking to strangers and improve your overall confidence in social situations.
Both of these things will lead to more social opportunities.
- Ask 5 random strangers to play rock-paper-scissors with you
- Have a difficult conversation with one of your friends
- Order food and have a quick conversation with the cashier
- Attend a Meetup group
- Facetime someone that you haven’t talked to in awhile and catch up with them about their life
- Invite one of your co-workers to lunch
- Approach a random girl/guy on the street and give them a compliment
- Ask a stranger to exchange secrets with you
- Tell someone important in your life how much you care about them
- Make a bet/play truth or dare with a random stranger in public
Switch Things Up Comfort Zone Challenges
These challenges revolve around making drastic shifts to your daily lifestyle.
One of the best ways to avoid the comfort zone is to constantly immerse yourself in different environments and experiences. If you keep doing the same things over and over again, that’s when you start to get comfortable.
Here are some comfort zone challenges that will help you shake yourself free from the comfort of your daily routine.
- Take a cold shower
- Eat a restaurant that you’ve never tried before
- Organize a spontaneous weekend trip with your friends
- Perform karaoke in front of a crowd of people at a bar
- Sign up for a Toastmasters class
- Go 24 hours without electronics
- Take an improv class
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter/retirement home
- Go for a police ride along
- Attend a costume party
- Go skydiving
- Apply for a new job that you’re under-qualified for and see what happens
- Go through a drive through and pay for the person behind you
- Go see a movie by yourself
- Go to a fancy car dealership dressed in your best clothes and test drive a new car
Everything you want in life lies outside of your comfort zone.
Despite being a near-perfect machine, your brain is actually not wired for success.
It’s designed to keep you alive, which means whenever you attempt to do things that are unfamiliar and/or scary, it will do everything possible to ensure you don’t take action.
At the end of the day, you have one life. If you spend that life trapped in your comfort zone, you’re going to restrict your ability to become the type of person you want to be.
Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is more painful than staying somewhere you don’t belong.
Take advantage of these comfort zone challenges. Start relishing discomfort and embracing the unknown.
You’ll start to realize just how much you’re capable of when you attempt to stretch the limits of what you think you can handle.