Leaving your comfort zone on a regular basis is crucial to your development as a well-rounded individual and to creating a life you feel is worth living. We all live, but few people live lives they are proud to have lived, proud to have created. Breaking out of your comfort zone isn’t easy and it does take a significant amount of conscious effort. It doesn’t usually feel natural — at least not at the onset — and more often than not, the opportunity to do so is passed for the more comfortable option: not trying something new.
Our comfort zones are our safe havens, places and circumstances we have experienced so often that we now believe they will keep us safe. We conceive comfort zones as a safety mechanism; they serve as a sort of safety net, which we can fall back on whenever we experience outside factors that pose a threat or make us uncomfortable. Comfort zones are great assets to have, but come with a heavy price.
Harvesting comfort zones can often do more harm than good. Think of comfort zones as training wheels: You remain in your comfort zone (keep your training wheels attached) because you are afraid that leaving it will cause you to fail (fall and bruise yourself). Removing those training wheels takes courage and a strong belief in your abilities, which have been developing since you initially received your training wheels.
Likewise, our comfort zones are great for practicing how to interact with the world that exists outside of our boundaries. If we are a bit self-conscious and unsure of our socialization skills, we travel only to places we are familiar with, where we can chat with people we have already met and possibly make new friends through old ones.
Such interaction is great, but only to a certain point. You can practice the skills you need in order to feel more confident once you do venture outside of your comfort zone and decide to experience the rest of the world. The problem is that most of us, for whatever misconstrued reason, believe we can live happily within our comfort zone.
How foolish would you look riding a bike with training wheels at your age? Compare that to how you look living your life within a neatly constructed safety bubble — it’s virtually the same. It’s one thing if you’re still a teenager (or toddler), but if you’re a grown adult, you really need to take some time to rethink your values and the direction in which your life is heading.
The biggest problem with comfort zones is that while they serve as a means to keep everything from changing, the world outside will continue to change, regardless. If there is anything worth picking up from Darwin, it’s that adapting to our changing environments is the difference between being a survivor and going extinct. If you can’t learn to interact, cope with and manipulate the real world, you will never amount to anything.
Comfort zones are miniature worlds we create for ourselves. They are found within the real world and follow many of the same rules, but are void of one important factor: unpredictability. There is little we do not know within our little bubbles. Generally speaking, we know just about everyone we are likely to interact with, we know the conversations we are going to have, we know the flow of the day/night, and we know exactly how the night will end: exactly the same way every other night ends. It could mean alone; it could mean drinking ourselves to sleep; it could mean bringing home the same person we always end up taking home because, let’s be honest, it’s convenient.
Although we are programmed by nature to avoid uncomfortable situations that could hurt us in some way, the reality is that, as human beings (highly intelligent creatures), we have wants that are just as strong as many of our needs. Remaining safe within our comfort zones will lead to extreme discomfort and unhappiness in the long run.
We need excitement in our lives and unpredictability — the very same things we are naturally inclined to avoid. We are, quite literally, walking contradictions. The only way to get ourselves out of this destructive pattern is to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable. We need to convince ourselves — prove to ourselves — that leaving our comfort zone is not only comfortable, but also rewarding.
Leave your comfort zone every single day of your life and not only will you no longer fear trying new things, you’ll also look forward to it. You’ll enjoy not knowing — the surprise and excitement that come along with living a life you have yet to live. We are creatures of change; we live for it. It’s a relatively new development in our psyche (considering that it is now believed that humans have been around for over 400,000 years), but it’s there, nonetheless. Do something that scares you at every chance you get and you will be utterly amazed at what the world has to offer.