Life Begins at the end of your comfort zone, claims American author Neale Donald Walsh. Before you read any further, take a moment to congratulate yourself for getting to where you are today. Your artistic passion is has found a footing or you’re holding down a job that you feel good about or you’re just able to manage the ups and downs of life better now than ever before.
Still though, you’ve likely reached a bit of a plateau in some aspect of your life. All that work to get out of your comfort zone and make some changes only to find out that you’re now just in a new comfort zone! For better or worse, this one is at least a much better place. It is safe and secure, like a cushy reclining chair on a lazy Sunday afternoon. In this spot, you know that you don’t actually need to change anything, but you also know that somewhere beyond this chair is something much greater. It’s just that this chair is so comfortable and we know exactly where it is, so much so that we can probably walk into our home, close our eyes and find it without looking.
The small problem with mindlessly moving to that favorite spot on the couch to unwind is that each time we do this; the cushion gets depressed a bit more. And as that spot becomes more welcoming to our mind (and tush), getting up to try something new becomes less and less likely. Somewhere, all of us are residing inside our comfort zone and all of us can benefit from a comfort zone challenge.
So, let’s get uncomfortable! What exactly is a comfort zone challenge? Tim Ferris, author of the 4-Hour Workweek refers to it as a planned action to face a fear with the primary goal of overcoming this fear or increasing your courage and confidence. This action includes a calculated risk of negative social evaluation but does not expose you to real danger or long-term negative consequences.
Therefore, a comfort zone challenge is more like purposely and purposefully taking a seat on the other side of the couch or in a different spot in the room. It isn’t hanging a high wire rope in your living room and trying to balance on it. You merely want to change things up and remind yourself that you are stronger or more capable than you think you are. In the perspective shift, you may notice something new or you may realize that you’re ready to take a bigger chance the next time you head towards that spot on the couch.
Simple challenges may look like deciding to:
- Eat solo a restaurant without using your phone to keep you company
- Use public transportation and go someplace you've never been before
- Sharing your work before it's completely finished
A real challenge is one where, like the description above, you do something socially outside of your norm. This is an opportunity to elicit the kind of reaction that reminds you of when you were young and dreaming big; when you said what was on your mind and then did it without worrying about the outcome. Only now, it is planned and with a purpose: to expand upon your courage and learn to be more confident. Our skillsets can be acquired through books or experience. What sets one apart from anther with the same skill is the confidence in oneself and the belief in that skill. So get out of that chair, take small social risks at predetermined times to steadily stretch your comfort zone little-by-little.
Have nothing but hope; talk to strangers the most.
Communicate effectively with acquaintances.
And with friends and foes, cast every word like a vote.