Your comfort zone is your casket.
I don’t quite remember who said that quote nor do I remember where I first heard it, but that short six word statement is something that has resonated with me for years.
My routines, my habits, my daily activities – everything – changed when I started recongizing that I was constantly operating in my “Comfort Zone.”
In fact, I don’t even think I knew I was operating within a comfort zone, which is the scariest thing about our comfort zones – we often don't even know we are in one! However, the more we stay in our comfort zone, the less we tend to stretch ourselves and grow, but worse – the more of a habit our comfort zone becomes.
So today in this article, the goal is to help you do the following:
- Learn what a comfort zone is and identify yours
- Understand why it is vital to escape your comfort zone
- Implement a 10 day comfort zone challenge
What is your comfort zone?
Scientifically and phsycologically speaking, the meaning of your comfort zone is as follows:
A psychological space where things are simple, familiar, routine, and can require very little mental capability. The mental space of being in a comfort zone results in very little stress or anxiety.
The scientific reason for our comfort zone dates back to our earliest ancestors and some of the hardwiring our brains afford us, all centered around persevering energy.
Stay in control, stay steady, don’t overwhelm yourself – all things we tell ourselves throughout the day to day called life – is also perpetuated by mainstream Western Society. Leisure activities are encouraged during free time and from our earliest schooling days, we are told to fall into routines/lines.
Do what is easy.
All of this leads to a very routine type of lifestyle that ultimately becomes a habit. Really, our comfort zone is simply a habit at it’s simplest level.
Think of your comfort zone in terms of a dog’s life.
Most of the time a dog will do just about anything to get food, lay in your bed, or get on the couch. Mentioning the word “Walk” or “Eat” get’s them excited before the return to their normal, lethargic behavior after expelling a short burst of energy.
While at first glance comparing humans to dogs might seem insulting, and that is certainly not our intentions, but a human’s comfort zone is very similar.
- Most adults follow a simple, standardized routine. For example, get up, make coffee, get ready for work, listen to the radio/music, work, eat lunch, return home from work, go to the gym, make dinner, watch TV, repeat.
- On the weekends there is a moment of excitement for a 48-hour window, however, most weekends are filled with mindless to-do lists and short bursts of leisure-like or entertainment activities.
- The standard operating procedure for most humans is not mentally stimulating or mentally challenging (overall).
The simple routines we often partake in on autopilot, combined with the lack of true mental stimulation/challenge lead to us falling into a comfort zone, that sometimes we are not even aware of.
Now at this point, you might be asking, “Why should I break out my comfort zone?”
The answer to that question (below) is vital for you to understand!
Why should you break out of your comfort zone?
Going back to our earliest ancestors (paleo people), every day was a new and exciting adventure, often one that could lead to another day, or possible death.
Chemically wired to survive, each day meant more hunting, gathering, and surviving which ultimately led to creativity and human advancement in short.
Fast forward to today, still powered by the same similar chemical wiring, we as humans don’t have to hunt for food, we can order it from DoorDash or visit Walmart. This has led to a more routine lifestyle centered around work.
In short, most humans are mentally challenged during their formal education years and earlier months in their career, however in a matter of years into adulthood, most are on autopilot.
What we fail to recognize, our self-confidence, energy, and personal growth stems from operating outside of our comfort zone. We don’t change, without changing our daily routines.
Food, habits, leisure activities, exercise, hobbies, work, family life – everything we do is very routine and for many, lacks spontaneity and true excitement. While you might be happy with your routine, for many the stress of time and money actually keeps us within a comfort zone.
The thought of breaking out of the norm can be scarier because of the unknown.
There is no growth in a comfort zone.
Real quick, a litmus test to see how entrenched you are in your comfort zone is to conduct this simple exercise:
Right now, think about the last time you completed or had trouble completing any of the following:
- Something that made you very anxious before (think of butterflies before a sporting event feeling)
- Started a new work project or personal project that was challenging
- Confidence with people, when was the last time you had a strong conversation or asked someone out on that date?
- You feel like you have been saying the same things for years
- You haven’t changed much in the last 12+ months
If you can’t remember or feel as though it has been some time (for most it’s around the New Year) then this is a strong indicator you might be operating in a comfort zone.
Next, ask yourself how long it lasted or did you even follow through?
For most, they typically have a burst of excitement centered around the aforementioned new year followed by a lull, and then complete resort back to our comfort zone. While this has a lot to do with our bad habits, we also feel comfortable in our comfort zone.
Hence the name. But breaking out is vital to CHANGE anything you want to change:
The benefits of breaking out of your comfort zone are endless and can include:
- Feelings of excitement and true joy
- More creative thinking and lateral thinking
- Further growth (think new workouts, new diets, new personal growth)
- Stronger relationships
- A feeling of great purpose
- The ability to make an impact
- Increased energy levels
- More self-confidence
Lastly, breaking out of your comfort zone promotes Eustress – healthy stress where we work and produce in an optimal state.
10 Day How to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone Challenge:
“Live is lived on the edge of your comfort zone.”
Stretching yourself daily and doing things that are “Out of your comfort zone,” are what ultimately lead to most of the things we want.
Think about it, if you want to make more money, unless you step outside of your normal routine, aka get out of your comfort zone, in most cases you won’t take the necessary steps to really go after that new idea.
It’s also important to note, that you do not want to go from your comfort zone to a STRESS ZONE. Most people, the New Year’s Resolution crowd are often guilty of this.
We take a new activity – commonly exercise – and we go from a sedentary lifestyle to working out 15 hours a week, instead of easing into a stretch zone!
That is why below, you will find a 10-day comfort zone challenge designed to be simple, but effective! Simply complete the following for 10 straight days and see how you feel after!
Day 1: Get up 60 minutes before you normally would.
On the first day of your comfort zone challenge, the goal is to start by breaking up the monotony and routine right away.
This means getting up at least one hour before you normally would. Part of our comfort zone is sleeping in, let's attack that first and start the challenge off right.
What you'll learn: This will help you begin to think differently about WHY you do certain things at certain times and help you get more time for yourself in the day.
A solid morning routine is key to a great day, but also gives you time to yourself to read, exercise, think, eat a great breakfast – whatever!
Day 2: Say hi to a random stranger.
At the store, at work, at the gas station, wherever (and possibly with a mask on for COVID reasons) simply get someone's attention and say hi.
This simple act of kindness is actually really comfortable for most people. Don't think about it, just do it. At the gas station, stop, look at someone and say, “Hi, I hope you're having a great day.”
What you'll learn: Even if you're weird, it's ok, you will never see them again! Oddly enough though, what you will recognize is that just communicating to random strangers (something we did all the time in school) is foreign to many of us as adults.
Communication is key and saying hi to random strangers isn't so bad, and this will increase confidence with people (they won't stalk you, you will be OK!).
Day 3: No matter what, the first thing you’re asked you must say YES!
No matter what, the first question or request you're asked, you must say YES!
- Your spouse asks for a favor: YES
- You get to work and someone asks for help: YES
- Someone texts you to hang out: YES
NO matter the request, you MUST say YES (hopefully it's a request to go to Hawaii).
What you'll learn: Learning to say YES more will make you more willing to do new things, thus getting out of your comfort zone more often!
The word NO defends your current position in life. Typically the word no accompanies our comfort zone and keep us there.
This one challenge might seem silly and stupid, but it is effective. The goal is to create the habit of saying yes more often!
Day 4: Do not get on social media for 24 hours or watch TV.
Not getting on Netflix or Facebook has a lot to do with our habits and also avoiding common time wasters (TV and social media), the same time wasters that keep us in our comfort zone!
Think about it, when you're bored or inline, you grab your phone and scroll instead of possibly having a convo with a stranger.
Instead of going for the run or working on the eBook, you're writing, you watch Netflix. So today, delete the apps and disconnect your TV. Do this for 24 hours.
What you'll learn: This is a great exercise to not only get out of your comfort zone, but to improve a bad habit most of us now have – wasting time on our phone!
Time wasters keep us in our comfort zone, they fill the time and also prevent us from trying new things. Our phones and TV have become very comfortable habits!
Day 5: Compliment Someone
Pick one: Walk up to someone at work and give them a genuine compliment OR walk up to a stranger, smile, and give them a compliment.
This seems simple, but it isn't. What you will quickly find out that act of being kind and complimenting others can be a little unsettling.
What you'll learn: Part of the getting out of your comfort zone is building more confidence within yourself! A quick and effective way to do this is to compliment others.
It is sad, but complimenting others can be challenging and requires lots of self-confidence. So doing so makes you stretch yourself!
Day 6: After work, do the complete opposite of what you normally do.
If you normally go to the gym, go to the library. After work, if you normally go to the gym, instead go to a park and walk.
The purpose of this exercise is to break up the daily routine AFTER work, similar to breaking up the morning routine we completed day 1.
Be very purposeful and do something really different. If there is a body of water nearby, go there and walk along the river. Whatever it is, the more impulsive the better!
What you'll learn: This teaches you that it's OK to do things differently, even during the workweek.
We sometimes conform to the notion that we can't do anything outside of our normal routines during the work week – but that is totally false.
You can stay up late, you can go on a hike, you can do lots of things after work, don't let our routine comfort zone tell us otherwise!
Day 7: Make a bizarre request.
Go to the store and ask for a tour of the back.
Ask the restaurant server for an off the wall request.
Write a company an email requesting something really weird like free samples for life. Get creative!
What you'll learn: You will be amazed as to what people will often say to be helpful. Asking for a taco refill at the restaurant might make them laugh.
Seeing if you're allowed to bring your dog into a store might actually lead to it actually happening. But whether your request is approved or denied, it's the lesson of learning to speak your mind you will gather here!
Day 8: Complete a workout 180
Today is focused on getting out of your comfort zone physically.
If you don't workout, workout.
If you already workout, do the complete opposite of what you normally do.
For example, if you lift – you have to run. If you run, you have to lift. If you do both, you have to do yoga or swim.
The point is to get you out of your workout run. Even when we workout, we fall into a comfort zone routine and avoid often what we need the most.
What you'll learn: Whether you workout or not, challenging yourself physically is more mental than anything. You will learn how to push yourself just a little further, a new habit you're looking to create!
>> Get some diff workout ideas here: run2daily
Day 9: Sign-up for something new.
Sing up for a race, a cooking class, a new workout program, to learn Chinese, a self-growth course – you name it.
Signing up for something (I did a half marathon) that makes you feel just a little uncomfortable will help create the habit of doing new things.
You will quickly learn that it isn't so bad and it can actually be enjoyable!
What you'll learn: Signing up for things creates accountability! Most of the time we stay in our comfort zone because of a lack of accountability to ourselves.
Use signing up and paying for something as an accountability technique!
Day 10: Do one thing that scares you.
The first 9 days were meant to condition you for today, the final day of the challenge, but the first day of the rest of your life.
Today, when you get up you're going to identify one thing that scares you and you're going to attack it head-on.
Maybe it's asking your boss for a raise, asking that guy/girl out or calling someone you had a falling out with.
Regardless, doing something that scares you just a little is something you're going to now do every single day!
What you'll learn: This will teach you that most of what scares us are things we have made up in our head and every day is a new day to go challenge ourselves.
The goal is to now do one daily activity that makes you uncomfortable in the moment, but makes you feel confident and better in the long run!
Tim Ferriss, author of the 4 Hour Work Week has some great comfort challenges sprinkled throughout his top selling book that are really “Uncomfortable.” However, perhaps the best quote in his book is as follows:
“The success you have in life is determined by the number of uncomfortable conversations you’re willing to have.”
That couldn’t be more true. The conversation we need to have in most cases is almost always the conversation we don’t want to have. The workout out we need to start is almost always not the exercise we enjoy.
But the challenge is good. We are wired to be challenged daily! You start living at the end of your comfort zone!
As we part, as a word of encouragement, watch this quick video on YouTube called 100 Days of Rejection!
The 10-day challenge will seem like a joke compared to some of the silly things author Jia Jiang does on his 100-day journey towards rejection!
Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $300,000 in student loans with his wife in less than five years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, being outside, traveling, and helping others with their finances! I got serious with money when I used Personal Capital to track my finances.