Pushing The Boat Out! How To Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Pushing the boat out, or stepping out of our comfort zone, can be mildly uncomfortable or completely debilitating! If we persist, however, we can develop valuable coping strategies that can help us in all areas of our lives.
One such strategy is 'testing' our boundaries. This involves deliberately placing ourselves in situations outside our comfort zone and taking note of how we cope.
The strategy consists of a two-step process:
Step 1. We need to become aware of what our barriers are, and we need to know their limits.
For example, take public speaking – the said number one fear. This is a barrier for a lot of people. If this is something that affects you, when does the fear kick in for you: speaking in front of one person, two, 10 or 1000…?
If you’re comfortable speaking in front of your partner, but begin to quake when faced with 20 people, your comfort zone lies somewhere between one and 20. This is your limit.
Step 2. Once we think we know what and where our barriers are, we need to set up situations that will 'test out' whether we're right.
Setting up a test simply means you prepare yourself as well as you can for a particular challenging experience (eg a public speaking engagement). You make the decision, and accept, that this is a test situation and therefore a learning experience. You go through the experience no matter how hard it is, fully aware that this is a challenge for you, but one that you're proactively dealing with. You then review the experience (once it's over) in terms of how it went, how you felt and what you learnt.
Let's use the public speaking scenario above as an example. Imagine you've been asked to give a speech to 50 people. You know this will be demanding for you, as you've already ascertained your comfort zone is somewhere between one and 20 people. You therefore have two options:
Option 1. Avoid doing the speech and stay in your comfort zone
Option 2. Opt to go ahead with the speech, seeing it as an opportunity for positive change and personal development
Choosing option 1 may give you temporary relief. However, adopting such an avoidance strategy each time you're faced with difficulty results in a reduced quality of life - and you'll always wonder what if...
Option 2 requires a subtle but very powerful shift in mindset. Choosing this option changes the situation for you, and your public speaking engagement suddenly becomes a challenge not a chore.
Moreover, by viewing the public speaking scenario as a test to discover whether you can actually speak to 50 people, the outcome (whether positive or negative) becomes less important. What is important is that you develop a mindset that says: 'this is just a test...it doesn't matter if I mess up...I'm pushing the boat out here...I'm seeing how far I can go...this is nerve-wracking but exciting...'
Adopting this level of thinking relaxes you, gives you power and control over your fears, and frees you from the need to do things perfectly. It also helps you rise above any negative comments or judgements from other people, who may be unaware that you're operating outside your comfort zone.
Proactively stepping into any challenging situation with a 'let me have a go...let me test myself' mentality helps you break out of your comfort zone in a structured and much more controlled way than simply diving into the unknown. It's an approach that keeps your confidence and personal power intact, and allows you to reach new heights.
So check out your boundaries regularly, plan ahead and set up those all-important test situations that will help you to push the boat out!
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