How to Gently Push Yourself Outside your Comfort Zone

by Karen Mann

picture of snowboarder in the air

You know that saying about your life beginning where your comfort zone ends? What comes up for you when you hear that?  

Maybe you’re inspired by it, as it reminds you to always give a little bit more than you thought you could.  

Or, if you’re like me, it comes across as well-intentioned yet somewhat tone-deaf. It implies that if you’re comfortable right now, you’re doing something wrong. It teeters on shaming.    

Let’s say you agree with the adage and want this life outside your comfort zone, so you start thinking about how to get there. How hard do you have to push to get past it? Is a little push okay? Is there a chance you might go so far beyond it that it is counterproductive? Where is this line, and who decides that?  

For instance, if you put me on a Black Diamond ski slope, it would be out of my comfort zone. This comes from someone who can’t get off a chair lift without falling, and the fact that I even know what a Black Diamond is surprises me.  

It would be out of my comfort zone, and it would also likely result in my being airlifted off the mountain.  

There is a balance. While growth comes from challenges, knowing when to stop is also important. Honoring that stopping point can be just as brave.

So what if you’re one of those people who is stuck at the bottom of the hill.  Just putting the skis on feels like too much. 

When you’ve been a yo-yo dieter, and you’re thinking about starting the journey of weight loss yet again, you might start to feel like a novice skier being asked to go down the Black Diamond. Even a little nudge into the uncomfortable shuts you down. It’s overwhelming. I get that. I’ve been there. 

So, if you want to befriend the discomfort of growth by toeing your way across the comfort zone line, I present to you: 

The Comfort Zone Buster Reset Exercise: (yeah, that’s a little wordy, but work with me here)

We’ll think of something we’d like to do or be, but haven’t started yet. For me, it’s usually related to putting myself out there to find more people to help (i.e., marketing).  

Imagine that thing, whether it’s weight loss or something else, and visualize yourself taking that first step. We’re not even going to do anything. No pushing, no striving, no disappointment, no shame.

Just visualize it. I’ll picture myself in a crowd of new people, telling them what I do. What comes up? My heart starts to race a little, my stomach has this sinking feeling, and I already imagine failing. 

Just let that feeling be there. Observe it like someone looking in, watching a movie or a play.

How’s that?

The reality is that it’s not the action itself of going outside the comfort zone that keeps us stuck. It’s the fear of this feeling. It’s the feeling that stops us, not the doing. Yeah, this feeling right here, the one you just allowed yourself to be with. And you’re okay. 

So, today, I’m giving you permission to stay in your comfort zone! Don’t do the thing. But imagine it, and then spend 30 seconds right there, with that experience. 

Guess what?

You just went outside your comfort zone. You’re welcome.  

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