When was the last time you did something crazy? Or how long is it since you changed your everyday habits or altered your daily routine? We all like to stay in our comfort zone – where life is pleasant and we feel safe. However, we can only grow as people if we try something new. The rule that applies here – like in other areas of life – is: Take baby steps.
I stopped believing in coincidences long ago – or, at least, that things happen for a reason. My plan for today – which was supposed to be a day in the office, without any coaching sessions or resilience training – was to write my next blog on the topic: ‘Step out of your comfort zone!’ And what happened? Yesterday evening, I picked up the latest issue of ‘emotion’ – a publication that I have been subscribing to for many years – so that I could read for a while before going to sleep. And what was the cover story? ‘Just give it a go!‘ – a report about the very topic I wanted to write about. The editor-in-chief discussed the incredible sense of fear she had about diving from a height of 10 meters when taking part in a team event – and how immensely proud she felt after doing it.
This reminded me of how, as a teenager, I was always diving off the 10-meter platform at the pool. The thought of it fills me with dread today – but back then, I overcame my fears and simply went ahead and did it. Another thing I recalled was that as a teenager, I spent years waiting to officially become an adult (the age of majority was 20 at the time) in order to FINALLY do my first parachute jump. When I eventually turned 20, I kept putting it off and I have to confess that now, at the age of 50, I have still not done it – out of fear.
Almost at a standstill
As children, we have far fewer inhibitions about doing something wild (my five-year-old daughter is a prime example – and she always come away with a few scratches). Equally, children are not frightened about asking the questions that we, as adults, would never ask (my seven-year-old daughter repeatedly does this). As adults, we tend to get stuck in a rut – with almost the same daily routine, fixed patterns of behavior, long-established relationships, etc.
This does, of course, have certain advantages. It provides a sense of security and is less taxing. We know what is expected of us – we are in our comfort zone. But at the same time, this means that we almost never dare to try something new or break out of our established patterns. It is almost like being at a standstill. Is that what I want? I am actually the kind of person who loves change and likes taking risks (but no longer physical risks – unlike in the past). I wasn’t frightened to set up my own company. I like establishing contact with people I don’t know. I recently moved house and already feel very at home in my new place. The list goes on and on. That is because I see change as a source of energy.
Habits are hard to break
At the same time, I have to admit that even I follow the same routines and sometimes became a victim of my own patterns of behavior. Habits are hard to break. We have rituals, routines and actions that we do automatically – which is all very pleasant, comfortable and predictable … or so it seems. You may be familiar with what is known as the ‘boiling frog’ syndrome: If a frog is placed in a pan of boiling water, it will do everything it can to escape. However, if the frog is placed in a pan of cold water and the heat is gently increased, it will just sit there until it literally boils.
This is precisely how it works with people. We get into a comfortable rut and no longer even notice the consequences of this situation. What is it that actually prevents us from stepping out of our comfort zone? The answer is simple: Doing so requires a lot more energy – and we also face the risk of failure, which nobody wants! But just think about it for a minute: What is the worst that could happen? Usually nothing dramatic. After all, FAIL also denotes: First Attempt in Learning!
Take baby steps
How can we learn to step out of our comfort zone again? The decisive factor is to take small and careful steps. For example: Try altering small daily routines or redefine established work processes. Ask your boss if you can take the lead in a new and exciting project. Volunteer to stand and give a talk to a small group of people. It is helpful if you write down your goal, communicate it to as many people as possible and set yourself a deadline by which to achieve it.
If you dare to do so, you may discover an entirely new side to yourself and continue to develop as a person. This will inspire you with confidence and give you the courage to venture even further outside your comfort zone – which will thus become bigger and bigger over time. As I always tell my children at mealtimes: you don’t know whether you like it until you try it. It may be something that you will suddenly love. Your comfort zone will grow with each new experience. What do you want to try out? Take the plunge and overcome your inner fears! This will allow you to grow as a person. I wish you the best of luck – and a lot of fun and satisfaction as you try something new.
© Claudia Kraaz