Do you have a go-to routine that gets you from one day to the next? Comfort and familiarity anchor the actions that get most of us through each day. We get comfortable in a zone where we’re familiar with the outcomes and can be productive and complete tasks. But did you know that repeated actions can stifle your growth?
It’s easy to fall into the habit of continuously operating in a comfort zone. So how do you break out to create new opportunities and grow? In this article, Jay Shetty unpacks three reasons you might be stuck in your comfort zone and shares four ways you can go beyond what is comfortable to reinvent yourself.
What is a Comfort Zone?
According to Judith Broadwick, a comfort zone is “a state where a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.”1How does that definition apply to your life? Jay Shetty says comfort-zone thinking tends to show up as avoidance. You try to avoid anxiety at all costs so you can skirt around risk and just get through the day performing your regular, safe, and steady tasks.
Addiction to Being Anxiety Neutral
Do you ever feel overwhelmed and find yourself seeking a way to get rid of the anxiety that plagues your life? When you feel overwhelmed, you become less focused and more distracted, and your ability to perform tasks at an optimal level decreases. Extra anxiety can also rob you of your joy and happiness. Too much anxiety does not benefit you. But what if someone told you that having no anxiety is bad for you, too? Creating a world void of anxiety creates boredom and lethargy. “When you have no anxiety, often drama is created,” explains Jay Shetty. “Have you noticed people in your life who have to create drama because they need some anxiety? We need a certain amount of anxiety that sparks action and change and leads to creativity.”So is there an optimal level of anxiety? According to the Yerkes and Dodson Law, performance increases with physiological or mental stimulation, but only up to a point.2 When levels become too high, performance decreases. So anxiety is not all bad. We need a certain amount to drive our motivation and creativity. “We believe anxiety is bad because the anxiety we've been dealing with is unhealthy, drama-filled anxiety, not the anxiety that can be positive and drive a sense of activation or acceleration that moves you out of your comfort zone,” explains Jay Shetty.If you are feeling overwhelming anxiety, getting back to an anxiety-neutral state is the first step to finding a happy medium. So what steps can you take to make that shift? “When you're experiencing high anxiety levels, you may practice more mindfulness and breathwork,” Jay Shetty shares. “Start a workout routine that helps to lower your anxiety. Then experiment. Try new things, take a new course, create a unique opportunity, or do something you've never done before. Start to add intentional anxiety you know is healthy.”The difference between optimal anxiety and overwhelming anxiety is that optimal anxiety is invited and welcomed into your life rather than the anxiety that unintentionally interrupts your life and creates drama instead of direction.
Limiting behaviors hobble your growth. When you stay in your comfort zone, you use the same skills day after day to deliver the same level of performance. This is what stability looks like. “You never get to experience whether your performance, joy, or learning could increase,” Jay Shetty explains. “When you say you want a limited set of behaviors, you’re saying, ‘I'm happy with the skills I have.’”As you go through life, you experience new things and learn new skills. Not all these experiences will be pain-free. If you don’t embrace them, however, you could set yourself back in life. “When you rely on a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, you set yourselves up for failure,” Jay Shetty shares. “Chances are that you’re going to have a life experience that surprises you that you don't know how to deal with because you have never been through something similar.”It’s normal to be scared to take that first step into the unknown, but one step is all it takes to journey outside of what is comfortable into a world of potential. Don't be limited by the perception of yourself, you can’t stay trapped in your comfort zone forever. You’re blocking yourself from achieving your fullest potential if you don’t step out of your comfort zone.
Four Types of Risk Takers
Getting out of your comfort zone requires taking a risk. As scary as that might sound, it is part of your journey in personal growth. There are four types of risk-takers according to Jay Shetty:The Conservative Risk Taker. This is a person who plays it safe. They don't take too many risks. They like to stay close to their comfort zone. The Casual Risk Taker. This person takes risks with no real intention. They often are not successful with their risk due to a lack of thought or planning. They rely primarily on luck. The Calculated Risk Taker. This is someone who crunches all the numbers and does all the analysis and calculations before deciding how they will take the risk. The Conscious Risk Taker. These are the people who apply both intuition and data. They take the time to look at the risk from all angles before deciding to take the risk. “Taking bigger risks doesn't make you bolder or courageous,” Jay Shetty explains. “It doesn't make you stronger or more powerful. It could be stupidity or ego-based, but we have to develop a want to be more pro-risk. The growth that is possible when we are able to do that will help take you out of that comfort zone.”
Four Steps to Moving Beyond Your Comfort Zone
So now that you know how staying in your comfort zone limits you, how do you move past that and step out? Jay Shetty explains we need to take four steps to move from the comfort zone to the growth zone. These include:
- The comfort zone
- The fear zone
- The learning zone
- The growth zone
The comfort zone is your starting point. Jay Shetty explains that when everything goes smoothly, it’s an indicator you're not trying anything new. You can move step by step through the fear zone or dive right into the growth zone.“Often, we skip the little steps and jump in the deep end alone,” explains Jay Shetty. “But we need both approaches. The little steps mixed with the big immersive experience make the difference in the journey.”Next up is the fear zone. The fear zone is where you start feeling the uncertainty of starting something new. You’ll have to push past excuses and deal with other people’s opinions to navigate this step. The opinions of others should have no bearing on the quality of your life, but we live in a world where the opinion of others is held in high regard, causing us to question ourselves. According to Jay Shetty, questioning yourself isn’t always a bad thing. Asking questions like the following can help lift you out of living in a world full of excuses and catering to other people’s opinions.
- What's more important to me – my passion or my perception?
- What's more important to me – my potential or my perception?
- What's more important to me – the reward or my reputation?
The next step is the learning zone. This is where you deal with your challenges and acquire new skills. You’ll want to spend most of your time in this zone, says Jay Shetty. In the learning zone, you’ll try new things and explore new ideas.Trying new things can bring failure, but it's not the end. If you are experiencing failure, it means you’re trying something new. You are expanding your skills and knowledge. Just because you failed once doesn't mean you can’t succeed the next.
Five Stages of Growth
Once you move past the comfort, fear, and learning zones, it is time for growth. Here are the five stages of growth according to Jay Shetty:
- Learn - You feel passionate about your new adventure. That means it will work itself out, right? Wrong! Educate yourself about the journey. Read books, talk to experts and study whatever you can get your hands on.
- Experiment - Take the knowledge you’ve learned and apply it. Practice! Put it into your reality. Experimenting allows you to understand what works and what doesn't. This will enable you to experiment more to gain knowledge and confidence. Allowing yourself to fail and move on from it takes you away from your comfort zone and moves you toward more growth opportunities.
- Perform - Once you gain confidence, you get in the zone. You create a cycle of constantly delivering.
- Struggle - There will be struggles with every step, but you will learn to adapt and pivot in those struggles. You’ll learn how to overcome them and move on.
- Thrive - Once you’ve learned how to navigate the five stages of growth, you will arrive in a place where you can see how it has all come together. You’ll thrive!
Each step is geared toward getting you to the place where you thrive. You can't just get excited about something, skip all the steps and hope for the best, says Jay Shetty. You need to take each step to move you out of your comfort zone. So what are you going to do this week to move out of your comfort zone? Take a new route to work, or work in a different environment. Sit next to a stranger at the lunch table, or try a unique outfit style. Whatever it is, start small, then accelerate. You will be amazed at what the world has in store for you as you grow and navigate the possibilities outside your comfort zone.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “3 Reasons You are Stuck in Your Comfort Zone and 4 Steps to Break Out” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.
1 Bardwick, J. M. (1998). Danger in the Comfort Zone: From boardroom to mailroom--how to break the entitlement habit that's killing American business. Amacom, American Management Association.
2 Yerkes RM, Dodson JD (1908). "The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit-formation". Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology. 18 (5): 459–482. doi:10.1002/cne.920180503
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