“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. So if you’re feeling uncomfortable right now, know that the change taking place in our life is a beginning, not an ending.” Neale Donald Walsch.
Do you know that uncomfortable feeling when you step outside your comfort zone? It’s those moments you put yourself “out there” for pushing yourself but still feel anxious, embarrassed, or just plain old awkward. As a child, it may have happened when you jumped on a bicycle for the first time without training wheels. But later in on life it happens when you stand up in front of an audience to speak for the first time. Or in your job, you put yourself into a position of leadership or risk. Most of us may hate feeling uncomfortable. But we sometimes struggle through it, because of the results that help us grow.
Our travels to outside the comfort zone
Throughout our lives, we routinely step outside our comfort zones. It happens when we start a new job, move to a new place that is unfamiliar, face a major life shift like birth or death, start a business, or push ourselves to more fully evolve into our career. Stepping outside our comfort zone also happens when we decide to take a bold step forward to push ourselves either mentally, emotionally, or physically to a place that both frightens and excites us at the same time.
But whether we like it or not, a close companion to stepping outside our comfort zone is a heavy feeling of uncomfortable. The tricky part is sometimes not just how to step outside your comfort zone but how to stay in that zone.
7 steps to make feeling uncomfortable work for you
So if we know that feeling uncomfortable is simply a part of stepping outside our comfort zone and a necessary part of growing personally and professionally, how can we endure it? Or could we even embrace it?
Here are 7 steps to help you make that step outside your comfort zone.
Step 1: Acknowledge the discomfort. Instead of avoiding the feeling, sit with it. Write about it or even talk about this with someone you trust. Allow yourself to feel these feelings. It is an essential first step to helping you process.
Step 2: Identify the cause of your discomfort. When you step outside your comfort zone, it is easy to over-generalize and amplify the problem. You might think, “I shouldn’t have taken that step out of my comfort zone.” But instead you can say, “When I stepped outside my comfort zone, I felt afraid that people would laugh at me.” By uncovering the concern that is causing your discomfort, you can help weaken its power over you.
Step 3: Confront your fear. Very often, when we step outside our comfort zone and feel uncomfortable, it is because of fear. Facing our fear and putting it in its place you can help minimize the fear itself. Remember, it is perfectly fine to feel fear. But remember it is a fear-not necessarily a truth. But when truly we face our true fears we can understand they are not necessarily realities.
Step 4: Quiet your mind. Once you have processed your feelings, step away for a time and let perspective set in. Often, we try to think our way out of feeling uncomfortable. I have personally found it helpful to give my brain a little break. It allows my intuition to help me figure out which direction I want to go.
Step 5: Make failure an option. What if you gave yourself a “pass” if you failed? What if you treated failure as part of the process? Giving yourself a break and pull the pressure off. I routinely rely on a standard phrase, “the most successful people have failed the most.” Failure can be our best education for success.
Step 6: Adopt self-care strategies. When you put yourself in an uncomfortable space, it can be exhausting. Your brain is not on automatic pilot and you are in unfamiliar territory. Find ways to take care of yourself while you are willing to sit with being uncomfortable. Lean on friends more. Give yourself space to regroup. Know that you are pushing yourself and you need some extra attention.
Step 7: Remember being uncomfortable has been your companion before.
Can you remember a period of personal growth where you were uncomfortable but were able to achieve something for yourself? Use that experience as a way to move forward.
There is real value in facing that feeling of being uncomfortable because moving through it – rather than avoiding it – can help you grow.
By living with the uncomfortable, you can accept your circumstances more whatever they may be. You are also more likely to take more risks, accept failure with more grace, push yourself further. And maybe just maybe, you can feel a little less uncomfortable with stepping outside your comfort zone.
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Danielle is a certified coach focused on career and lifestyle issues. She runs her blog Time for You helping high achieving professionals find ways to take a bold step forward while maintaining work-life balance.