I met someone recently, let’s call him Tod, who, over lunch, told me that he tries to get out of his comfort zone twice every day. Everyone at the table scoffed at that statement.“It’s true!” He said. So I asked him what he’d done today that got him out of his comfort zone and he said that he had almost been hit by a car when cycling in the morning and that he was still getting ready for the second. Later that day, Tod opened up to me about the fact that he struggles with depression and that he had turned to poetry as a means of working through his thoughts. He once again had pushed himself out of his comfort zone.
I’ve often thought about my own comfort zone and tried to see its edges and push myself out of it. When I’m writing I often try to see if there isn’t some way I can do something new with each piece of work. Maybe something that scares me. One of the big questions that come up for me whenever I do something particularly daring, as it may do for you as well, is “Why on earth am I doing this?”. So, let me give you a few reasons Why getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing.
Firstly, your comfort zone is terrible at telling you what sort of things are good for you and what things are bad for you. Just because something is comfortable doesn’t mean that it’s something your body needs. For example, I’d say for most, playing PS4 on the sofa is well within one’s comfort zone. It isn’t good for you. Do it for long enough and your mind and body will start to deteriorate. But for a lot of people going to the gym or reading a new kind of book is very much outside of their comfort zone. The further outside of your comfort zone something is, the more mental energy it takes to do that thing. Once you start to do those things regularly however they start to become part of your lifestyle and this takes me on to reason two.
Reason 2: Your comfort zone expands the more you test it. Fredrick Neichze (a 19th-century philosopher) use to say that “One can not grow to heaven without roots that reach down to hell”. Quite an intense statement (he was quite an intense guy) but nonetheless the idea he proposed was that to attain the most amount of meaning in life we have to confront the things that we fear the most. Or to phrase it another way. The more you get out of your comfort zone the more meaning you can find in your life. You should get that as a bumper sticker.
So say you confront something, like the fear of meeting new people. You go out and you’re nervous but you force yourself to talk to someone and it goes ok and you go back home. You come home and you lie in bed and think ‘hey, you know, that wasn’t so bad. Maybe I could try to do that more often.’ And you do and each time it becomes less and less scary. This is not because the task becomes any easier but because through confronting it, you become braver. You become stronger. You become more capable of taking on different aspects of the world and when you can do that it means that you can see more of the world and when you can see more of the world you will find new meaning in it.
So I think that’s a pretty cool thing to keep in mind the next time you’re feeling nervous about doing something you’d like to do. Take Tod from paragraph one. His choice to get out of his comfort zone by opening up to me about his depression and his poetry opened us both up to a deeper relationship. I suddenly saw him from a whole new perspective and he felt seen and recognised as well as accepted. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my conversation with him and I hope to see him again someday. Our new formed relationship is meaningful and has depth to it as a result of his choice to get out of his comfort zone and without doing that we would both have experienced one thing less in our lives.
So maybe it’s worth listening to his statement. Consider, what would your life be like if you got out of your comfort zone twice every day?