For many of us, a new year begins with a declaration that this is the year we'll do something different. We'll learn a new skill, take on a new challenge, or change our way of living. Something outside our comfort zone.
But why do we look for ways to switch things up? I mean, staying in our comfort zone doesn't sound so bad – it's called the comfort zone for a reason! It's where we feel safe, and at ease. Why would we want to leave it? Because very little of what's worthwhile is achieved within it!
Your comfort zone is a place of inertia, stagnation and disengagement, and provides no fertile soil for goals and dreams to flourish.
So, don't stick yourself in a rut, however comfortable. With the help of Mind Tools' friends and followers on social media, I've highlighted five ways you can step out of your comfort zone and live life more fully.
We polled our followers on LinkedIn, and 58 percent of respondents put "learning a new skill" at the top of their list.
Whether you want to learn a language, build your career skills, or finally learn how to play the piano, the start of the year seems the perfect time to learn something new. But so many resolutions fail after the first month. The truth is, it's easy to lose motivation when the going gets tough.
Starting something new can be frustrating, and even a little scary, but for any new learning to be embedded and successful, we need to be challenged. As our article, The Learning Zone Model, says, "The balance needs to be just right: if we're not pushed hard enough, we're unlikely to step out of our comfort zone; but if we're pushed too hard, we start to panic and feel overwhelmed. In both cases, learning is restricted. Instead, we need to aim for the 'sweet spot' that is the Learning Zone."
Interestingly, the second most popular answer on our poll, at 34 percent, was "go for a new job." This is a common New Year goal. It's a time for reflection and for identifying our priorities for the year ahead. For many people, that might mean a desire to challenge themselves in a new role, to find a better work-life balance, or even to change their career path completely.
Even if you don't fancy a career change, try to embrace new opportunities that come your way. For example, LinkedIn follower, Sicco Jan Bier, a business controller in the Netherlands, jumped at the chance to learn to drive a bus. He said, "It won't be a career change, but I could not resist the opportunity... to get a taste of driving one."
Mind Tools coach, Sonia Harris, tweeted about the importance of considering fully new opportunities before saying no. She said, "To break out of my comfort zone, I'll mindfully allow myself to thoroughly listen to new opportunities before rejecting them halfway through. This will prevent me from making a judgment call prematurely."
Some common suggestions for breaking out of your comfort zone centered around building healthy habits. LinkedIn follower from Zambiia, Claudius Fundi, said that he intended to "get physically fit." Australia-based HR specialist, Melissa Rico, said that she would "take some time out for myself and try yoga."
I'm not averse to wanting to live a little healthier this year, and I've even opened an account with a local vegetable delivery service to incorporate more seasonable vegetables into my diet and support my local farmers. Ever cooked cavolo nero (a type of Italian kale) before? Me neither, but I can't wait to try it!
Even if you've outgrown your comfort zone, being afraid to fail can stop you from moving forward.
You're likely familiar with the phrase "do one thing every day that scares you," so why not be bold this year and face your fears? Whether you want to overcome a fear of networking or go skydiving at 10,000 feet, embracing your fears will help boost your confidence, and encourage you to try new things more often.
Want to learn more about facing your fears? Read how Mind Tools writer, Jonathan Hancock, turned fear into fuel by taking on a 100km run for charity.
If you want to take on a great physical challenge like a marathon, why not sign up to run for a local charity as an extra incentive? Or if you want to get better at public speaking, why not throw yourself in the deep end and practice at an open mic night?
If you've got a number of different things you want to achieve this year, a good idea might be to treat yourself to a reward for achieving landmarks or milestones along the way: a nice meal out or a bottle of bubbly, for example.
How do you get the courage to step out of your comfort zone? Share your top tips, below.
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