One ticket to anywhere out of my comfort zone please!
January 26, 2013 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Apparently everything I want in life is just outside my comfort zone but the problem is that it's just so.........comfortable in here. Please share your tips, strategies and resources for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

I'm deliberately not specifying a context. Things which apply in professional, social or any other kind of situations are all equally of interest.
posted by neilb449 to Religion & Philosophy (13 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Cut yourself off from one of your comforts until you attempt something outside your comfort zone

ie no chocolate until you try broccoli
posted by mulligan at 9:43 AM on January 26, 2013

I'm not sure I can help you much without a bit more information about what it is you want and why it is you're having trouble leaving your comfort zone (are you backing out at the last minute? are you intellectually recognizing things you 'should do' but not ever taking action or creating a real plan to do them? are you trying to expand your comfort zone to include certain things so you can do them as regular activities, or are you just trying to go have single experiences?)

The only answer I've ever found is to learn about it, practice, and then (the real trick) just go do it.

So if you find talking to strangers uncomfortable? Think about a time a stranger came and talked to you and it went well. What did they say? Then go do it.

If you find going out to places with lots of people, or going to places outside of your sub-culture, uncomfortable? Then just start going! Sit there for a while and watch people, strike up small talk conversations, etc.

If you want to get more comfortable with public speaking, go to Toastmasters or something like that - the trick of which is, that they have you just go do it, over and over again, until it becomes comfortable.
posted by Lady Li at 9:43 AM on January 26, 2013

Go spend 12 days in a foreign country. Learn only the basics of the language. There ya go!
posted by oceanjesse at 9:53 AM on January 26, 2013

For working towards something outside your comfort zone that requires extra effort and time, especially substantial effort and time, there's two related approaches that may be of use.

1. Jerry Seinfeld's "Don't break the chain", which has been mentioned on MetaFilter before.

2. The Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

Combining those two can be a powerful weapon, tool, motivator into working towards something distant, not easily in reach.
posted by Wordshore at 9:54 AM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Baby steps. I once, in a fit of excitement, tried leaping out of my comfort zone, only to leap right back into it again.

I found that there are degrees of comfort, not a bright line, outside of which everything is terrifying. There are things I only do on an infrequent basis that are uncomfortable, which are more comfortable than things that I never do.

Take spiders, for example. Handling them used to fill me with dread. I managed to go from waaaaaaaaaah-spider!-throw-shoes-and-run-away! to being able to handle them by warming myself up to the idea. First I got used to covering them with a glass and sliding something underneath, all the while holding it at arms length and breathing heavily. Then I bought the spider closer to me. Then I actually stood and looked at the spider up close as it was caught in the glass. And so on. You know what? Spiders are actually kinda cute and they often have very pretty markings.

Break whatever it is that you want to do but tell yourself you can't down into small, manageable pieces. Do it until you find a piece that you're comfortable doing. Then do the next piece, the first piece that you're very mildly uncomfortable with, until you're comfortable doing that. Then the next piece, and so on and so forth.

You'll find that by doing this, your comfort zone will expand in other areas too.

Also, this book was really helpful.
posted by Solomon at 9:56 AM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I moved 7000+ miles to a new country. Definitely waaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of my comfort zone.
posted by astapasta24 at 9:56 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take an improv class! Nothing like having to make stuff up under pressure to slingshot you out of your comfort zone. The basic improv philosophy of "yes, and..." starts to seep into other areas, and you find yourself more amenable to trying new things.
posted by booksherpa at 10:10 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I find that focusing on one thing that is uncomfortable and setting a goal of TRYING to make it more comfortable does a lot to help me deal with the discomfort. The goal of tackling the discomfort almost becomes enough to get over it. Then I look back and wonder why I was uncomfortable in the first place..
posted by thorny at 10:15 AM on January 26, 2013

Wait long enough and life will do it for you. Sooner than you'd expect, probably.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:20 AM on January 26, 2013

I was in a nice, comfortable comfort zone in DC, where I'd lived for almost eight years (six longer than I meant to). How did I get out of it?

I fell in love with someone who lived on the other side of the country, in a city I'd never lived, and where I knew one person besides her.

I wanted to be with her enough that I just up and moved.

So guess my answer to your incredibly vague question is: If you want it enough, or need it enough, you'll do it. If you don't, you won't. Look to your motivation.
posted by rtha at 10:22 AM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I can suggest a few things I did which pushed me way out of my comfort zone (and if someone would go through my comments on metafilter, I refer to these experiences a lot, I think they really shaped up my personality):

Flying to a foreign country alone for a couple of months. Even if you speak the language, it might be your first time being alone on the other side of the globe, without parents, family or friends to provide a safety net.

Climbing - the sport is very mental, there are many barriers and inhibitions to overcome. It is a constant battle of pushing yourself into the discomfort zone. Paragliding and back country skiing seem like good candidates too.

Talking to an audience, giving lectures and presentations. Easiest to start with giving presentations about your project at work or training new team members. I find that much harder in the academy, where, as a student, you need to present other people's work. Extra points if you stage freight.

Taking advanced mathematics, physics and computer science courses at university. You gotta look for the ones which you're not sure that you can actually pass, not the courses you're confident you can ace.

All of these things will help you gain confidence, which will help you in all areas of life. However, you'd have to push further and further out to get the shame rush as you did when you started. You get used to the "danger".
posted by ye#ara at 12:34 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Here's what I do when traveling, which could probably apply to anything: I research the heck out of the area on TripAdvisor to find a hotel in a residential area with interesting stuff within a safe walking distance (i.e., learn about it before you do it). Within the first 2 days of poking around the neighborhood, I find "my" restaurant and "my" cafe, which are the places I can call home if I don't feel like having everything always be new new new (i.e., quickly establish a new comfort zone).

Then, every day, I push the geographical boundaries of my exploration. If I went 8 blocks east yesterday, today I go west instead. I can always circle back to "my" cafe or whatever to recharge, but then I push again.

So: Establish "safe" spots and give yourself permission to go there if necessary. But keep nudging yourself farther and farther away from them. A sense of humor helps: "I've never crossed Big Avenue. It's the EDGE OF THE KNOWN WORLD! Today, I'll cross Big Avenue and see what's over there."
posted by ceiba at 1:42 PM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Look for a way to take a small, reasonably familiar step within your zone that will trigger events that lead you out of your zone without you even realizing it.

Personal example: about a year into my current job, I was interested in piloting something new. It was totally theoretical but I applied for a grant to run the pilot. No big deal, I've written grant applications. Just part of the normal everyday.

Three months later, I find out I got the grant. I go tell my boss. He says, "well, I guess you have to do it then." And he was right. I had set something in motion months ago, forgotten about it, but now I had to follow through. Retreating to my comfort zone where I just write and research stuff wasn't an option.

I spent most of the next year on the project, worked really hard, had a lot of fun, gained great skills, yes...made a few mistakes which i learned from, and made a huge positive impact on my career. And here I just thought I was filling out a grant application.

Or yeah, buy a plane ticket to a foreign country for a month.

Remember, there was a time when everything that isn't scary to you was scary to you. A time in the life of everything that works when it didn't work. Remember that success begins with failure.
posted by dry white toast at 9:44 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Learning Cantonese in Toronto?   |   This cowardly lion wants to GRRL up Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.