10 Simple Ways to Gradually Expand Your Comfort Zone

Written by on June 1, 2015 in Confidence, Emotional Mastery with 42 Comments

Simple Ways to Expand Your Comfort ZoneWhether we realize it or not, most of us put a lot of work into ensuring that certain things in our lives remain constant … few surprises, no uncomfortable challenges or unfamiliar boundaries.

What we treat as our personal “comfort zone” is invisible, but very real and the longer we live in our ‘zone’ the more difficult it becomes to move beyond those boundaries . . . familiar places, people, and activities, even the habits we long to break.

The thing is, for better or worse, life has a way of throwing us off balance with unexpected events – the loss of a job, the passing of a loved one or illness in the family, an unexpected move or change in an important relationship. It’s usually at these times we are confronted by the walls we’ve built over time, making life transitions even more challenging.

Nobody ever died of discomfort, yet living in the name of comfort has killed more ideas, more opportunities, more actions, and more growth than everything else combined. ~T. Harv Eker

Stepping outside of your comfort zone doesn’t mean completely changing your life or doing something crazy. The best approach is to gradually build your tolerance for experiences that include an element of uncertainty of discomfort. Every single step you take, no matter how small, will have a profound effect on your self-confidence.

Outlined below are several simple ways you can begin nudging your boundaries. It’s worth highlighting that merely trying a new food or reading a book in a different genre from time to time may make you feel good short term but won’t strengthen your overall resilience. Strengthening confidence and expanding your ability to manage feelings of uncertainty and discomfort  requires deliberate action in a variety of ways on a daily basis.

10 Ways to Begin Expanding Your Comfort Zone

Try a New Food

It’s easy to fall into eating the same foods, same meals over and over. I have a friend who has eaten a tuna sandwich and hard boiled egg for lunch every day for the past ten years! Experimenting with a new-to-you food or cooking a new dish is a fun and easy way to begin getting comfortable with different experiences.

Learn Something New

Take a class, learn a foreign language; take up an instrument or a new sport. Any of these activities will allow you to expand your knowledge and comfort zone in a rewarding yet non-threatening way because you’ll be surrounded by other people who are also learning something new.

Use Public Transportation

This one might be more fun that you think. When I walked away from the corporate world a few years ago, I also left behind my company car. Rather than immediately buying a new car, I decided to save the money and take advantage of our great local public transportation system. You’d be amazed at the discoveries you’ll make, the things you’ll see you never noticed before, and the really awesome people you’ll meet!

Eat at a Restaurant by Yourself

Many people find eating alone in public, especially in a sit-down restaurant, to be very unnerving. You can begin to increase your comfort level by practicing eating out for breakfast or lunch. You’re far more likely to see other solo diners and family groups during the day which will help to take some of the pressure off.

Choose a lively dining spot with food you like that has relatively quick service. Bring something to read so you have someplace to look instead of continuously looking around the room and it will also help you to make a conscious effort to eat a little slower because you’ll be tempted to eat quickly to “escape.” To soothe nerves after you’re first seated engage the waiter – smile, ask for a recommendation, comment on the weather, etc. Even in a crowded restaurant wait staff appreciate and respond to a friendly smile and grateful customers.

Ask for Help

This is a big issue for many people, and I count myself in that group. We all need help from time to time, and believe it or not, most people actually enjoy being able to lend a helping hand. Start with something that’s easy for you – like asking for a recipe, or a recommendation for a restaurant.

Join Toastmasters

If you cringe at the thought of public speaking, networking or simply joining a group, Toastmasters is a great way to break down barriers in a comfortable and supportive environment. The groups are small, almost always people who live and work in the area because meetings are often at lunch time, and they go out of their way to welcome guests and new members.

Read a Book in a Different Genre

Discover a new author, or challenge you’re thinking by reading about a topic or issue you disagree with. I also highly recommend exploring the extensive collection at the Project Gutenberg website. You’ll find over 33,000 classic books from the start of this century and previous centuries, from authors like Shakespeare, Poe, Dante, as well as well-loved favorites like the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and (one of my personal favorites!) the original Dracula by Bram Stoker, along with a host of intriguing subjects such as the history of witches, ghost stories from the 18th century, and personal narratives by American frontier characters such as Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane.

Keep in mind that there was no such concept as “politically correct” at the time most of these books and stories were written. For example, your sensibilities are sure to be challenged when you come across stories making the argument for slavery, on the other hand, you’ll also find the inspirational writings by Booker T. Washington, the dominant figure in the African-American community in the United States from 1890 to 1915. Well, as an avid reader and history buff I am obviously a HUGE fan of this site, and it doesn’t hurt that all of these amazing titles are available to download f-r-e-e!

Learn to Delegate

For many people, this is a trust issue and it can feel downright painful to relinquish control. There’s no question that delegation is a skill that’s critical to business success and a healthy work-life balance. So take a deep breath and start nudging your boundaries. Start small, be specific, decide who to delegate to – don’t just pick a name, let the other person get on with it and whatever you do; provide constructive feedback rather than criticizing if the end result isn’t exactly the way you would have done it.

Volunteer

There really is no better way to begin expanding your comfort zone than reaching out to lend a hand to those in need. You’ll have new experiences, meet new people and as an added bonus, you may just gain a whole new level of gratitude for all of the good things in your own life.

Make it Fun!

Why not create a family challenge to try one new thing a week and take turns deciding what that will be. For example, a friend and I take turns coming up with “new” experiences – he’s introduced me to theater performances I would never have otherwise attended, and I’ve dragged him to ethnic restaurants neither of us would have tried on our own. It’s fun and challenging to come up with new adventures.

If you could face life’s challenges, including your fears, with enthusiasm and energy, that would be ideal. You can’t achieve the ideal overnight, but you don’t have to. Taking positive steps every day is good enough. Better than good enough, really, because most of the resistance we encounter inside comes down to old, outworn habits and inertia. ~Deepak Chopra

Once you’ve begun expanding your comfort zone, slowly continue to stretch your boundaries with new and greater challenges. In the beginning, each new experience may seem daunting to you, but the more you nudge those boundaries, the more comfortable you’ll become with that temporary nervous state of mind that comes with doing something new.

You may not be able to change your life in a day, but you can change its direction overnight.

Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living  click here.

 

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  1. Alex says:

    Oh, I understand what you mean. Because I am a man of settled habits, rigid and inflexible. And when I have to do something unusual, something I am not accustomed to, I feel very uncomfortable. In your post, you provided me with a great list of things to do to become some more flexible. Thank you! I would add to the list: “Go for a walk to a place you’ve never been before” or something like that.
    Alex recently posted…How To Get Over ShynessMy Profile

  2. Suzie Cheel
    Twitter:
    says:

    More weekly inspiration Marty, I have been thinking it is time to step outside my comfort zone. Read a book of a different genre would be good for me to do, thanks for the link. I remember when I joined Toastmaster – to get rid of my UMs and made a close friend who is still a friend today although we are no longer in toastmasters. Yes volunteering open up ones life in so many ways. Thank for the challenge xx
    Suzie Cheel recently posted…Do You Ask Your Heart Whispers To Guide You On Your Why?My Profile

  3. Arleen
    Twitter:
    says:

    I am doing something that is out of my comfort zone. My vet who is a research doctor told me to read a book called “Wheat Belly”. It is about how eating wheat effects the body. It has really been hard to sit down and read this type of book. I know he will ask me my opinion of the book so it is forcing me to do it.

    When I moved from California to the East coast, I was totally out of my comfort zone. Little by little I have adjusted and it is OK. Great post.

  4. I love this list Marquita! Loved your ideas for going out of comfort zones. Great stuff. Thank you x

  5. Jason B
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’m all for expanding my comfort zone. It honestly helps you become a better person. I did 2 things last month that helped me expand mines. I volunteered to help with a conference and I also visited some new family for the first time.

  6. Great post, Marquita. I love my habits and routines…and have the best fun shaking things up a bit! I’m currently learning how to re-build a deck! We took ours down to the joists and started over. I haven’t managed the electric saws yet, but I’m heck with a power drill and cordless screw driver (okay, a drill in disguise!).
    Rose M Griffith recently posted…How to use the self-checkout at the grocery store.My Profile

  7. Stacey Toupin
    Twitter:
    says:

    Loved your ideas for going out of comfort zones! They made me think more about what I can do to challenge myself which I appreciate. Thank you! Great stuff! -Stacey

  8. I haven’t found the edges of my current comfort zone yet, and it’s not for lack of trying 🙂
    Linda Ursin recently posted…Lisa Davis-Woolwine makes beautiful thingsMy Profile

  9. Sue Kearney
    Twitter:
    says:

    Comfort zone? What is this place of which you speak! I am so far out of my comfort zone, that I’m doubly grateful for my tai chi and walking practice so I can actually feel my feet on the ground.

    Here’s another way: Contemplate moving from California to Hawaii! After getting the download from a cartoastrology reading that California is not a great place to live, and that the Bay Area especially is full of challenges and limitations (oh that resonated!); and that Maui and Kauai are excellent locations, well, I’m processing a lot of information and much of it makes me very uncomfortable. I know know know that huge growth is coming and will continue to come from my willingness to embrace ideas that weren’t mine in the first place.
    Sue Kearney recently posted…Gratitude even if, gratitude no matter whatMy Profile

    • Hehehe, well as you know – been there done that. Trust me, should you choose to make Hawaii your new home you won’t truly feel the edge of your comfort zone until you get here and work on settling in. It’s one thing to vacation here – quite another to live. Regardless of which direction you head, wishing you all the best!

  10. Patricia Weber
    Twitter:
    says:

    Love this one Marquita. I have to say, I’m always expanding my comfort zone. I do all these things on occasion. I love feeling so with it now know you concur! Woohoo.
    Patricia Weber recently posted…Shhh …. How the Quiet Revolution is GrowingMy Profile

  11. Wonderful post Marquita! I found that I already do many of the things you suggest with exception of reading in a different genre. Somehow if I’m going to take the time to read an actual book (which is difficult these days); I always turn to non-fiction and business or spiritual growth related. So I appreciate that particular tip most of all.

    Blessings,

    Linda
    Linda S Fitzgerald recently posted…Becoming a Woman of BOLD Confidence….Celebrating the Journey!My Profile

  12. Sabrina Q.
    Twitter:
    says:

    This is wonderful! Many of my clients get stuck in their clutter space and don’t know how to begin letting go. Usually it is because they feel comfortable where they are, but it is killing them (their words, not mine). It’s OK to feel comfortable, but my keeping an open mind and always expanding and learn new things will help you grow as a person. I will be definitely sharing this one with them.
    Sabrina Q. recently posted…June’s Organizing Challenge Organizing MemorabiliaMy Profile

  13. Beth Niebuhr
    Twitter:
    says:

    Learning something new is fun and also it expands your brain. These are all good suggestions but my favorite is to make it fun. If it’s fun, it will be appealing rather than scary. I love new things.
    Beth Niebuhr recently posted…Why New Entrepreneurs StruggleMy Profile

  14. William Rusho
    Twitter:
    says:

    These are wonderful suggestions. I am someone who rarely gets out of their comfort zone. I will try some of the above suggestions and see if they can help. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Marquita — it was never my intention to become a serious blogger.I am definitely technically challenged. Then 6 years ago a friend told me about a 12-week blogging course she had taken online. So I signed up. It was way out of my comfort zone. I really was all thumbs. But I was determined to master getting my blog up and running. I began blogging for fun and then it turned into a business. You’ll never know what you can accomplish until you try something new, even if it’s scary at first.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…What the Heck are Native Advertising and Branded Content?My Profile

  16. Jeri
    Twitter:
    says:

    Learning something new is such an amazing boost to getting one out of their comfort zone but while also instilling confidence as the new skill becomes solidified. I’m in the process of doing just that in these next few months. My comfort zone has been shattered, so I’m creating a whole new normal. What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger 😉
    Jeri recently posted…#WritingPrompt: Loop WritingMy Profile

  17. Mark
    Twitter:
    says:

    What a terrific post M!

    First of all, I love the quote by T.Harv Eker! And your ten suggestions are totally awesome and so refreshing!

    I love the idea of you and a friend and or family member actually taking turns, deciding what new thing you’ll try that week!

    I wish more businesses would be that flexible with their marketing plans!LOL!

    And thanks so much for sharing the Project Gutenberg website!That sounds like another terrific resource!

    Every one of your excellent suggestions (if at least tried), will do nothing but add nicely to our long range perception of things!

    So very well thought out, as usual M! Thanks!
    Mark recently posted…So What Does A World Record Marathon Runner Have To Do With Your Online Success?My Profile

  18. Hi Marquita,

    This is my first time here. I found your blog on Donna’s blog. Nice to meet you. 🙂

    Awesome post, indeed!

    I really like the quote you gave at the beginning of this article. I agree with that. Comfort zone will kill a lot of ideas and others. We usually will try to be creative if we are in discomfort.

    Comfort zone may be comfortable for you, but it was only a short time. You have to get out of you comfort zone to achieve greater goals. 🙂

    I did some ways of 10 ways that you mentioned. And I am happy to do so.

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Marquita.
    Have a great week ahead!

    ~Nanda
    Nanda Rahmanius recently posted…THANKS To My Comment Authors ~ May 2015 Engagement Report!My Profile

  19. Erica says:

    I’ve really gotten a lot of inspiration from trying new things. In the last few years I’ve tried figure skating, aerial hammock and pole dancing (which the idea of made me want to cringe at first). I will say, I’ve really enjoyed doing some of the activities that felt very uncomfortable when I first started them. I’m not learning anything new now, so maybe it is time to look for something to try.
    Erica recently posted…8 Ways Coconut Oil Can Improve Your LifeMy Profile

  20. Pamela Chollet
    Twitter:
    says:

    These are wonderful ways to help change your perspective and add dimension to a daily routine. My favorite is public transportation, or public, anything. When I get out and become a part of the world even if I’m an observer,I feel more connected. The other plus, I always get ideas to write about from watching people interact.

  21. A.K. Andrew
    Twitter:
    says:

    These are really excellent suggestions. I think eating alone in a restaurant is a good one, especially for women. Men are much more likely to do this I’ve noticed. And even reading a different genre is a really good idea. Now toastmasters? There’s a challenge! I’ll consider it is all I’m saying:-))
    A.K. Andrew recently posted…Do You Keep A #Writer’s Notebook?My Profile

  22. Lenie
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Marquita – I am taking the challenge of stepping outside my comfort zone today. What it will be I don’t know yet, but it will be something. Love these posts, always give you something to think about.
    Lenie recently posted…25 Unusual Ways With MILKMy Profile

  23. Always love reading your wisdom! I think as we get older this becomes more important as I think we really can get into ruts and stop growing. I became accustomed to dining out alone when I was on the road for my career. And I go to movies by myself once in a while too. Sometimes, I have found, being uncomfortable for a short while can bring so much satisfaction in the long run. I’m always so proud of myself when I do something like that. Laugh!
    Jacqueline Gum recently posted…Hypocrisy… Where’s The Justice?My Profile

  24. Meredith
    Twitter:
    says:

    These are great ideas, and I definitely like the first one the best! Pushing out of your comfort zone can be so hard, especially when you don’t even realize its boundaries. I like the idea of doing it a small step at a time.
    Meredith recently posted…5 Instagram Hashtags You Need to KnowMy Profile

  25. Yatin Khulbe
    Twitter:
    says:

    What a wonderful post, Marquita
    I am glad I came to know about your post while checking my fb home feed. Thanks to Donna Merril who shared this lovely post. Ya, we need to expand our comfort zone. There is no point of spoiling our whole identity. As you said, we must build our tolerance level
    I completely agree with your public transportation point. There are so many faces with different expressions. Each face speaks a different story. The experience is simply great. I am also thinking about joining a toastmaster in my local area. It’s a lovely way to interact with different people and build confidence. Thanks for sharing
    Yatin Khulbe recently posted…How to overcome Self Doubt: 5 ways to clear cloud of doubtsMy Profile

    • Welcome Yatin! I’m so glad you found your way here and delighted that you enjoyed the article. I hope you give Toastmasters a try. Before I joined I was terrified at the very thought of public speaking and went on to have a career in sales and spoke before audiences of all sizes. Just goes to show you that you never know what adventures await when we muster the courage to test ourselves!

  26. Dave
    Twitter:
    says:

    These are such ingenious ways to push the extents of your comfort zone in a non-threatening way. Ironically, I just finished reading a book that was definitely outside of my normal reading material. It was – well – enlightening 😉

    Sometimes, we need a little nudge to help us get things moving in the right direction. These simple recommendations are the perfect recipe to help building that momentum.

    You have sparked some ideas for me personally that I am looking forward to pursing and embracing, so thank you, as always 🙂
    Dave recently posted…WanderlustMy Profile

  27. Donna Merrill
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Marquita,

    Stepping out of my comfort zone has been an uplifting experience for me. Once you do one small thing, it enables you to shift your mindset. By this I mean it reinforces one to do the next step.

    This reminds me of my 30 day video challenge I have done a while back. I was so fearful of getting in front of a camera and do a video. Gosh I was even camera shy for a photo at that time. But I knew this was something I needed to do for my business.

    The first one was terrible. I remember absolutely hating what I looked like…My hair was terrible, my outfit wasn’t looking good. All these crazy thoughts went through my mind.

    To make a long story short, I am now so comfortable in front of a video that I do it all the time. I got over what I looked like, and if I said the “wrong” thing. I have made many video products.

    I also am doing interviews with product creators. They get so nervous I calm them down and we talk with ease.

    Don’t get me wrong…I still get a little bit of butterflies in my stomach, but they go away once I begin.

    Stepping out of our comfort zone feels so great once you complete that first step!

    -Donna
    Donna Merrill recently posted…How Can I Break Through Endless Failure?My Profile

    • Great point about the butterflies Donna! Just because we learn to manage discomfort doesn’t mean we never feel it again. I read an interview not long ago with a very well known blogger and author of several books. He said something to the order of, “You’d think after hundreds of articles and dozens of books I’d be an old hand at this publishing thing, but I still have second thoughts and get a bit nauseous every time just before I hit that publish button.” And I know just how he feels!

  28. Donna Janke
    Twitter:
    says:

    Great ideas for easy ways to try something new. After good experiences with small steps outside one’s comfort zone, it becomes easier and fun to take other steps and try more new things.
    Donna Janke recently posted…Colorado River Story – Part 1My Profile

  29. I love this list, Marquita.

    I moved from my small hometown to the big city as a naive 20-year-old. Everything was so big and exciting to me! Since I had no car, I had no choice but to use public transportation. Buses, streetcars, subway trains… I loved it all. Sometimes I talked to people, but mostly I watched people or read a book.

    My kids’ interest in Japan has led not only to my watching anime movies, or watching my daughter in a Japanese play, but also to eating at Japanese, Thai or Korean restaurants.

    My son Nathaniel and I have recently discovered the delights of LibriVox.org, which is the audiobook counterpart of Gutenberg.org. We are feasting our ears on the classics and boys’ adventure stories, as well as dipping into areas that are new to us.

    I have to thank you for this post for another reason… you’ve given me fodder for a new blog post of my own!
    Willena Flewelling recently posted…Japanese Drama Society Presents…My Profile

    • Hey Willena so nice to hear from you! Wonderful examples of regularly nudging your comfort zone, and that’s great to hear you’re taking advantage of Gutenberg! I’m especially glad to hear that this article inspired you for your own site – can’t ask for a nicer compliment!

  30. sherill says:

    Hi, I’ve always loved reading your post, it is very informative and helpful. Thanks for sharing. Great Read!
    sherill recently posted…Want to Catapult Your Success? Do These 2 ThingsMy Profile

  31. Sabrina Q.
    Twitter:
    says:

    This is wonderful! I decided this summer we, as a family, will would do things that will be different and out of our norm. We will see how it goes. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Always a pleasure.
    Sabrina Q. recently posted…Cruise Packing ListMy Profile

  32. Phoenicia
    Twitter:
    says:

    Your blog has spoken to me in many ways.

    Our comfort zone is a familiar, safe haven but there is no room for development or growth.

    I know a few people who eat the same foods for lunch – how boring! At least try a dish and if you do not like it then return.

    What stuck out for me;

    Learn a new language – I am fascinated by people who speak more than one language. I wonder how long it would take me to grasp another language.

    Eat out at a restaurant alone – I love my own company but have not yet eaten alone in a proper restaurant.
    Phoenicia recently posted…Kick-start your day into action – my tips on staying ahead of the game!My Profile

    • Glad you like the post Phoenicia. Learning a new language is a great challenge! I’ve gone down this path 3 times now and here’s what I’ve learned – it will be much easier and you’ll learn a lot faster if you pick a language that you can practice conversationally during the day. I am a native Californian and took Spanish in high school, but it wasn’t until my husband and I started frequently Mexico that I really became comfortable speaking the language. When we moved to Hawaii I worked for a hotel that was very involved in the local culture, and again having the opportunity to learn and speak Hawaiian every date helped me to pick it up relatively quickly. On the other hand, a couple of years ago I got it into my head I want to pick up Spanish again but I didn’t get much beyond ‘my van is green’ practicing on my own. 🙂

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