Getting out of your comfort zone is one of the main ways to grow as a person. If you continue only to do things you’re comfortable doing, you remain the same. To develop, we must frequently try new things we don’t usually do and at times even afraid of doing. I have some tips and personal stories to encourage others who experience similar nerve-wracking situations.
Do things you don’t normally do.
Say your usual daily routine is going to work or school, interacting with friends and family and pursuing your favourite hobbies. None of this is particularly anxiety-provoking for you. Now, try thinking of things you haven’t done before but would like to do one day if you put your mind to it. Once you’ve done so, make a list of things you would like to do in the next month. Some new things you try you may succeed more with than others, but the point is, you will likely develop confidence just by trying something you haven’t done before.
When I first entered Sheridan’s journalism program in September 2017, I was not particularly comfortable reaching out to people for sources as stories because I haven’t done so before. For example, my first hands-on assignment involved having to interview somebody I don’t know for a powerpoint presentation. I had a hard time finding a source until my cousin-in-law’s cousin who I did not previously know agreed to do a video chat with me for the assignment. I have since been more comfortable reaching out to people for stories, and I received a silver Canadian Online Publishing award for one of my stories in November 2018: The Journey of Autism Services.
Set comfort zone deadlines.
A common comfort zone struggle is that when one is anxious and unsure about doing something they want to do, they tend to keep delaying when they will do it. It could be asking a strict teacher about an assignment, reaching out to a co-worker who you don’t click with, or in many cases, asking a person you like out. It’s hard to do intimidating things right away once the ideas pop in your head.
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My best advice is to give yourself some time, then set a strict deadline for when you must complete whatever you want to do. Again, the results may not always be perfect, but you will feel like you have grown a lot for trying.
In the past at work and school, I have tried reaching out to people I was no more than casual acquaintances with. In this case, I wouldn’t say my deadlines were specific, but I did tell myself, “At some point before the semester ends, I am going to reach out to people. Not just by nodding and saying hi but be oomph about it. Maybe follow them on Instagram and Facebook, then see if they do the same.” Because of my autism, I have difficulties with social interaction and get anxious around unfamiliar people easily, which is why this is a great example of leaving my comfort zone for me.
Take baby steps.
Taking huge leaps can be tough or even downright terrifying when leaving your comfort zone. Instead of going right to the biggest thing possible, practice doing an activity but by working your way up. For example, suppose you are afraid of rides but want to go on Wonderland’s or Six Flags’ biggest ride, try going on at least five moderate rides before going on that intense ride. The big ride won’t seem as scary once you’ve gone on some of the others.
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Something I wanted to do even as a child was walking super long distances. My parents were strict about distance boundaries until my teenage years. Not long after I became an adult, the dream came back to me. In February 2013, I walked eight kilometres (five miles) on my own for the first time. Over the years, I would take at least a couple of super long walks per year on average. Eventually, I reached marathon status by May 2017. This hobby alone inspired me to publish an article based on a walk I did in March 2019: Personal Challenge: 35-km Trek Across Town in One Day.
My point is, if you haven’t walked or ran long distances, don’t do a marathon right away. It will feel overwhelming. Start off by walking only a few kilometres (a couple of miles), then keep building up before you reach the distance you desire.