7 Ways to Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Whether you are a generally reserved person or an adventure addict, we can all use help stepping outside of our perceived comfort zone. Physical or emotional limitations that we place on ourselves perpetuate over time; that's why they say "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". I tend to disagree with this sentiment. We can always do more than we thought we could yesterday, and with these tips, we can start to challenge our minds, bodies and souls.

Go somewhere alone. Photo credit:   Avery Woodard

Go somewhere alone. Photo credit:  Avery Woodard

 1. Go somewhere alone.

Once I found myself single, I realized I no longer had that partner in crime. The back story is that I gave so much of my time and energy to my family that some of the dynamics in my friendships had changed and some connections seemingly dissipated. I was the person the never thought they could even eat a meal alone in public much less go on an adventure alone.

Forced out of my comfort zone, I spent a lot of time alone on the couch. But I challenged myself to get out there whether or not anyone was coming with me. Not only was it more fun than I thought, with time, doing this got easier. I'm not saying show up to an event where you know you'll be the only single: that's definitely not fun. I am saying, don't be afraid to experience the world through just your own eyes  (safely, of course).

Talk to people you think have nothing in common with-you'll find you just might. Photo Credit:  Alexis Brown

Talk to people you think have nothing in common with-you'll find you just might. Photo Credit: Alexis Brown

 2. Talk to people you think have nothing in common with-you'll find you just might.

This was something I often found myself doing without realizing the power it has. I notice the people out and about that are short and curt with the cashier or refuse to make eye contact with the Über driver. But these are the moments where you can not only pull yourself out of your comfort zone, but you may help someone else do the same. Who knows, you may even make a new friend out it, which at this age is so hard to do. I chatted up a woman at Target while doing back-to-school shopping for my son, and we plan on doing a play date in the near future.

I especially enjoy saying hello to the ones that definitely look like they don't want to speak. You'll get a little chuckle out of those times too, I promise.

Ask more questions.  

Ask more questions.  

3. Ask questions

If you are "technically" an introvert like me, the first two tips may seem daunting. As an introvert, we are better, oftentimes, in one-on-one interactions. Perfect! Now what do most people like to talk about? If you said themselves, you already are a step ahead.

Starting a conversation is easier than maintaining one. I had a moment last week where I completely forgot my own advice, and I ended up missing out on the opportunity to network with someone I truly admire and respect all because I couldn't think of what to say next!

So ask them a question. It could be as simple as "where did you get that dress?" or "I detect an accent, where are you from?". Maybe they are called icebreakers by folks who have extensively researched this subject (of those I am not one). But from my own experience, I recognize that conversations flow much easier when you are asking the other person questions. You'll also find out if it's a relationship worth having because, quite frankly, if the questioning isn't returned, you may find you have an extreme narcissist on your hand and in this case RUN!

Write it out. Photo credit:   Luis Llerena

Write it out. Photo credit:  Luis Llerena

 4. Write

Whether it's a journal, writing down your dreams from the night before or a guide to basket weaving (any basket weavers out there?), write. When you spend time writing out your thoughts, past experiences or feelings on traumatic events, you'll find it to be not only cathartic but pleasurable if done right. There are plenty of guides online that can help get you started or spark your next idea. And you don't have to become a best-selling author to receive the benefits. According to BJ Psych some of the longer term benefits of expressive writing include:

Health outcomes

* Fewer stress-related visits to the doctor

* Improved immune system functioning

* Reduced blood pressure

* Improved lung function

* Improved liver function

* Fewer days in hospital

* Improved mood/affect

* Feeling of greater psychological well-being

* Reduced depressive symptoms before examinations

* Fewer post-traumatic intrusion and avoidance symptoms

Social and behavioural outcomes

* Reduced absenteeism from work

* Quicker re-employment after job loss

* Improved working memory

* Improved sporting performance

* Higher students’ grade point average

* Altered social and linguistic behaviour

"Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are."- Mason Cooley

"Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are."-Mason Cooley

 5. Read

Reading is fundamental guys. I'm not suggesting you read a novel a week. I'm not even suggesting that you read that list of books that everyone "should read". With the world's library at your fingertips, there isn't a good excuse to at least read something. And it could be a novel. It could be The Wall Street Journal. Just read.

I'm talking about things outside of the comment section on Instagram. But your Facebook feed might be a great place to start. Go beyond the catchy headline. Delve deeper. They also say not to believe everything you read. These are perfect opportunities to expand your knowledge base and to find out for yourself. Whether it's hard facts or abstract poetry, reading has so many benefits. Not only will you have more things to talk about (see above), you may also expand your vocabulary or open you mind to new ways of thinking that you have never considered.

Growing up I wasn't much of a reader. I am grateful for all of the required reading lists I had in school. But now I find myself more curious than I've ever been before. Sometimes I think if I had started college later in life, I might have found more value in all the things I was reading and learning about. At least NOW we can dictate our own curriculum.

"Fear not the opinion of others. Value the option you have of yourself." - Michelle Sasha

"Fear not the opinion of others. Value the option you have of yourself." - Michelle Sasha

6. Do Something You've Secretly Always Wanted to Do

Too shy to sing karaoke? Wall flower at the club? Never tried sushi? Now's the time. Sing like you do in you car. Dance like no one's watching. Eat the yellowfin tuna and scallion roll. I could go on and on about all the things we've always wanted to do, but you get the picture.

When I was a little girl, I secretly wanted to be like Whitney Houston. But when I couldn't hit that high note in Mariah Carey's "Emotions", I dropped that dream like a bad habit. Since I started writing more frequently, I found that my writing became poetry. This poetry became song. And maybe I'm not the next Lauryn Hill, but the simple act of stepping on that ledge being brave enough to try was liberating. I had to dismiss the thought of what others would think. And for me, that was one of my biggest problems: caring about others opinion. Now I am less concerned about the opinion of others. I say, as long as you aren't hurting yourself or anyone else, GO FOR IT!

 7. Repeat

Make these things a part of your everyday life, and not only will you grow braver on a daily basis, you'll start becoming a better version of yourself. We should be our only competition, and some days it is definitely easier to be better than you were the day before. Compete against yourself, and you will never lose!