“You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
-Roy T. Bennett
We are always drawn to easier way of doing things. Many of us feel safe in our comfort zones. Convenience and comfort has become our default choice and many times it becomes a driver of our decisions. But the problem with convenience is that it makes us intolerant of things that are not within our comfort zone. It is very hard for us to do things that could be good for us like leaving a bad habit or learning a new skill. We fail to do so and tend to avoid taking action as it might involve a certain level of discomfort and unfamiliarity. We constantly try to avoid facing such situations that cause us discomfort which otherwise could fulfil some of our personal and professional endeavours. Most of the times, we relinquish many of our cherished goals because they fall outside of our comfort zone.
We make new goals, new dreams and develop new passions from time to time. We make new resolutions to change ourselves in order to meet those desired goals. But this desire to change also makes us reluctant to leave things that are familiar. For most of us, leaving our comfort zone is difficult because of the fear of the unknown which coaxes us right back into the known and old familiar ways. We might feel frustrated and annoyed about the fact that we have to leave our comfort zone. We often feel stuck to adapt ourselves to unfamiliarity and avoid anything that is not comfortable. To overcome this pattern of avoidance, it is important to learn to step outside our comfort zones and get accustomed to discomfort.
What is comfort zone?
The comfort zone is a behavioural space where your activities and behaviours fit a routine and a pattern that involves less risk and stress. It provides familiarity, security and to some extent some level of certainty. Within our comfort zone, we become comfortable with what is familiar and get used to a steady level of performance. This soon makes us complacent as we easily fall into comfortable habits and begin to avoid those which are not.
We avoid changing most of our habits and behaviours by rationalising our thinking and saying ‘this is not the right time.’ or ‘It’s not important for me to do it.’ We tend to structure our lives to avoid moments and tasks that cause us discomfort. But those are the things that are probably important for our personal and professional growth and to maximise our potential. We hold ourselves back by thinking it is better to stay the way we are in order to avoid the discomfort, stress and anxiety.
Why is it important to come out of your comfort zone?
We are comfortable in engaging ourselves in a familiar pattern, but sometimes they may not be serving your current goals. They may prevent you from making necessary changes and hold you back from reaching your full potential. You may not be open to new challenges, to learn, grow and try new things. You begin to underestimate your ability to make any kind of change by judging yourself and end up convincing yourself that you will never be able to make necessary changes. Such thoughts can influence your actions and keep you from doing things that you might otherwise would like to pursue and can cost you your own success.
But with little awareness, understanding and by making few adjustments, you can break away from your routine and can push yourself to make those necessary changes in order to pursue your goals and aspirations. By learning to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, you can open a lot of new possibilities and discover things about yourself that you could not have otherwise discovered. You might learn things that you are capable of and could achieve things that you could not have anticipated. You cannot be successful in achieving your dreams if you only stick to a comfortable habit pattern and routine. Sometimes you need to take risk of attempting something which is outside of your comfort zone as well.
Outside of your comfort zone
“ Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.” – Shannon L. Alder.
Within our comfort zone, there is little stress and anxiety. We can anticipate things to certain extent and know what’s coming next and can plan accordingly. Whereas outside of your comfort zone, you are open to risks, challenges, and open yourself up to the possibility of more stress and anxiety. But sometimes, a little bit of healthy stress and discomfort is not all that bad and is required to provide motivation for us to achieve desired goals.
“Being slightly uncomfortable, whether or not by choice, can push yourself to achieve goals you never thought you could.”
But it is important to not to push yourself too far and enter the zone of bad stress. This if happens can interfere with your ability to work well, to learn and to plan effectively. Here are some benefits of getting accustomed to “productive discomfort.”
• It improves your performance by opening up to challenges and taking risks.
• Makes you more creative by trying new things.
• Lowers your fear of failure and creates openness to new experiences.
• Improves your curiosity, imagination, and drive to explore.
• You can deal with new and unexpected changes easily.
• Improves your productivity and you will be willing to push your boundaries by adjusting to what was difficult.
We know what we need to do to improve our lives. We say we want to change for the better. But we often are held back by our belief that sameness equals safety and change equals discomfort. The key is to be aware of whether your comfort zones are preventing you from creating change and to be willing to leave what is familiar to make the change you desire. Here are some ways to get accustomed to ‘Productive discomfort’.
Try new things
We have a tendency to only seek out information we already agree with and avoid doing new things. Seeking new experiences, learning new skills and opening yourself to new ideas inspire you to challenge your confirmation bias. You can see old problems in new light and take risks. By challenging yourself to things you normally wouldn’t do, you can experience some of the uncertainty and get used to tackle changes easily. Try changing your daily work routine or try some new activities and be open to new experience.
Decide to take the leap
One of the important factor to break out of your comfort zone is to find your source of conviction about why a task is important to you or why making that change is essential. When you face situations that are not in your comfort zone, even if you feel the discomfort, believe in your convictions. This way, you can fight through the discomfort to take that leap towards the desired change. You may come to realise that what you feared most is not all that true and in a way, slight discomfort becomes normal to you.
Every time you open yourself to challenges and risks, regardless of their outcome, they provide you with learning experience and provide you an opportunity to utilise your store of untapped knowledge and capabilities. Even if you make mistakes and don’t get it right, there are always these experiences you have to tap into in future. Taking risks is important for your personal growth. challenges and risks expand the size of your comfort zone and you can cultivate openness to experience.
Do things differently
To stretch beyond your comfort zone, you need to make changes either large or small in the way you do things on a daily basis. For instance, sometimes slowing down is all it takes to make you uncomfortable especially if you are used to speed or quick thinking. If you are one of that conflict avoidant, you must embrace conflict. If you are an introvert, you have to do things which you have been avoiding like meeting new people or having different conversation. By doing things differently, you can expand your comfort zone and open yourself up to new possibilities.
Finally, Start with making small changes.
It is always overwhelming to step into discomfort and into the unknown. But instead of thinking of big picture, it will be easier to break down what you want to accomplish by making small changes. Getting used to ‘productive discomfort’ is to embrace new experience and to reach the state of optimal anxiety in a manageable way.
Comfort zones exist in every area in our lives. To practice ‘productive discomfort’, be aware of which comfort zone may not be serving your current purpose or which comfort zones are preventing you from making the desired change in your habits or behaviour. If you feel that you are stuck in your routine, challenge your underlying belief and make small changes to your routine to slowly move out of your comfort zone.
“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others” – Ayn Rand
Competition has always been taught to us from very young age in order to become something, to achieve and to survive. We are taught the virtue of competition in every aspect of life in order to succeed and to win. When competing against another, we tend to draw on to our untapped reserves and this brings the best in us because of the inherent instinct to better the other. This very basic nature of competitiveness has always been an integral part of us from the early centuries as we had to compete for resources like food and shelter. Those who are able to compete and strongest would win the best. Competition is inevitable and being competitive is important when it comes to academics, sports and work. Those who make an effort and draw on their own strengths and possibilities turn out as winners. There are benefits to having a competitive nature like you learn the importance of setting goals, following rules, to cope with stress, to take risks,and to be committed. But is it that only competing against other can bring the best in you? Or can you do better even by yourself? Or Is it always important to define yourself in terms of being better than others?
True competition is about competing with and not against
Competition brings out both the best and the worst in us. And though it is a natural instinct, nurturing it is equally responsible. There is always a danger of ignoring moral values in favour of winning or succeeding. While competing, we learn the virtue of selfishness, being all-out egotistical, and demonstrate superiority on others. We tend to believe that true competition is about breaking others and we constantly compare ourselves to others which leads to insecurities and fears. This further leads to unfair practices like where the aim no longer remains to better yourself or to succeed, but to pull down or belittle another.
But true competitive spirit is about growing, bettering and prospering together while competing with, rather than against another. If you learn to work along with, you will be able to build better strengths and qualities to succeed. Focusing on working together to solve problems, and helping each other to get the job done can result in mutually beneficial outcomes rather than focusing on a short-term, one-sided win.
Compare to your former self and not to others
When you are competing with others, the achievements made by others makes us crave the same achievement when we believe it’s within our reach. There will be always people who are better than you. Accept and use them as inspiration for pursuing your own instead of comparing yourself to others. In other words, comparing yourself with someone else is an inaccurate way of measuring your success. How well you do depends on improved version of yourself. If you question the logic of your comparisons, most of them rather turn out to be irrelevant in their reasoning.
Instead of comparing yourself externally, redirect your comparison within. Question yourself as to how you can continue to become a new and improved version of yourself. It does not matter how you perform relative to your opponents, so long as you perform better than your former self.
Know that your only competition is you
Our natural instinct is to compete with others and not to compete with ourselves. However, if we choose to, we can also compete with ourselves which leads to our self growth. We get so caught up in the competition with others professionally and personally that it is easy to forget that to improve ourselves and reaching our potential is more important than competing against others. It is important to remember that your competitor is not other—your competitor is yourself.
why you should compete with yourself
Always running after the competition will make you less enthusiastic. When you compete with yourself, whether it’s in your learning or work, you can focus on the process of getting better each time. This small shift in your perspective allows you to progress faster and to focus on process.
True competition is not always about beating or outdoing others, but about growing and improving. You should condition to compete constructively by measuring your success not against others but against yourself.
Here are some benefits in competing with yourself than against others.
Can measure your success
If you take a look around, you come across people who made some amazing achievements in their life. Someone is always going to be better than you at something. When you learn to be competitive with yourself, you can have a better measure of your success rather than stressing out on someone else’s. You know success will come to you at the right time when you put in the right effort.
Can improve your capability
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses gives you an opportunity to assess whether or not your goals are right for you. Once you know the things you are not so good at, you can decide upon improving your weak areas in order to achieve your goals. Looking into your own shortcomings rather than outwardly at other people paves a way to improve your capabilities.
Can increase possibilities
When you are competing with others, you are only competing in arenas that others have set up for you. But if you continue to do so, you will end up limiting your possibilities. Only when you use yourself as a true measure of your success do you open yourself up to the infinite things and possibilities. These things might ultimately lead ṭo your passion and happiness.
Can be free of people’s judgment
When you compete with yourself, you are letting go of people’s measure of success. and defining your own measure of success. You are free of what they think of you and their expectations. You chose to follow whatever it is that makes you happy. This makes you answerable to yourself in doing everything you could possibly do to achieve your goals and not because of other people’s judgment.
Can intrinsically motivate yourself
While competing against others, you feel that you achieved something only because it gives you a sense of being better than what everyone else is doing. But that is not the true measure of your success and that feeling is fleeting. But when you compete with yourself, you will be intrinsically motivated to accomplish things that are true to your abilities. You can strive to improve yourself and to challenge yourself in new ways.
To conclude, although competitiveness is innate, do not hold yourself to the standards of other people, wishing you could be better than them. May be this is motivating you, but an even greater skill is to be better than yourself. How about pushing yourself to do better each day. Goal setting is a great way to compete against yourself. You select the end result that you want and that you choose. Then, it is up to you, to work to achieve those goals. Thus, you can push yourself towards your goals, rather than creating unnecessary competition against others. Develop a desire to achieve and always strive to push yourself to become better.
“The principle is competing against yourself. It’s about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before.” – Steve Young
The decisions and choices we make determine the direction we take in our lives, and we do so by our thoughts. Thoughts if aligned with our goals and with what we want to achieve can take us forward—and, obviously, this is the direction most of us want to take. But many times, we go in the opposite direction because of various negative factors. We must be able to Identify and get these thoughts working for us,
Instead of they moving us away from our goals and shifting our direction. With conscious effort, we can correct their alignment by making them more harmonious with our desires and get these thoughts work for us and not against.
Your thoughts have huge influence on the choices you make.
We are all engaged in a continuous internal dialogue in which the meaning and emotional associations of one thought triggers the next, without we being consciously aware of the process. We launch our desires in the form of a thought and they are an important part of our inner wisdom. A thought held long enough and repeated enough becomes a belief. We shape our lives by the choices made around these beliefs and build our identity without even realising it. Every choice you’ve made – the big or small ones – have lead you to this moment in your life. We contribute towards the creation of every condition in our lives with our internal thought process influencing us. But when we get involved in negative emotions and feelings, we begin to compare, criticise, form opinions, and we fall out of tune, and tend to make wrong choices thereby making them work against to what we want to achieve.
Your thoughts have consequences
Everything that has or had not happened in your life is because of the choices you have made so far and your thoughts play a major role. Our mind has a tendency to dwell on the past or stress about the future and can often cause us more confusion and stress leading to negative and stressful thoughts. When your mind is untrained, it can lead you to a negative path based on past memories and perceptions. More negative thoughts, more are the chances of making bad choices and this can further sabotage your efforts of creating the life you would dream of. It is simple fact that positive thoughts lead to better choices and thus to a positive life. Negativity leads to limited and wrong choices,
You are the creator of your thoughts
You are the only person who is in charge of your thoughts. You get to have whatever you choose to think. So rather than trying to stop thinking, it is important to train yourself to a habit of thinking the sort of thoughts you want which help you make better choices. By changing your thoughts you can change your reality. According to science, our brain is highly flexible and have the ability to reset its circuit through what we choose to focus our thoughts on. You have the power to use your thoughts to rewire your brain to positive pathways.
Why is it important to get your thoughts working for you
We say we want to be happy, but we make choices that bring us the opposite. It’s your choices that create your experiences.
“ your mind is a tool you can choose to use any way you wish.”
If you believe that you can change a thought, then your choice of this thought will make it true for you.
Your thoughts are shaped by your memories, your goals, your desires, your beliefs that makes you who you are. But your thoughts can’t always be trusted as some of them might be created by your negativity of emotions and feelings. For instance, you might want things to be, rather than accepting whatever might happen when you put forth your best effort. You get frustrated because you are attached to how you want them to be, rather than accepting them as they are. You might choose to procrastinate, as you are attached to things being easy and comfortable rather than accepting that to do something, you have to push into discomfort and so on.
Acquiring a positive mental attitude can:
Free you from your negative self
By making positive choices you precisely free yourself from all the negativity inhabiting your mind. Negative thoughts and choices prevent you from making a step forward because they make you feel incapable of doing something. You surrender to them each time and never consider going against them. This makes you take poor and limited choices. With positive thinking, you can liberate yourself from negativity rooted inside you.
Open up different possibilities
Negativity compels you to behave in a specified manner and you tend to restrict yourself from taking action as you are frightened of certain outcome. Hence, you cannot go beyond that outcome and cannot increase your possibilities. Your mind gets conditioned to see the bleak side of thing. By making your thoughts positive, you can see different possibilities and resolve a situation in the best possible manner.
Help in self-empowerment
Positive thinking empowers you by identifying your unique skill set and talents which otherwise you would have never explored due to your negative thoughts and choices. Positive thinking boosts your confidence to find out what you are good at and helps you make good choices. You can refine your raw talents and make them help you to achieve your goals.
How to get your thoughts working for you
“ you are what you are and you are where you are because of what has gone into your mind. You change what you are and you change where you are by changing what goes into your mind.” – Zig Ziglar
A positive thought process can help you focus on the positive and productive by shutting out the negative and unrewarding. Choose your thoughts to take yourself from where you are to where you want to be. Acknowledge and transform your negative thoughts and get them aligned with your goals and not against.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to reinforce your positive thoughts and choices.
Stop blaming your past, or people for how your life is. Nobody has a perfect life and many have lived through bad phases. You cannot change your past, however you can choose to change how you feel about it and how you allow it to affect you. Don’t choose to hang on to your old story as your excuse for how awful your life is right now. You don’t have to blame yourself for negative experiences. Let go of all guilt, blame and do not hate yourself for having negative thoughts. Learn from these experiences and use them to build you up to take you towards your goals.
Challenge your negative thoughts
Identify your negative thoughts and challenge as to how realistic your current concerns are and their logic. Test the illogical thoughts. Analyse how likely each of those thing is to actually happen and how you would deal with the problem if it were to occur. You need to keep reinforcing positive thoughts. This will open up your possibilities. “When the negative weeds grow, pluck them out as quickly as you can.”
At the same time do not punish yourself for making negative choices, you’ll find it difficult to let them go and move on to more positive choices.
Avoid being delusional
“Your life is a result of the choices you make. If you don’t like your life, it is time to start making better choices.”
If you don’t like the choices that have gotten you up to this point, face the truth and identify what isn’t working in your life. Take a step back and figure out why. Do not delude yourself that things are going to get better to make you happy. Don’t fall victim to fake hope syndrome by setting unrealistic expectations and making frequent attempts to change them.
Practice positive mental diet
When you feed your mind with positive affirmations, information, conversations, books and thoughts, you develop a more positive attitude and can make positive choices. ‘Good-in, Good-out.’ When you make a clear decision to eliminate negativity, you can choose to make positive choices that make you more capable and competent. A positive mind keepe the thoughts in sync with your goals, plans and dreams.
If you want something different from what you have right now, then you have to do something different from what you’re doing. If you want others to treat you differently, start yourself treating differently. Stop complaining and start taking responsibility for the way things are in your life. If you want different outcomes, make different choices. Desires and goals can produce anxiety, stress, and competitiveness and you need to recognise those that do. you can choose to rearrange your thoughts to make the situation better instead of wasting time in complaining.
Practice positive self-talk
Just because you say you want something different or better, your inner being is not going to go along with you. What you believe about yourself and your worthiness or ability to have what you want is important. It is important to build self-worth and value in yourself because when you feel not good enough, you choose ways to keep yourself miserable, choose to procrastinate, and might opt for unhealthy food choicesnand habits. Positive self-talk is programming yourself to change. Using positive affirmations and positive statements to control your inner dialoguelets you make better choices.
In mindfulness, you will essentially be looking at your own thoughts and can assess them. Be persistent in giving yourself few quite moments each day to reflect on your process of change. Become aware of negative thoughts and nurture the willingness to let go of them.
Nourish and affirm your intentions to keep you on track and enable you to meet your goals.
Finally, take full responsibility for where you are currently in life. If you’re not happy with what you have today and make a choice right now to make a change in your life by changing the way you think in order to make your thoughts work for you. Recognise the power of the freedom of will which allows you to change anything that you do not agree with.
“We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals.” —Stephen Covey