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The Simple 3-Step Process That Can Help You Tackle Anything Outside Your Comfort Zone

By Sara Lewis
November 1, 2021

This is a truth you’ve probably heard before: Growth happens outside of your comfort zone. But uncertainty and fear also live outside of your comfort zone. So when you attempt to push yourself into doing things that are uncomfortable, you might find yourself resisting — and even creating excuses for why you don’t take action.

Often, people attempt to start off too far outside of their comfort zone. This will trigger a fight-or-flight response, which can cause overwhelm, stress, anxiety, and frustration. Given the emotional heft of those feelings, it’s little wonder that you might want to avoid straying outside the comfort zone.  

Let’s take a common anxiety trigger as an example: public speaking. For a lot of people, just the thought of speaking in front of an audience — whether it’s live or virtual — sends them flying headlong into the panic zone. They might feel sick to their stomach, sweat, or hyperventilate. That means they’ve slid into the panic zone — as opposed to the learning zone.

The learning zone is where you feel eager, challenged, alive, and ready for a little risk. You’re capable of growing in this zone. But the learning zone happens when you give yourself a challenge that isn’t totally wild: it should feel like going 0-30mph instead of 0-60mph.

It’s a good idea to create a list of actions that you consider yourself ready to do as opposed to ones that feel too risky. Identify what feels doable: those will be in your learning zone. Conversely, list what makes you feel icky just thinking about it: those actions are going to be in your panic zone.

When you’re doing public speaking or any other risky action, follow this simple, three-step process to tackle anything outside of your comfort zone:

1. Prep, prep, prep

Getting your brain primed for taking action is the first step toward a successful venture into the learning zone. Get feel-good chemicals like dopamine flowing by briefly doing something positive immediately before doing the challenging task.

For example, watch a funny dog video on Facebook. Spend five minutes journaling about what you are grateful for. Text a friend a gif you found hilarious, or give yourself a high five in the mirror. Yes — it might seem silly, but it can really work. 

2. Get it done

If you’re feeling icky at this point, you’re likely pushing too far into the panic zone so adjust your course of action. Remember, at this point of taking action, you should feel eager. Now, no more procrastinating! Film yourself, have the hard conversation, send that follow up email, apply to be a guest on your dream podcast… whatever it is, take the action and put yourself out there!

3. Give yourself space to recover

An action that pushes you in any way warrants a recovery celebration. Explore how you felt doing something challenging: write in your journal, call a friend to talk about it, or post about it on social media. It may seem trivial, but getting the emotions out of you helps you to feel more in control. You will recover faster, regain energy, and be open to stepping outside of your comfort zone again.

The more you step outside of your comfort zone and have a positive experience doing so, the easier it becomes. You’ll soon find that actions that were once in your learning zone have now moved into your comfort zone. Achieving your wildest dreams always involves growth. Now that you have a repeatable process to comfortably operate in the learning zone, you can use it over and over again.

Sara Lewis, founder of Introverts Emerge, loves to empower introverted professionals to use their personality to their advantage. She has created a method backed by neuroscience that teaches introverted professionals how to show up authentically without changing who they are.

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