Putting yourself in a completely unfamiliar territory requires a mental, physical and emotional push. Whether it is taking a job abroad, joining a new club, standing up for yourself, leaving leaving a job or a toxic relationship - leaving your comfort zone can be anything related to doing something that involves some form of fear. The most challenging part about stepping into the unknown is feeling that we may fail or get hurt. But the truth is, we have the ability to overcome obstacles that will get us to the next level and rise to the occasion.
With fear comes anxiety which although the word itself doesn’t sound positive, feeling a little bit of anxiety does have its benefits..surprisingly! The fact that you even feel slightly anxious means that you care. Ask yourself why are you feeling this way? Why do you care? Nerves can be a good thing. Feeling anxious can allow you to focus on that goal and even a little hint of anxiety can push you to perform better. You’re nervous about applying for that job? It’s probably a big opportunity for you and you don’t want to miss out. You know that you’re about to experience something new, take a risk, and face a new challenge. When you feel like it's time to try something new, you've realized it's time to transition, grow, and transform. It’s just about setting your mind to that goal and commiting to it.
The first time I fully left my comfort zone was when I accepted an internship in Switzerland while still living in the United States. I had never been to Switzerland before and I accepted to take the leap based on one Skype interview and just a few photos I saw of the beautiful country. The first thought in my mind when I thought of Switzerland was ADVENTURE and knew it was an OPPORTUNITY I could not miss. But it wasn’t that simple. As excited as I was, I knew what I was leaving behind. I was leaving behind loved ones, I would be abandoning my student visa which meant it would be more difficult for me to get back in America, and my opportunity to stay in the U.S where most of my friends live today. I was moving across the world in a country where I didn’t really know anybody. Not to mention, I could not even speak or understand a hint of the Swiss-German language. Many challenges awaited me. As sad as I was to leave my loved ones, I knew I couldn’t stay there forever and knew this opportunity would end up being a growing experience for me.
And it was. Starting a new life from scratch became the most difficult but most evolving experience I’ve had in my life and I’m very grateful for it. I learned to embrace change. And as much as starting over was very challenging, I also learned to love my own company and to self reflect on my journey. I was often lonely in the beginning but I was also in the process of growing and I loved every bit of it. After having gone through that journey, I knew I’d be prepared to do it all over again the next time.
There are many ways to step out of your comfort zone. Here are some that have helped me in my journey:
As daunting as it is to step into the unknown, making small changes first does help. Whether it’s slowly changing routine activities or trying something new every day, every step counts. Try taking small steps towards being comfortable with being uncomfortable. For example, if you feel uncomfortable talking to people you just met and you usually retreat back to your comfort zone early, try staying a little longer and ask questions. Join a new club and share ideas. Take small steps toward the fear you are trying to overcome.
Look for a challenge
Work towards a goal and join a challenge. When I first moved to London, I signed up for the London Duathlon before even arriving to London. I knew this goal would keep me mentally and physically healthy. I felt more motivated to join cycling clubs to train with where I also made new friendships which helped in my new transition in starting from scratch. Choose challenge over comfort.
Surround yourself with motivating and positive people
There will be good days but there will also be bad days. Hangout with people that will bring out the best in you and support you through your goals. Join clubs which will help you stay motivated and encourage you when you feel you need some support. Stay away from toxic people and get inspired by those risk takers. Have fun sharing similar goals.
Keep your composure
There can be a lot of emotions when trying to leave your comfort zone. Remember to pause, relax and breathe for a few seconds when anxiety levels increase. Take the time to recollect yourself before taking any action. Trust yourself in your decisions. Be kind to yourself in the process.
Have a good night sleep
It’s true. We all need it. The mind and body perform better after a healthy night's sleep. If you are tired, your mind is tired and you’re more likely to lose focus on your goal. With a healthy night's sleep, you will feel more prepared to tackle a challenge. Be sure to make time for it.
Focus on the why
Ask yourself, “What is the goal?” or “What are you hoping to accomplish?”
It’s important that you think of your mission statement for wanting to leave your comfort zone. Do you want to be more independent? More creative? More active? More social? Write it down if you have to! Keep these as motivations to push through fear.
Be patient with yourself
Be calm in the face of frustration and anxiety. Patience will make a huge difference in how you take on and handle fears. Don’t rush. Remember to be patient in discovering yourself and in conquering your fears because patience helps us achieve our goals.
To this day, I am so grateful for having made the decision to move abroad because it has allowed me to continue to make brave choices throughout my life. The benefits of extending my boundaries were beautifully rewarding.
Benefits of leaving your comfort zone:
It will allow you to deal with change better
The more you put yourself outside your comfort zone, the better you’ll deal with unexpected situations as they present themselves throughout your life.
It will make you more independent
You learn to trust yourself and be comfortable on being on your own. It’s completely okay to be alone sometimes as it helps define our own selves without letting someone else define us. You set your own pace.
It will allow you to find something you enjoy
You might discover a new passion or hobby while leaving your comfort zone. I discovered my love for travel and mountains the more time I stepped outside and can’t wait to continue doing so!
It will allow you to create new experiences for yourself
The most rewarding experiences I’ve had was when I put myself in uncomfortable situations. You allow yourself to live life to the fullest and be open to trying new things. You’ll learn about customs and culture. You'll notice how much more openminded you become.
It will allow you to meet new people
You’ll always encounter people along the way. They will teach you something, share a laugh or story. You learn to become less judgemental and have an open and respectful mind. Those you meet along the way may become an inspiration, a lesson or a lifelong friendship that will become part of your fulfilling journey.
Leaving your comfort zone isn’t an easy thing to do. For some it can be even more challenging especially after living around everything that is familiar and comfortable to them. Some take a huge leap and some build up to it. The important thing is to believe in yourself and be open to new experiences. Remind yourself that you are learning and expanding your life skills and self-knowledge. Life transitions are all about change and leaving your comfort zone helps you deal with change. Having left my comfort zone has really helped me go after new challenges. I’ve become fascinated with the idea of chasing what scares me because I learned that on the other side of fear is something beautiful. By leaving my comfort zone, I discovered how much I love traveling, the mountains, adventure, nature, meeting new people. It opened so many doors. I feel an exhilarating freedom in being my own person now. I’m comfortable with myself, and find it easy to do things on my own when I have to.
No matter how many difficult days there were in facing fears, loneliness, homesickness, I don’t regret any of it. My intuition, confidence, taste of adventure, and sense of self were tested and I got through it. Now I know that I can do it again. And so can you!
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” - Albert Einstein