The idea of the comfort zone goes back to a classic experiment in psychology. Back in 1908, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson explained that “a state of relative comfort created a steady level of performance”. Alan Henry for “Mindhacks” reminds us that in order to maximize performance, we need a state of relative anxiety—a space where our stress levels are slightly higher than normal. This space is called “Optimal Anxiety,” and it’s just outside our comfort zone. Too much anxiety and we’re too stressed to be productive, and our performance drops off sharply.
Any of us who have ever challenged ourselves to step outside of our comfort zone know that there’s a fine line between challenging and overstepping. If we don’t push hard enough, we remain in a rut. If we push too hard then we reinforce the notion that we should NEVER step out of our comfort zone.
What happens if we actually achieve the ultimate amount of self-prescribed discomfort? Well, things like this:
- You will become more creative. New experiences cause new patterns of thinking.
- It will become easier to roll with the punches life throws at you. When we aren’t so set in our ways, change isn’t as threatening.
- You will find you have strengths that were previously undiscovered. You might be a fabulous swimmer or runner or photographer. How will you know if you never try.
Now here’s how to do it:
- Try something new everyday. It could be as simple as taking a new route to work or trying a new restaurant without checking it out on-line beforehand.
- Step outside your bubble. We tend to stick with the same people, the same authors, the same music – today try deviating from that. Talk to a few people you don’t know very well. Ask them at least 3 questions. Make them interesting ones. Tune into a new radio station – something you might have never previously listened to. Give it a chance.
- Don’t over think it. Sometimes it’s okay to make a snap decision when you are generally very careful and methodical in your choices. Something as simple as trying a new fruit or vegetable at the market would be good. Just grab, pay and go. You’ll find lots of recipes on line to create a dish with your new find.
- Trust that you can do it. If it’s always scared you but intrigued you, for example, skydiving – find a friend who’ll go with you and schedule it! If there’s a workout class you’ve always wanted to try but don’t want to look silly – try it! No one will be watching anyway – honestly.
So go ahead and break free from the ordinary – vive la différence! It’s a little addicting, you’ll see. Soon you’ll be seeking out challenges and changes you never dreamed of. And then all that’s left is to wait for the magic to happen.