Why Frequent Trips Outside Your Comfort Zone Are So Important

Earlier this year, Gail and I attended Tony Robbins’ Life & Wealth Mastery event in Fiji. On the very first morning, with less than an hour of instruction, we were asked to climb a thirty-foot pole and then stand on top of it.

A Man Standing on Top of a Pole - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/SLOFotomedia, Image #2939030

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/SLOFotomedia

This was no surprise, of course. I had known for several months this was going to happen. But it was still frightening to consider.

I’ve heard the only two fears you are born with are the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. Every other fear is acquired.

I don’t know if that’s true, but I can attest to the fact that climbing the pole was terrifying.

Even though I was strapped into a harness and couldn’t really get hurt, the sensation of being so high off the ground on a swaying pole felt ridiculously dangerous.

Nevertheless, I made it to the top and was able to step onto the top of the pole. I stood there for a few moments, just taking it all in. I felt incredibly alive—and triumphant.

Then I remembered I was supposed to leap to a trapeze ten feet away. No sweat, I thought. I took a deep breath, focused on the target, and jumped.

Unfortunately, I missed.

The spotters lowered me to the ground as Gail and my new friends cheered wildly from the ground. It was exhilarating.

Of course, the whole point of the exercise was to cement in my subconscious the value of getting outside my comfort zone. It has had exactly this impact.

You’ve probably experienced something similar. Maybe it was learning a new skill, meeting a new person, or taking on a challenge you’d never done. We don’t often enjoy these things when they are happening, but, looking back, we have to admit:

  • This is where the growth happens.
  • This is where the solutions are.
  • This is where fulfillment resides.

In short, the really important stuff happens outside your comfort zone.

If that’s true—and I believe that it is—how can you maximize these trips outside your comfort zone? Let me suggest seven ways:

  1. Acknowledge the value. Reality is that we move toward what we esteem. The first step is simply to confess that getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing. Say it out loud if you need to: “Getting out of my comfort zone is good for me!” Remember, unless you do so, you won’t experience the growth you want, the solution you need, or the fulfillment you desire.
  2. Lean into the experience. So many people shrink back whenever they experience pain. The problem is that this can become a habit—or worse—a way of life. Instead, embrace the discomfort. Move toward it. This is an important step in accomplishing anything significant. You have to go through the realm of discomfort to get what you want in life.
  3. Notice your fear. If you feel anxiety or fear, that’s normal. But—and this is critical—you don’t have to be controlled by it. Yes, it can be an indication of danger. It can also be an indication that you are on the right path and about to experience a break-through. Just notice the anxiety or fear but keep moving forward. Often, the ability to push through fear is the only thing that separates those who succeed from those who fail.
  4. Don’t over-think it. This is my biggest temptation. I want to know the entire path. I want a map to the destination. Alas, I rarely get one. But that’s okay. All you really need is clarity for the next step. When you get it, take the next step in faith, believing you will be given the light you need to take the next one.
  5. Play full out. It’s easy to get timid when you move outside your comfort zone. You think maybe you can just ease into it, kind of like sliding into a cold swimming pool. Not so much. Better to jump in with both feet. It’s not usually as bad as you think. You have a better chance of success if you give it your all.
  6. Celebrate the victory. Historically, I have not been very good at this. As soon as I accomplish something, I check it off and move on. But I am learning the importance of marking the moment, recognizing the achievement, and expressing my appreciation to those who helped make it happen. It’s important for you and for them.
  7. Pause to reflect. It’s also important to take a little time to process your experience. What did you do well? What would you do differently next time? What life principles can you distill from the experience that will help you in your next challenge? It’s worth jotting a few notes in your journal or, if this was a team effort, scheduling a time to debrief.

If you are out to accomplish significant things in your life, you are going to be spending a lot of time outside your comfort zone. You might as well get the most out of it.

Question: When was the last time you moved outside your comfort zone but, in retrospect, were glad you did? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Mary Aalgaard

    Just this week. I went on my first motorcycle ride from central Minnesota to Yellowstone National Park with a stop in Sturgis, SD on the way home. Way beyond what I ever thought I could do. I was a passenger, not the “driver,” but it was still a huge accomplishment for me. It’s on my blog Ride off the Page! Thanks for this great post. I’m riding out of my comfort zone, one mile at a time.

  • http://twitter.com/scgandhi Sunil Gandhi

    I agree fully. We under perform just because we want to remain in our comfort zone. Either regular trips outside comfort zone or expand yr comfort zone.  

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  • stephsday

    I agree w/ your synopsis. It’s so important to get outside of our comfort zones…so that we can learn, grow, stretch beyond what we know and what we think we can accomplish.

    Can you tell us more about your experience at the Tony Robbins’ event? Perhaps your top 10 takeaways?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I may post on that in the future. Thanks.

  • Ivelisse

    Wao!!! I lived that experience many years ago as part of work training . Reading this article made me realize how many challenges I have accomplished . Sitting here watching my daughter’s volleyball game with a new vision. As the game continues they have to move from their current position and prepare to change their strategy. A difficult opponent is tough but you have to give your best.
    Every day we face obstacles that moves Us from our comfort zone and sometimes we try to fix things with our own strength. Maybe it’s time for a reflection and step out to the new things and success we can accomplish. Have a wonderful weekend!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/BukowskiLynn Lynnette Bukowski

    Wow! At a recent UPW Conference in July I enrolled in the Mastery University, which means I’m headed to Fiji in March.  After I finished the first sentence of your post I thought, seriously? And then… since I walked on “fire” I had to acknowledge this might be in a some realm of possibility. Still, I was suddenly scared to death just sitting at a computer keyboard. Then I read further and breathed a huge sigh of relief that a harness is involved. Great, great post and reminder that I better get used to breaking through my imagined fears. Yes!

  • http://twitter.com/BukowskiLynn Lynnette Bukowski

     Wow! At a recent UPW Conference in July I enrolled in the Mastery University, which means I’m headed to Fiji in March.  After I finished the first sentence of your post I thought, seriously? And then… since I walked on “fire” I had to acknowledge that climbing a 30 ft pole might be in a some realm of possibility. Still, I was suddenly scared to death just sitting at a computer keyboard. Then I read further and breathed a huge sigh of relief that a harness is involved. Great, great post and reminder that I better get used to breaking through my imagined fears. Yes! Yes! Yes!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You’ll love it! It is nothing to be scared of. Trust me. My wife did it too.

  • Michael Culver

    Really enjoyed the post. Did you come up short or over shoot the trapeze? I’m curious if after overcoming the adversity of climbing the pole, you’d have jumped right back in line to get another shot at the jump

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No, I grabbed it dead-on, but it was wet from other people’s sweaty hands. I even had gloves on, but I slipped right off.

  • http://twitter.com/erintarr Erin Tarr

    Heading to Liberia,Africa in january … my first time out of the US  ever.  I will be applying these guidelines!  http://www.erintarr.com

  • NoelHabashy

    Thanks for the continued encouragement.  I’ve been spending the past year trying to do one new thing each day.  Some things have been bigger (like running my first half marathon or doing a ride-along with a police officer) and others have been more common place (like discovering a new musician, making yogurt for the first time, visiting a new place, or driving through a flooded road).  In the midst of some significant life transition and seeking what’s next in store, it’s been a great learning opportunity and chance to try things that have previously laid dormant in the land of “I really ought to try that some time.”  

    Feel free to investigate my daily adventures and what I’m learning in the process: http://theadventuretoday.com

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  • Eugene Wengerd

    Oh my gosh love the post! i’m adrenailine junkie and skydiving was prob one of the best things i’ve ever done! time and time again it reminds me to be ALL IN! I love what you’re doing, thanks! 

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  • Doug Watsabaugh

    Great article – I especially appreciate point #4 – for me, the more I over-think, the more likely I am to be frozen by my fear! I recently blogged about the rewards hidden in risk!

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  • http://www.jonathanavilaoficial.com/ Jonathan Avila

    It’s been a while since I got out of my comfort zone in such a big way. Maybe 3 years ago when I moved from California to Texas.
    My question for evryone here is how often should you get out of your comfort zone? Should we live life adventurously every day?

  • Fmclaughlin149

    Your article was timely!  I tried paddle boarding for the first time last Friday afternoon…on a very sunny day but a choppy water day.  Definitely had to jump on (the board) and then jump off with both feet. Lots of fun and laughs. I find when I do something new and physical (somersaulting down a hill with my daughter, jumping on a trampoline), I feel years younger than 46 and 11/12.

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    I would say that only she can decide.

    • http://liefdesverdriettips.com/terug-bij-je-ex-door-facebook-2 ellen

      How could you decide? I have this myself too. If I want to start a business for myself but I think I am not very good at certain parts of running a business. Is this comfort zone or just good self knowledge. Not everyone is suited to be good at everything. This gut feeling of fear or being doubtful can be an indication of not doing it. RIght? But how can I distinguish this, both for myself and others around me.

      • Sparkpaw

        You could always try seeking out a psychologist. They aren’t just for the crazy. You can spill some of your biggest concerns and fears, and ask them to help you out. They could do it easily in one session, which shouldn’t cost too much, assuming you don’t live in a big city. That’s what I am currently doing. :)

  • Sparkpaw

    Just tonight I went and rock climbed (on a human- built rock wall) for the first time. I couldn’t get myself above eight feet for my fear, but I had so much fun anyways. I fell a couple times, but I was caught with the harness, and so the fear is starting to go away. I plan to go rock climb every week now with a friend, perhaps one day I can go all the way up. However, I need some advice. I am currently a sophomore in College, and my current major is Biology with a Psychology minor. I have ALWAYS wanted to be a veterinarian, but more recently I have decided Animal Training was what I really wanted. However, I’m beginning to wonder if I even want that. I love animals, and if someone just offered me the job in one of those fields, I’d jump at the chance… however, I also love to do artwork. I love to draw (animals), and I do that as often as I can. I have come to understand that art is my passion, but I’m terrified to make it my career choice. I’m not big on being financially stable, as long as I am able to eat and live, I’ll be ok, as long as I do what I love. But I guess, I’m not sure how I can know which one is right for me. My parents want me to be a vet, more money, more success. But my biology courses are so tough and mundane at the same time- I’ll push aside my homework in those in order to do artwork- and I don’t even need to do the art, I just want to. So how can you tell the difference between being afraid because it’s right, or being afraid because it’s wrong? And if any of this made no sense, I’ll be more than glad to explain a little better. :)

  • Kelly D.

    I left a 16 year business relationship.  I should have left years earlier, but I was afraid I would not be able to re-create the success and business I had helped build.  It was my husbands brush with death that ultimately gave me clarity into what was important, taking care of my family.  Going to work with a new group was way out of my comfort zone.  But it became the best decision of my life, not only for me personally (take a leap of faith and the net will appear), but because I forged a much more successful business relationship that has grown my income and given me the flexible time to take care of my husband.

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  • http://rise365.com/ Michael Good

    For me, it was quitting my job the end of 2011 and starting a business. Best thing ever! Scary, but best thing ever!

  • Julie

    OK, I went to Divinity School. At age 53, after never thinking I could do this kind of thing.  Three years of graduate study.  And, suburban white woman that I am, I went to Howard University, where I was surrounded by wonderful African-American folks.  This was not comfortable. But it was wildly rewarding.  I will cherish my days there and my friends for ever. God has so blessed me!

  • VinnyC

    I performed, singing, while a musician friend played three of my songs. We’d gone over them only once, some hour earlier. It was a garden concert with all the folks from my songwriting group there, most of whom had never heard me perform.  What made it easy was this: I never gave myself over to thinking much about it. Free of the guitar due to a broken arm, I was able to concentrate on the singing like never before. It became a revelation: maybe I should only sing when I’m on stage.

  • http://twitter.com/sweetl_lychee sweet lychee

    Tip #6 is my favorite. Thank you reminding me how important it is to acknowledge taking a risk & embracing this change. This tiny act creates a ripple effect & encourages me to continue stepping outside of my comfort zone

  • Happy!

    I accepted a new job that I was very insecure about, but decide that with the right leadership, I could do it. That was almost 6 years ago.  I went from making $11/hr to $20 an hour!!  All because I finally decided that it was time to step out of my comfort zone. It is not easy, but it’s worth the leap!! I’m happy I did it!

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  • S S Lewis

    Thank you for this article. I know I need to get out of my comfort zone. I see as long as I stay in it, I won’t grow. Christians need to grow! We are the branches attached to the vine and it grows. I don’t want to be prund off the vine because of fear. Think I’ll face my fears from now on. No telling what my Heavenly Father “had” and “has” for me to do. I don’t want to miss out on anthing He has planned for me. Thank you for your encouraging and challenging message.

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  • Katrina

    Any recommended good books around stepping outside your comfort zone?

    • http://alidavies.com/ Ali Davies

      Katrina, you might find “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg an interesting read. As most behaviour is driven by deeply estbalished habits, it offers interesting insights into how we can start deconstructing what keeps us stuck in habits that no longer serve us and building new habits.

  • Barry Devlin

    Starting a business dependent on the internet forced me – an extrovert, relationship-driven and instinctive, intuitive salesman – to learn about coding, analytics and all those things I’ve spent years deriding. Taking my brain way outside it’s comfort zone!!

  • Deborah H. Bateman

    Thanks for sharing this post. I don’t know if I could climb that pole, that’s way out of my comfort zone. One of the hardest things for me has been public speaking. I have struggled with speaking in public since I was in school and had to do book reports in front of the class. It is one of the things that I’m trying to as you say, “lean into,” but it’s not easy for me. I’ve spoken a few times to the ladies at my church. For some reason it makes me really nervous. I have tried doing some teleseminars and that doesn’t seem to be as hard for me as standing up in front of a group. I’m gradually moving in that direction and hope God will help me and give me the courage and strength I need to do it. I may just have to jump in head first and as Esther said, “if I perish, I perish.”

  • Gavin Nembhard

    swimming in the sea is out of my comfort zone..

  • http://daybreakrun.com/ JoeFilipowicz

    I always paid lip service to this. Yup, get outside my comfort zone. It’s good for me. Yada, yada, yada…. However, I never really saw the value in this, for real, until I my family moved 1,200 miles from my hometown of 40 years. Walking away from everything that was familiar. It was the hardest thing I ever done, but the most rewarding by far. I’ve never felt so alive.