Getting Out of The Comfort Zone

Marta is a second year student at Henley Business School, and she’s working part-time for the Henley Careers team too.  In the post that follows she reflects on how the well know comfort zone model applies to her experiences of the last 18 months:

“How scary is it to do things that put ourselves in an uncomfortable position? It would be so much easier to just do what we know we’re good at and stay away from anything that stresses us! So why is everyone constantly asking us to get out of the comfort zone? Why is that so important?

Comfort ZoneBack in 1908, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson explained that a state of relative comfort created a steady level of performance. That means that without stress and pressure we tend to achieve lower results (in general, achieve less in life).

As an international student, the actual first time I have done something big out of my comfort zone was actually packing all my clothes, say goodbye to my parents, friends (and my beloved dog) and move to another country! This sounded SO scary back when I was eighteen and just got out of high school. Leaving Italy and move to England was a bet for me! How easy could have been for me to go to uni in my own country, with my friends, speaking my own language? But I can tell you now, coming here was a turning point in my life and one of the best choices for my personal growth.

Experts call the process of going out of the comfort zone “Optimal Anxiety”. It’s that state of mind in which you’re unsure of the outcome of your actions and if you’re going to be successful or not. A few years ago I couldn’t even think about moving from home! Imagine doing a degree in the UK in another language with zero friends… It was hard to leave and I remember the first weeks were tough but then that made me become stronger and more confident. In fact, when get out of your comfort limits, there is a 3-stages process:

  • Anxiety given by the pressure of failing and doing things wrong.
  • Adapting to the new situation, find the best way to face it and learn from that.
  • Building confidence and become stronger as a person!

The feeling you get when there’s karaoke night and, despite the fact that you hate singing in front of people, you find the courage to go up on stage and jam some “High School Musical” tunes, and it’s great! This is a very little thing but it’s still something that put us under pressure and make us feel exposed to judgement.

My tips for those of you that hate getting out of the comfort-zone:

  • Start from little things! Doing it step by step and gradually could be very helpful and slowly build the confidence you need to jump in and out of your comfort zone easily!
  • PRACTISE! No one is born good at it. Start telling yourself that every little thing that makes you stresses is good practise and do as many as possible. The more things you do, the less you will stress out in the future! (Karaoke nights help a lot!)
  • Get a “What could happens if I fail?” attitude! Ask to yourself “What if it doesn’t go as it should? What’s the worst thing that could happen?” You’ll realise that 99% of the time the worst scenario is not that bad and you shouldn’t stress too much about it 😉

START TODAY, go out there and do something that scares you, doesn’t matter the outcome, you’ll be surprised of how easier it will be if you do a little thing every day! So, be brave, push yourself to the limits and spend as much time as you can being “uncomfortable”, even if it sounds weird! It will pay off and nothing will stop you from achieving great results!