15 Ways To Trick Yourself Out Of Your Comfort Zone

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Forbes Coaches Council

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POST WRITTEN BY Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council

Top business and career coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer firsthand insights on leadership development & careers.

It’s undeniable that some of the best things in life are comfortable. As humans have evolved, we’ve sought out environments and tools that provide us with maximum comfort in order to reduce stress and create safe spaces. However, comfort isn’t always what’s best for us, and can lead to personal or professional stagnation.

Yet, for many professionals who have grown acclimated to their way of doing things, seeking change or new situations can seem daunting. So, how can someone who clings to routine and familiarity let go and find the courage to step out of their comfort zone? Below, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council share their top mental tricks for stepping into the unknown in order to expand the boundaries of comfort.

Forbes Coaches Council leaders share their expert tips on pushing your limits.
Forbes Coaches Council leaders share their expert tips on pushing your limits. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.

1. Be Your Alter Ego

We can have a vision of ourselves that is grander than we are in real life. However, if we can personify that vision, even making it into an alter ego, we can find the courage to act when the less bold version of ourselves wouldn’t. Visualize a bold version of you and ask “what would bold me do?” Then you’ll know what to do and “blame” the actions on that ego until you can take the credit. –Jessica Sweet, Wishingwell Coaching

2. Clear The Mental Chatter

The comfort zone is designed by our minds to keep us safe. When we challenge the boundary, the mental chatter calls out familiar “stay safe” messages. From “who do you think you are?” to “you are too old (young/too whatever),” we are lulled back. You have to expand and grow. A strategy is to get quiet, breathe deeply and then to say an affirming message out loud: “I can do it!” Yes, you can. – Mary Pat Knight, Leaders Inspired

3. Read And Apply

Too often, when we are looking to develop ourselves, we can read a book or listen to a podcast, consider the value of the information, but never actually apply it. Strive to read at least one book a month that will sharpen your skills, and then seek to apply at least one new principal from the book to your life over the next month. This helps cultivate healthy habits and stretch ourselves as a routine. –Billy Williams, Archegos

4. Let Your Passion Be More Powerful

Extending beyond our boundaries can be scary. Fear often arises from the unknown. One thing I know about fear is that it isn’t real. Here’s something I want you to ask and challenge yourself around when it comes to fear: “Can you prove it?” Imagine the possibilities if you choose to feel the fear and allow your passion and your desire to simply be more powerful than your fears? – Debbie Cromack, Emerge Empowerment

5. Don’t Do, Experiment

Experimenting is a noncommittal posture where the goal isn’t doing, but discovery. Change is uncomfortable. That discomfort having longevity can be too much to take. But experiments are brief. The goal is not a permanent change, learning is. Is change possible as a result? Perhaps. The wiggle room of an “experiment” may be the difference between stuck and a willingness to test the waters. – Damaris Patterson Price, Working River Leadership Consulting

6. Challenge Your Thinking

Our comfort zones are made up of our beliefs and perspectives shaped by our culture and upbringing. To break out of what’s familiar start by looking at what comprises your comfort zone — your box — and become curious about yourself. Ask yourself, is this true or just my way of thinking and doing things? Ask yourself, is there a different perspective? This is a tool I use with all of my clients. – Melinda Fouts, Ph.D., Success Starts With You

7. Find Your Stretch Mentor

Some of the references and mentors clients choose don’t push them out of their comfort zones. Important as they are, you need “stretch mentors,” people that care about you and your goals but who will help hold you accountable to your goals. One of the hardest things we do is try to live up to our own standards. Give permission to your stretch mentor to hold you to your goals and standards. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.

8. Visualize The Future

One mental trick I use with clients is to help them visualize the future. When they think out three, five or ten years they can begin to recognize what is important to them and what they want to achieve by then. In doing so it allows them to be open-minded and get out of their normal daily box and begin to stretch out of their comfort zone. Thinking those thoughts allows for committed action. – Monica Thakrar, MTI

9. Take One Small Step At A Time

Changes can be overwhelming. We read small words before we read books. We crawled before we walked. Start by identifying the first, very small step. Don’t worry about all the other steps. Just take the first one. Then choose the next one. And the next. And the next. Be patient with yourself as well as curious and forgiving. We are all works in progress. The point is to progress. – Leann Wolff,Great Outcomes Consulting

10. Ask “What Will They Say At My Funeral?”

When complacency strikes I’m reminded of the question, “What will they say at my funeral?” I wouldn’t want them to say, “She lived a safe life.” Rather, I want to live a full life that has inspired and brought value to others. I’d like them to say, “She was honest about being fearful but she did it anyway.” Because life is not a destination but a journey, this jolts me back to my mission. – Laura DeCarlo, Career Directors International

11. Recognize That You’re An Animal

Whenever I’m well outside my professional comfort zone and feel myself pulling back, I remind myself that I’m just an animal. Animals are wired for self-preservation and will resist things that feel dangerous. Humans are no different. We react like this challenge is a threat to our safety. Recognize your resistance is just leftover hardwiring to keep you alive then lean in — it won’t kill you. – Scott Swedberg, The Job Sauce

12. Normalize The Fear Through Fun

A mentor once said to me: Life begins beyond your comfort zone. Regularly choose to try something fun that deliberately places you beyond your comfort zone. For example, maybe you’ve always been curious to try the flying trapeze or learn a martial art or try public speaking, but it feels terrifying. Witness yourself walk through the fire of fear for something fun and fear will never stop you. – April Armstrong, AHA Insight

13. Don’t Overthink It

A comfort zone is a cozy place but not much grows there. Don’t self-sabotage through analysis paralysis and let fear of the unknown stop you. Overcome your perceptions and unfounded worries by halting the wild spiral of over-thinking. Get on with it and take that step! I’ve accomplished things I never thought I could do by just doing it. Motivation doesn’t find you-you find it. –Erin Urban, UPPSolutions, LLC

14. Write It Down And File It Away

My clients have the most success when we “name” the hurtle, obstacle or wall they are trying to scale and let it sit for a while. I coach them to write down what they’re hanging on to — their fears, their worries, whatever they can’t get past. Then, file it away in a drawer, if possible. Let it sit. Come back to it in a day or a week. Still valid? If we can’t see it, we can’t tackle it. – Leila Bulling Towne, The Bulling Towne Group, LLC

15. Enter An Athletic Competition

You can’t compete from your comfort zone. The problem with most people who’ve found their way into the comfort zone is that they are no longer competing for anything. When you compete, you compete all in. If you want to stretch your limits, do so physically and you will see the mental side fall in line. – Ryan Stewman, Break Free Academy

Forbes Coaches Council

Forbes Coaches CouncilCommunityVoice

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization comprised of leading business coaches and career coaches. Find out if you qualify at forbescoachescouncil.com/qualify. Questions about an article? Email [email protected].