I’ve written before about how the path to success is uncomfortable. You have to move outside of the place where you’re comfortable to grow and be more than you are today.
The more time you spend outside your comfort zone, the larger your comfort zone becomes. As a result, you’ll feel comfortable in more environments. You’ll be able to reach further without feeling overwhelmed. Your income, job success, and relationships will all grow.
I believe that expanding your comfort zone in small ways sets you up for success when it’s time to make a big leap. Little changes help you get used to that small feeling of discomfort without pushing you into a place of panic. As you grow your comfort zone in small ways, you’ll develop the confidence and grit to change in big ways as well.
Here are 33 small ways to expand your comfort zone:
1. Smile. Here’s an experiment: smile at everyone you see when you’re on your way to work or out running errands today. It may not make a difference, or it may make your day. Either way, you’ll practice putting yourself out there.
2. Be friendly. Push yourself to smile and greet people with a warm greeting when you arrive at work. Say hello and ask those who serve you how they are doing. As you start being friendlier, not only will you feel better, but your relationships will improve.
3. Give compliments. Going out of your way to say something nice to someone will make their day, as well as give you a chance to practice talking to people you may not know very well.
4. Encourage people. If the thought of encouraging people makes you feel uneasy, then do it. It will lift their spirit and yours as well.
5. Repair a relationship. There are few things more uncomfortable than sincerely saying “I’m sorry.” Do it anyway. You’ll relieve yourself of the burden of a fractured relationship and earn this person’s respect.
6. Interact with different people. It’s easy to gravitate to the same people at work or at social events. Stretch yourself by striking up a conversation with someone you don’t usually talk to.
7. Build a new relationship. Is there someone at your place of work, church, or social group that you would like to know better? Invite him or her to lunch and enjoy building a new relationship.
8. Go on a date. If you’re not married, who would you enjoy getting to know better? Does the thought of asking this person out make your heart flutter? Do it today and who knows what may develop.
9. Join a dating site. If you are not married, why not put yourself out there? You may find the love of your life. My brother met his wife through eharmony.com and they are perfect for each other.
10. Do some “out of character” shopping. Is there a type of store that would make you feel uncomfortable walking into? Go ahead and push yourself to do it.
11. Ask for a review. If your place of work does not have a regular schedule for reviews and you believe you are bringing more value than you are being paid, then ask your boss for a private meeting and discuss your current role, what your boss feels you can do better, and if appropriate, ask for a raise.
12. Prospect. If you are an entrepreneur or salesperson, what person or place of business would be your ideal new customer? Make the call today and you will feel great.
13. Volunteer to lead a project. Look for projects where you work, worship, or volunteer that you can lead up. Taking on a new leadership role will certainly stretch you.
14. Apply for a new job. Are you happy where you are currently employed? If not, consider what you feel would be a job you would love and start making calls to prospective employers.
15. Call someone. If you prefer communicating with others by text, email, or through social sites because it’s more comfortable, then shake things up by calling people occasionally.
16. Talk to people you don’t know. Does talking to people you don’t know make you uncomfortable? If so, look for opportunities to talk to new people, even if it’s smiling and saying hi to someone at the grocery store, gym, or coffee shop.
17. Try a new food. Did you hate a certain food when you were young? Does the thought of eating sushi make you gag? Give it a try! At worst, you’ll have an unpleasant meal. At best, you’ll have a larger comfort zone and a new favorite food.
18. Get lost. Being lost is an uncomfortable feeling. That’s why it’s a great way to expand your comfort zone. Pack a map of your surrounding area and a mug of coffee, then go get lost.
19. Join a new group. Joining a new group, whether it’s an exercise class, a volunteer organization, or a religious group, is uncomfortable. It often takes a while to become a part of the group, which gives you a chance to practice feeling comfortable when you’re surrounded by people you don’t know.
20. Exercise. Maybe you’re nervous about trying out a new piece of equipment at the gym. Maybe you’re nervous about joining a gym altogether. Maybe you’re even nervous to have someone see you jogging down the street. Accept those nerves and get out and exercise anyway. Not only will your comfort zone grow, but you’ll look and feel better too.
21. Go someplace by yourself. Does the idea of sitting alone in a movie theater or a restaurant give you a flutter in your stomach? Then that’s exactly what you should do. Going someplace by yourself is a safe way to practice feeling uncomfortable. Once you move past the initial unease, you may even find you enjoy your movie or meal more without any distractions.
22. Be quiet. Take a break from music, television, conversation, and even your own voice. Sit quietly for a while with your thoughts. For many people, this alone is a huge step outside their comfort zone.
23. Speak up. If you tend to sit quietly in meetings or act as a listener in conversations, make a point to speak up. Practice contributing when you’re conversing with people you know and trust, and you’ll have less of a leap to make when it’s time to say something in an uncomfortable environment.
24. Try a new hobby or sport. Being bad at something is uncomfortable, but it’s a part of every learning process. Learn how to accept this fact by practicing something new. What new sport or hobby would you like to learn? Why not get started today?
25. Join in on karaoke night. Depending on your singing ability, joining in on karaoke may be more uncomfortable for the people around you than for you! But whether you’re the next Adele or can’t get close to carrying a tune, taking the stage is a great way to expand your comfort zone.
26. Join a speaking group. Does the thought of giving a presentation make you want to curl up and hide? Work on growing your comfort zone in this area before being called upon to give a speech. Join a group like the Rotary Club that lets you practice public speaking in an encouraging and supportive environment. With enough time, speaking in public may come to be squarely in your comfort zone.
27. Delegate. Many people feel overscheduled and overworked because they don’t feel comfortable trusting someone else to do something for them. If this sounds like you, try to delegate small tasks whenever there’s someone willing to do them. Becoming comfortable with this skill opens up your ability to focus on other areas of your life and improves your ability to succeed.
28. Do something thrilling. Ride a roller coaster. Go bungee jumping. Climb a mountain. Give skydiving a try. Do something you’ve never tried before that gives you a nervous thrill.
29. Take a day offline. Constantly checking your email and your phone can become like a pacifier. It feels comforting at the moment, but the constant distraction can sabotage your productivity, your relationships, and even your emotional well-being. Disconnect from it all for one day a week.
30. Explore a new area. Take a break from your usual haunts and give a new neighborhood or city a try. Try a new restaurant, visit an unfamiliar stylist or spa, or join in on a worship service or community event.
31. Break a routine or habit. It’s comfortable to do the same things the same way every day. Changing up your routines makes it easier to work with the unexpected.
32. Have fun in a new way. Making a change is always easier when you’re having a bit of fun. Try a new activity on your day off to stretch your comfort zone in an enjoyable way.
33. Grow your knowledge of an uncomfortable subject. Many times the things we are most nervous about are the things we don’t understand. If there is a certain situation or area that constantly makes you feel uncomfortable, learn more about it.
These are just 33 of the hundreds of options available to expand your comfort zone.
Here’s my challenge to you: when you find yourself in situations where one option would push you outside your comfort zone and the second option is what you would normally do, challenge yourself to choose the option that expands your comfort zone and do it immediately without further thought.
Each time you choose the uncomfortable option, your comfort zone will grow, new opportunities will present themselves, and you will feel great about the person you are becoming.
When you start doing the small things to expand your comfort zone, the things that frighten you today will be conquerable tomorrow.