How to leave your comfort zone

2019, Esther van der Storm


How many things do you do on autopilot? Do you have the same for breakfast every day? Do you always take the same route to work? Do you read before going to bed by default? And do you do your shopping at a regular supermarket? You probably nod ‘yes’ now. That makes a lot of sense, because we people like routines. So are we going to cheerfully say goodbye to those fixed patterns out of ourselves? Um… no.


That feeling makes sense, too. After all, doing something new is exciting and change often causes stress. This is also evident from scientific research. If you stay in your comfort zone, you will experience little or no stress. If you do something new, you increase that stress; you enter the learning zone. That feels a bit uncomfortable, but you gain new experiences and that causes growth. However, if the stress becomes too high, you enter the panic mode. There is no more learning, all signals are on red. Dosing your stress level is the trick.


Giant nerves

I’ve been trying to get into the learning zone myself frequently lately. Leaving my first business and starting something new scores high in the category ‘getting out of your comfort zone’ anyway. I decided to mark the moment of my farewell at Ynnovate by doing something else I had never done before: I went on holiday for a week. On my own. Without a husband, without kids. All alone to a cabin on the beach. A week of reading and relaxing on a tropical island: Zanzibar.


After booking my ticket, first the euphoria dominated. I showed my husband pictures of my destination: ‘Look dear, from my cabin I can see the ocean!’. As the departure date approached, that changed into an “OMG, what have I done?” feeling.


Suddenly I doubted everything: ‘Was it safe there? And what if I felt sad and alone for a week? What was I thinking?!’


With screaming nerves I finally got on the plane. And… it turned out to be a wonderful week, during which I learned that I can trust my own gut feeling. An experience that now comes in handy with STORMPUNT. Good that I didn’t listen to my own doubts (‘I cancel and lie down in my bed for a week!’), because then I would have missed an amazing experience.


Daily practice

Now I hear you think: ‘Yeah, nice that you went on holiday and learned a lot from it. But how can I get out of my comfort zone? At work, in my daily practice?


Good question. 


I also have experience with that, because in the innovation projects we facilitate, we teach people to let go of their fixed thinking patterns. This way you create space for new ideas. And yes, that too is stepping out of your comfort zone. So you don’t have to go to Zanzibar for that, you can start today. How? With the following tips:


1.   Make it doable

You don’t have to go skydiving to get out of your comfort zone. Small changes are most effective. Make a list of seven things you’d like to do, that are a bit out of your comfort zone. Maybe you want to have a different type of breakfast, or use your bike to travel to work instead of using your car. Or spend a day at a different floor in the office, among other colleagues. Or maybe you want to take another sports class, eat something you’ve never eaten before, or publish that stimulating blog.


Plan these actions and actually carry them out. Does it help you to have a stick forcing you to take action? Then share your plans with colleagues, a friend, or on social media. This way you can’t get away from it when it is a bit exciting in the end.


2.   Say no to idea killers

One of the biggest difficulties with changes are the so-called idea killers. When I booked that ticket, I was still very excited, but the closer I got to the departure date, the more doubt I felt. That’s the constant call of that oh-so-safe comfort zone, which makes you prefer to just sit on the couch and cocoon with a cup of tea. All these doubts make your stress level rise to great heights.


At work, these are thoughts like ‘What will they think if I just sit down at another workstation? Panic! And because of that panic, you decide not to do it anyway. The only solution is to stop the idea killers. Ask yourself: what is the worst thing that can happen? “Hi! I’m doing an experiment to try new things, is it OK if I join you today?” Chances are that you inspire people to make a move themselves!


3.   Give yourself kudos

Finally, give yourself a big compliment if you have done something new and have dared to leave that comfort zone. It’s very easy to think afterwards: ‘Oh, but it was really super simple and not that exciting at all. I didn’t care about anything’. But then you quickly step over what you did. And that’s a pity, because you gave yourself a big push to do something new, which was exciting and a bit uncomfortable. That’s great and you should celebrate that.


And if you do leave your comfort zone often enough, it will get bigger and bigger. Changes – big and small – become easier and easier. So get out of that comfort zone and start exploring!



Want to know more about how to get out of your fixed thinking patterns and make room for creative solutions? Contact us for a cup of (digital) coffee, we love to tell you more about our approach.