It doesn’t matter how old you are, what you have done or where you have been – at some point you will have to step out of your comfort zone. You know already whether you ever truly have or not. It is not so much a memory of a specific event, rather than an inner knowing. A mental toughness and emotional stability that tells the world that you can handle anything that it decides to throw at you. This solidity cannot be faked.
You might be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. This is understandable. Since we were children we have been taught that pain, discomfort and fear are bad for us, that they are a sign we have done something wrong. Consequently, you automatically flinch when the going gets tough, skirting around things that might challenge you to your limits rather than face the unsettling feelings that come to test you when you step out of your comfort zone. This test is the final barrier between ultimate success or failure. If you overcome it, you can do anything. If you don’t, you will slink back to wherever it is you came from.
So, are you ready to step out of your comfort zone? That’s good. Here are 12 things you will experience on your journey, so you are ready for them when they appear:
1) You will feel afraid
When you step out of your comfort zone, you are really taking a leap into the unknown. A powerful fear will grab you and you will feel uncertainty. You will seriously not know whether you will survive or not. This is how intense it is, at least to the mind. To the primitive mind, uncertainty means death. Until your comfort zone expands anything that sits outside of it is seen as sudden death, which explains why so many of us find it hard to leave what we know. This attack on your sense of self and self-confidence must be faced without hesitation. After a brief struggle we will see it for the unreal shadow that it actually is.
2) You will be unsure of who you really are
When you step out of your comfort zone you temporarily leave your old identity behind. Whatever you did before doesn’t matter; all that matters is the present moment and what you do with it. Don’t take this lack of self-identity as a negative thing or sign of low confidence. On the contrary, it is a sign that you have taken the decision to step out of your comfort zone and are going through a period of self-growth. Who we are today is not who we were yesterday. Who we will be tomorrow is not who we are today. Beliefs and attitudes change over time, which is a necessary part of life and our understanding of it. Embrace this confusion of who you are and let it spur you on to find your passions and purpose.
3) You will begin to sense your personal power, however weakly
Initially, when you step out of your comfort zone, things will look bleak. After a while, however, something new begins to replace the feelings of fear and insecurity. These brief moments of sensing our personal power – of sensing what we are truly capable of – are fleeting at first. As we go on they become more regular, until our growth period has ended and we reach a new equilibrium. The key to feeling this personal power is to step out of your comfort zone and to stay there. You must stay until one is uncomfortable becomes normal.
4) You will cycle between intense elation and despair
Intense inner-growth is generally characterised between periods of intense elation, where we feel the world is our oyster, and intense despair, where we feel a debilitating sense of overwhelm. The natural reaction at this point is to go back to what we know, into the comfort zone, where we are tricked into thinking we can experience more of the elation. The truth is that the positive feelings we experienced were due to the fact you had the courage to step out of your comfort zone. They were a signal you were beginning to win. To go back is to stop the process. Do not stop the process. Over time, the periods of elation will lengthen and the periods of despair will recede, until you know what true confidence is.
5) You will begin to take responsibility for everything in your life
One behaviour that characterises an important period of personal growth is the beginning of true responsibility. This is when we realise that we are accountable for everything that happens in our lives. That we are responsible for our moods, our job, our financial situation, how we treat ourselves and how we treat the people around us. When we realise this the tendency to play victim or start off the ‘blame game’ is given up. This is where we learn to take action and generally leads to a huge positive shift in internal and outer circumstances.
6) You will have trouble sleeping
When you step out of your comfort zone your mind will panic. It will be busier than usual, frantically trying to claw its way back and ensure its survival. This can lead to some pretty restless nights, as you think over and over about what is waiting for you. If you suffer from this mental over-activity it is useful to learn a calming technique, such as meditation, that can help still the thoughts for long enough that you can fall asleep. An alternative solution would be to learn to control your thoughts and emotions, which can help make sleep easier.
7) Your dreams will become more intense and your purpose clearer
Once you have finally managed to fall asleep you will encounter far more vivid dreams than ever before. If you have never been able to recall your dreams before, you almost certainly will be able to now. Forceful dreams are generally repressed subconscious thoughts and feelings making themselves known in the only way they can. Their presence suggests that your mind is struggling with an overwhelm of some sort that is manifesting as stress in your body. Generally, dreams become more vivid when you choose to step out of our comfort zone. They come when we are closing on our inner purpose, the thing we have always wanted to do, and so are a strong indication not to give up.
8) You will feel lost
As a direct contradiction to a clearer purpose, you will experience long periods of time when you feel lost. This is not, as some way say, a cause for worry or depression. It is actually a strong sign that your mind is expanding to new possibilities – not just the ones you were programmed with when you were young and impressionable. As we lift off self-imposed limits we necessarily feel lost for a time. This is because the mind is reconsidering what it values and is undergoing a period of change. Make no mistake about it, when you step out of your comfort zone you will feel lost, but take heart – this is only one step to a much greater purpose, one that is close to your heart.
9) You will struggle to maintain your focus
Many people attribute the inability to focus to a health or mental issue but the opposite can also be the case. As so many of us find, when you step out of your comfort zone, the brain expands in ways we didn’t even know were possible. Old limitations and fears fall away. We come into possession of innate or forgotten abilities that we have thought long lost. The ‘right-brain’ functions of creativity and intuition take the spotlight, whereas the ‘left-brain’ functions of memory and focus stand to the side. This can cause confusion and impaired functioning to begin with but stick with it. Mind-growth of this sort can lead to something amazing.
10) You will want to spend more time alone
It is a common belief that wanting to spend time alone is a sign of depression, but this is not always true. Wanting to spend a period of time in seclusion can sometimes mean we are entering a period of accelerated personal growth. Somewhere deep inside we know that excessive socialising with others – with their issues, problems and opinions – will hinder it rather than help it. As a result, we seek solitude. Do not fight this instinct if it comes upon you. It is simply a sign that the mind needs to process something and is preparing for something greater.
11) You will relive any unresolved issues from childhood
Did you experience any traumatic incidents or emotional issues when you were a child? Most of us did in some way and, as a result, are carrying around unresolved feelings from many years ago. Often, similar situations and events will ‘play out’ in our lives until we become conscious of these feelings again and manage to let them go. You may have already noticed this in your relationships or work life. Again, this is not something to worry about. When you step out of your comfort zone you bring all of the unresolved issues racing to the surface for processing. Embrace the struggle and accept who you are and you will see clearly how to stop what has been happening. It is like a splinter rising to the surface of your skin. Instead of just feeling it you can now see it, and you can pull it out.
12) You will experience intense emotions
It is not just in childhood that we have unresolved feelings that need to be processed. Even as adults we suppress and repress the things that we feel are acceptable and aren’t able to deal with it. These things generally represent our insecurities and hidden worries, which we try to keep hidden from others. When you decide to step out of your comfort zone, you will suddenly find yourself face-to-face with all of your repressed issues. Uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations have a way of bringing them out, which is a golden opportunity for serious personal growth. Do not run from them when they appear. Instead, let them be there. They will eventually cycle themselves out and you will never be subject to them again.
13) You will realise how much you still have to learn
We all pass through periods in our lives when we feel like we ‘know it all’. Choosing to step out of your comfort zone has a way of well and truly humbling this belief. It is the last mile of a marathon that is the hardest and so it is with personal growth. The quicker we learn humility and realise how far we still have to go, how much we still have to learn, the quicker we can get on with it. It is the moment when we look up and realise how far we are away from our goals that we begin the process of real growth. That disheartened feeling is the final turning point – do you give up or go on? Never, ever submit to failure. Go on.
“The further you get away from yourself, the more challenging it is. Not to be in your comfort zone is great fun.” – Benedict Cumberbatch