Expanding your comfort zone is not quite the same as building self-confidence. However, the two do fit together rather nicely. The one begets the other. So many people feel stuck in a rut … bored from a routine that is safe and comfortable but not very exciting. Fear of falling flat on your face or of looking foolish stops you from reaching out beyond that cozy little life you've created for yourself. If your goal is to expand your comfort zone, then you must think positive while doing these. Remember that nothing really bad can happen to you if you are smart in how you go about trying new things. It's all just new adventures. Become like a curious child and have some fun.
1) Join Toastmasters or take a theater class. The idea here is that you force yourself into public speaking. By learning how to project your voice and how to think clearly while on stage, you will be able to better conduct yourself in business and when getting your point across to others. This will build a lot of self-confidence, which will help you to really push your comfort zone in regards to speaking out in front of others. Everyone is always terrified at first. Public speaking is the number one phobia in America. You will be shocked to discover just how much fun this can be. You'll get bit by the acting bug or the public speaking bug before you know it. It will most likely become a new hobby that you'll love dearly.
2) Drive home a different route every day for a week and shop at completely new grocery store. By breaking out of your normal daily routine, you become aware of just how much time you spend tucked away safely within your comfort zone. Breaking out of your rut can be as simple as trying a new restaurant or rearranging the furniture at home. You can trade bedrooms with one of your roommates or move into a new home. Go on vacation to a completely unfamiliar location. The idea here is to change your physical environment and to mix up your overall sensory experiences. By forcing yourself into new locations, you not only become aware of how attached you are to your favorite old haunts, but you also force yourself to see the world from a new angle.
3) Learn a new sport. This one has to be done with respect to your age and physical health. For some it could be an extreme sport like sky diving. For others it could be learning to play tennis or to play golf. The idea is that you again force yourself into meeting other people while pushing yourself physically into unknown territories. You should obviously pick something that you'll enjoy doing and that will not hurt. If you have bad knees do not take up running or high impact aerobics. If you are bored out of your mind while watching baseball, then you probably are not going to enjoy playing it either. You also need to consider honestly whether or not you are a team player. You might be better off learning to rock climb rather then to play flag football. Whatever you choose, commit yourself to learning it completely and be safe.
4) Compliment three strains each day for a week. This is not the same as public speaking. This is private speaking. In order to do this one correctly, you have to become fully aware of the people around you. You've been amazed at just how many strangers you pass every day. You also have to think of genuinely nice things to say. It's not enough to simply speak to three strangers, but to compliment them forces you to think about the person before you speak to them. We can randomly say, "Nice weather we're having" to everyone we meet. That's not really connecting and concentrating on another human being. Force yourself outside of your comfort zone so as to tell strangers that you noticed something good about them. You will make their day and your own. You may even find yourself with some new friends by the end of the week.
5) Volunteer at an elderly care center, a children's cancer clinic, or an AIDS hospital center. They will love you for just showing up and in conversation with them you'll learn about people's real regrets in life. People never say, "I really did experience too many adventures." Instead, they almost always comment on all of the adventures that they denied themselves. They talk of how if they had it to do all over again … how they'd be more spontaneous and loving. There's nothing quite like seeing people at the end of their life to make you really appreciate your own. Spend some time giving of yourself to those who do not have a lot of time left and you'll soon come to realize how much the world has to offer. Perhaps you will want to take a larger bite out of life before it's too late?
All of these themes are variations on the same theme. You are to practice becoming spontaneous. The whole point of a too tight comfort zone is that you do not give yourself room to be free, playful, and spontaneous. You are too self-censoring and too routine for your own happiness. Once you've tried a few things on this list, then make a list of 100 things that you want to accomplish before you die and start doing them. Have a wonderful time with this concept. There's no reason to expand your comfort zone so as to take on more work duties or more responsibilities. You will have enough of that stress upon you in life. You're going to do this one for your own happiness and nobody else's. Give yourself permission to expand your wings so you can fly a little higher and a little further to see what else is out there.
Copyright 2004, Skye Thomas, Tomorrow's Edge