6 Ways to Step out of Your Comfort Zone and into Your Growth Zone

28 Feb ‘22
4 min
Editorial Board OpenUp
illustratie van mannetje

Want to take a job on the other side of the world? Maybe pull up one of your colleagues on a mean comment? How about trying out that new restaurant all by yourself? Something that comes naturally to one person may feel way out of somebody else’s comfort zone. Whatever it means for you, moving outside of familiar territory can enrich both your career and your life.


OpenUp psychologist Madelief Falkmann is here to talk you through how to experience the world outside of your comfort zone.


Aiming for a growth mindset


In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck, psychologist at Stanford University, introduced the terms growth mindset and fixed mindset. “Dweck argues that the way you view your own skills and talents has a major influence over how you develop,” explains Madelief.


People with a growth mindset feel that it’s fun and valuable to develop as people, which means they experience growth at a rapid rate. “They’re motivated to keep learning, feel energized by difficult tasks, and don’t give up easily when things get tough. Change is seen as an opportunity for education.”


The opposite is true for people with a fixed mindset. They prefer to focus on things they can already do – staying in their comfort zone – and as a result, their development is more likely to stagnate. They choose the safe path. “Many people have a fixed mindset, because we have more or less been taught that it’s better to be stable and unchanging,” says Madelief.


To sum it up, you can recognize a person with a growth mindset or a fixed mindset based on whether they meet the criteria below.


growth mindset vs. fixed mindset

Why is it that some people are better at stepping out of their comfort zone than others?


“Some people are naturally more risk-adverse than others. So, our personality plays a part in determining whether we have a growth or fixed mindset,” explains Madelief. “But you can definitely train yourself to push past this and move in the direction of a growth mindset.”


How? “Simply becoming aware that growth and fixed mindsets exist might already be pretty eye-opening,” says Madelief. “Following this up by putting yourself in scenarios where learning, challenges, and effort are the focus, as opposed to perfection is, according to Dweck, the best way to develop a growth mindset.”


How to fight your way out of your comfort zone


Would you like to develop a growth mindset? Then try the following.


1. Think of things as experiments


By framing challenges as experiments, you’re telling yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes. Because there’s always a chance of this, but how bad would it really be? It’s only by making mistakes that you learn.


2. Interpret nerves as a good sign


Do you feel some tension in your body when you think about your next challenge? Then that probably means that you’re moving into a zone of potential growth. Simultaneously, if you’re taking on a new project that doesn’t make you feel nervous at all, then this probably means that you’re already good at these tasks.


3. Prepare yourself


“Personally, I find it nerve-wracking when I have to give presentations in English,” says Madelief. “There are two things I can do in this situation. I can ask a colleague to take over. That way I’ll stay nice and safe in my comfort zone, but I won’t learn anything new either. Or I can choose to do it myself, despite how much I doubt my skills. By preparing well and practicing a lot, I’ll get better in the process. So, that’s what I end up doing.”


Do things always go perfectly? “No, but they don’t have to. By striving for perfection, we’re making things unnecessarily difficult for ourselves. We’re stressing ourselves out. I approach these presentations as a learning experience. When I’ve finished, I’ll think: How cool, I did something new. And next time, I’m sure I’ll do even better.”


4. 20 seconds of courage


“Sometimes all you need, is 20 seconds of insane courage,” says Matt Damon in the movie We Bought a Zoo. “And I promise you, something great will come of it.” Sometimes you’ve just got to bite the bullet, and when you finally do, amazing things happen. “Have you been thinking of taking ice skating lessons for years but never found the nerve? Just sign up and go for it!” says Madelief. The first twenty seconds in a new class full of strangers is always going to be nerve-wracking, but you’ll soon discover that the other students can’t ice skate either and that you’re all in this learning experience together.


5. Do something different every day


“By subtly adjusting your daily routines, you can practice stepping out of your comfort zone in really small ways,” says Madelief. “Try cycling a different way to work, have something unusual for breakfast, or take a break from your regular exercise class to try something new.”


6. Volunteer


Hanging out with new people from different backgrounds with fresh ideas and alternative ways of doing things, helps you to switch things up in your own life. It makes you less afraid of change. “As part of my volunteer work, I get to meet people outside of my usual bubble. People with different nationalities, interests, economic backgrounds, and levels of education. They offer me new perspectives. It’s invaluable! Volunteering is actually a pretty accessible way to step outside of your safe bubble.”


A bit too much of a good thing?


Madelief also thinks that you can take the whole growth mindset thing too far. “If you’re constantly busy gaining new experiences and never taking the time to process previous and present experiences, then this can create a state of restlessness. Allow yourself time to learn and explore before moving on to the next challenge.” Or in other words: Grow, but experiment in moderation.


Would you like to talk this through with Madelief or another OpenUp psychologist? Then get in touch with us.