Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
This week, I am not writing about marketing, social media or translations. Rather than discussing business, I want to share a personal experience. I have been so inspired last Tuesday that I am writing about getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing new things.
First, I will tell you my inspiring moment. Then, I will give you reasons why it is good to get out of your comfort zone and list steps how you can too. Ultimately, you can take my personal experience and, as an entrepreneur, turn it into an example of how trying new things can give you energy and allows you to be more productive.
The Prince’s Day concert by The Hague Philharmonic
Let me first briefly explain Prinsjesdag. It means “Prince’s Day” or “Budget Day” and that day, we hear the Speech of the Throne. If you are an American, you can somewhat compare it to the State of the Union. It is held in The Hague, where I live. The Hague is also home to The Hague Philharmonic, in Dutch called Residentie Orkest. Every year, they give a concert at Prince’s Day.
I had never seen The Hague Philharmonic, or any orchestra, or any classical concert. It just never happened. When I grew up, my parents listened to rock and soul. Naturally, that made me very fond of those types of music. Most of my knowledge of classical music stems from Disney and Looney Tunes. Yes, that is how bad it is.
Comfort level minus ten
Since this blog is about stepping out of your comfort zone, I should first tell you about the walking dinner prior to the concert. The room was full of Ministers, State Secretaries, and CEOs of companies like Shell. I am not used to this at all. I am the first of my family to hold a Master’s Degree, so my background is quite different. My comfort level dropped ten points. Telling myself they are just people does not really help. Thinking about the fact that I hold two Master’s Degrees and own two companies does not help either. Annoying how that works, right?! Anyway, in the end, I even handed out business cards and the food was great 😉
Mozart’s period in The Hague 250 years ago
I was very excited to see The Hague Philharmonic. I did not know what to expect, but I was really curious. Finally the main part of the evening! The orchestra performed work of Mozart, who lived in The Hague for about 6 months when he was 8-9 years old, exactly 250 years ago. Mozart wrote the music of this evening’s concert during that period. I do not know about you, but I was nowhere near ready to create anything that big when I was nine…
Jan Willem de Vriend and The Hague Philharmonic
It was a special evening because it was the new conductor’s first evening: Jan Willem de Vriend. I liked him the moment he stepped on stage. He was just so happy to be on that stage, at ease, having fun. He was so accessible that it made the whole experience of a first classical concert so easy.
What I liked about the concert was that they used videos to explain things about the following piece. After all, there is a story behind every piece as well as many technicalities. De Vriend had so much passion and humor telling about Mozart, his music and the period he lived here that I was chuckling all the time. Who says classical music is elitist and uptight?
Oh, the music was truly beautiful. I enjoyed it very much. Especially two parts at the end: when de Vriend made his orchestra sing (hilarious) and when the drums came (action!). Ok, they were not drums, but since I am a complete classical music nitwit, I have no idea how to describe those big drum thingies.
The concert made me think of all the other works of Mozart that I do not know, all the other composers, all the other timeframes, all the techniques, and stories. It made me so excited. I feel like I have so much to learn! This is something I definitely want to do. I decided it is not the type of music I would like to hear while driving a car, but concerts like these are beautiful. That conclusion made my wife very happy; she is a fan. I am so happy that I discovered that this stream of art and that an experience like this has introduced me to a whole new world. Thank you, Jan Willem de Vriend, Residentie Orkest, and Zuiderstrandtheater!
The comfort zone: no anxiety or uncertainty allowed
The concert inspired me to write this week’s blog about taking a little leap and experiencing new things. This requires you to get out of your comfort zone. Belle Beth Cooper says that the most scientific explanation of what a comfort zone is relates it to anxiety levels. Your comfort zone is “any type of behavior that keeps you at a steadily low anxiety level. Everyday activities that you are used to will not make you feel anxious and uneasy, so they are part of your comfort zone. Although people often refer to ‘getting outside your comfort zone’ in terms of trying new things, anything that raises your anxiety levels can be counted as being outside that zone.”
Although anxiety is not something we are prone to go looking for, a little bit can be surprisingly beneficial. We often need just a hint of anxiety to push us to get our work done, or to improve our performance. A study of mice from 1908 showed that when a task was very easy, performance increased as anxiety levels rose. When a task was harder, however, increased anxiety only helped to a certain point, after which the combination of a difficult task and high anxiety made performance drop.
Uncomfortable levels of uncertainty
Much of the anxiety that comes from leaving your comfort zone is due to uncomfortable levels of uncertainty. Uncertainty can make us respond more strongly to negative experiences. We are also more likely to respond negatively to new things, even though we may come to like them over time. Brené Brown says that uncertain social, political, or economic conditions can effectively make our comfort zones smaller. The more afraid we are, the smaller our comfort zone becomes and the more difficult it is to break out of it. Familiarity is comfortable and enjoyable, so it is no surprise that new things get our guard up. Trying new things takes energy, so when we feel tired, we are more likely to lean on old habits than take a new risk.
5 reasons why it is good to get out of your comfort zone
Cooper suggests you want to find that sweet spot in the learning zone and avoid going so far out of your comfort zone that you hit panic mode. Cooper, Daniel H. Pink, and Alan Henry describe some of the benefits of leaving your comfort zone a little bit:
It will help you grow
When mixed with the feeling of success, some anxiety and self-doubt can lead to personal growth. This is why outdoor adventures like rock climbing or skydiving can be so exhilarating: they induce anxiety and unease but when completed, they give us a huge feeling of accomplishment and increase our base levels of confidence.
Your comfort zone will grow
If your comfort zone is small, you will either be anxious much of the time or miss out on much of the excitement life has to offer. By getting out of your comfort zone more regularly, you will increase the number of things with which you are comfortable. You will also be able to enjoy more things in life since familiarity makes us more likely to enjoy something, even if it turned us off at first.
Doing new things motivates us and helps us learn
Novelty tends to increase levels of dopamine in the brain, which is part of the brain’s ‘reward center’. Dopamine’s role centers around motivating us to go looking for rewards and novelty increases that urge. Novelty has also been shown to improve memory and increase the possibilities for learning by making our brains more malleable.
It stimulates our productivity
If you are too comfortable, you are not productive. We aim for that middle ground where you are anxious but where those anxiety levels are still manageable. Once you become acclimated to that new level of anxiety, you have successfully expanded your comfort zone.
You will find it easier to brainstorm and harness your creativity
Seeking new experiences, learning new skills, and opening the door to new ideas inspire us. It educates us in a way that little else does. Trying new things can make us reflect on our old ideas and where they clash with our new knowledge, inspires us to learn more and challenges confirmation bias, our tendency to seek out only information with which we already agree. Even in the short term, a positively uncomfortable experience can help us brainstorm, see old problems in a new light, and tackle the challenges we face with new energy. I feel my experience from the concert matches this description. It has given me much energy!
6 ways of stepping out of your comfort zone
Henry also gives tips on how to step out of your comfort zone:
Do everyday things differently
Take a different route to work. Try a new restaurant without reading reviews first. Go vegetarian for a week or month. Whether the change you make is large or small, make a change in the way you do things on a day-to-day basis. Look for the perspective that comes from any change, even if it is negative. Do not be put off if things do not work out the way you planned.
Take your time making decisions
If you take speedy decisions, sometimes slowing down is all it takes to make you uncomfortable. This is especially true if quick thinking is prized in your work or personal life. Slow down, observe what is going on, take your time to interpret what you see, and then intervene. Sometimes just defending your right to make an educated decision can push you out of your comfort zone.
Trust yourself and make snap decisions
If you are more comfortable weighing all of the possible options several times, sometimes making a snap call is in order, just to get things moving. Doing so can help you kickstart your personal projects and teach you to trust your judgment. It will also show you there is fallout to quick decisions as well as slow ones.
Do it in small steps
It takes a lot of courage to break out of your comfort zone. You get the same benefits whether you go in with both feet as you do if you start slow, so do not be afraid to start slow. Identify your fears, and then face them step by step. Classical music was not necessarily a fear; it was rather something I did not understand or feel connected to. I took a step to become acquainted with it and expand my horizon.
Learn a new language or skill
Learning a new language has multiple benefits, many of which extend to learning any new skill. Connect with people that inspire you or volunteer with an organization that does great work.
Travel, whether you go around the block or across the globe
If you have lived your whole life seeing the world from your front door, you are missing out. Visiting new and different places is perhaps one of the best ways to broaden your perspectives, and it does not have to be expensive or difficult to do.
What can I do for you regarding getting out of your comfort zone?
I cannot help you get out of your comfort zone; that is something you have to do yourself. What I can do is help you if you need professional translations. I am the owner of translation agency BudgetVertalingOnline, which offers affordable translations into English or Dutch. Would you like to get in touch? Send me an email (email@example.com), send me a Tweet (@GdenHolder) or fill out the quotation form.
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