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Don't Let Your Comfort Zone Be a Barrier

10 tips to help build the confidence needed to leave your comfort zone.

Key points

  • Too often, fear of leaving our comfort zone keeps us from achieving the goals we'd like to achieve.
  • Research shows that people who stretch beyond their comfort zones are happier than those who do not.
  • When people try new things, they enjoy an enhanced feeling of courage, which builds confidence.
Source: SyrotkinStudio/Shutterstock

Just like everyone has their own unique personal space needs, we also all have our own unique comfort zones. The purpose of these entities is a bit paradoxical: personal space boundaries keep others out, and our comfort zones keep us in. Yet until we’re able to move beyond what is comfortable for us, we won’t be able to grow or develop beyond our self-imposed limits. Until you get outside your comfort zone and consider alternative ideas, you won’t really know what you “know” or even know “why” you believe what you believe.

Benefits of Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Not only does stretching past your comfort zone allow you to grow, but it also enhances your happiness in life. The less happy you are with your life, the greater the positive change will be, as a matter of fact (Russo-Netzer & Cohen, 2023). Choosing how to stretch yourself beyond the familiar can be more satisfying, too, than being assigned a particular activity. In this study, researchers found that the most rewarding activity is one that stretches you to provide support or engage with others. Altruism always provides the benefactor with an intangible boost equal to or greater than the tangible boost the beneficiary receives.

It's true that doing something beyond your normal range of activities can induce fear. In the Russo-Netzer and Cohen (2023) study, while 41 percent of the “comfort zone breakers” expressed feelings of fear, 70 percent described their feelings of courage at breaking out of their comfort zone. In fact, facing a fear was a strong motivator for many of the participants in their choice of activities. Being able to confront a fear and overcome it provides a boost to your sense of self, and your brain responds with a boost of dopamine. There’s less stress on your body, too, the next time you are facing the entity or activity that once caused your fear. It’s a win-win all around.

Ten Tips for Bursting the Comfort Zone Bubble

  1. The Outcome Focus. First and throughout the “stretch,” focus on the benefits of stepping outside your comfort zone. What is your hoped for outcome and what will you gain from your courageous act? When we remind ourselves of the benefits, it can help us move through our fear.
  2. Look the Worst-Case Scenario in the Eyes and Prepare to Counter It. To prepare for results that might not be as idyllic as hoped, do a worst-case scenario run-through in your mind. Play out the scene and plan your best response to the worst-case scenario. This can help you feel more prepared to take the risk of stretching.
  3. Visualize Your Win. Rather than just dwelling on the possibility of the worst case happening, visualize yourself succeeding! Visualize yourself meeting new people, doing new things, finding new adventures, and visualize the satisfaction you’ll feel for being able to make it to the metaphorical finish line, just like runners do before a race.
  4. Lessons From Pavlov’s Dog. Tune into what each successful step towards your goal looks like and reward yourself when you hear that inner voice telling you that you’re one step closer. Let the rewards become associated with doing what is not always easy to do—stretching further than you normally do.
  5. Exposure Therapy. Break down the ultimate goal into several increasingly challenging mini-goals that increase your “exposure” to the situation as you go. If you want to stretch yourself to join a new exercise class, for instance, you might break this down into steps such as surfing the internet to find potential classes; reading reviews and checking out locations; calling the center to ask about class times; signing up or mentally committing to attend a free trial class; and finally, showing up and entering the class.
  6. The Band-Aid Approach. Just jump into the new situation feet first! Take a deep breath and stretch beyond your comfort zone, doing the new thing that is calling you to be done. It may sting a bit as you strip off the limits you’d placed on yourself, but the sting fades fast and the transition is done.
  7. Embrace Tragic Optimism. If you hope for the best but expect the worst, you won’t be disappointed. Remember that things are seldom as good as they are or as bad as they seem. Embrace hope, knowing that things may not turn out the way you want. But this allows you to formulate a Plan B, if needed.
  8. Own Your Fear. It’s totally okay to be afraid of doing something different—change isn’t easy, and it can be scary to break the safe comfort zone bubble you’ve created. But when we name our fear and break it down into its parts, we gain a greater sense of control and we’re better able to tame the fear once we’ve named it.
  9. Revisit Prior Accomplishments. When we’re preparing for a new challenge, sometimes the most effective way of building our confidence is by reminding ourselves of past successes. Success breeds success and when we’re able to capture in our mind that feeling of accomplishment from a challenging task in the past, we are stoking our self-esteem and preparing ourselves for another win.
  10. Bring a Friend or Connect with People who Are Already “There.” We all remember the buddy system back in elementary school or swim class, it can feel so much safer when you’ve got a companion who’s there to keep an eye on you just like you’re keeping an eye on them. When moving beyond your comfort zone, it can feel much easier when you’ve got a companion bursting through with you. If there’s not someone to fill that role, connecting with people who’ve already done what you want to do is another great way to make the stretch easier. Whether you’re connecting with people who are in a career you’re thinking of trying, belong to an organization you’re thinking of joining, enjoy the hobby or adventure you’re thinking of trying, or are in a life stage you’re considering entering, getting the low down on the lay of the land can minimize much of the fear of the unknown that is baked into a person’s comfort zone.


Russo-Netzer, P., & Cohen, G. L. (2023). ‘If you’re uncomfortable, go outside your comfort zone’: A novel behavioral ‘stretch ‘intervention supports the well-being of unhappy people. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 18(3), 394-410.

More from Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D.
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