Your comfort zone is a trap. It tricks you into feeling comfortable and ok with doing things you’ve been doing day in and day out, over and over and over. But nothing new happens in your comfort zone. For most of us, nothing changes when we are in our comfort zone. Things just seem to stay the same.

Your brain makes your comfort zone feel good because it believes that’s where you’re safe. The only way to go outside your comfort zone is to endure some discomfort. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the discomfort. With time you may even enjoy this uncomfortable feeling because you’ll believe in the potential it holds.

Here are 11 strategies to break out of your comfort zone.

Put your awareness on your surroundings. What ultimately makes you feel emotionally uncomfortable are your thoughts. You imagine the worst. You ruminate. You create stress and then you magnify it by thinking about it constantly. One way to short-circuit this process is turn your attention outward and focus on your environment. When you feel uncomfortable, focus on what you can see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. What does your hair smell like?

Mentally rehearse. Mental rehearsal can be just as real to your brain as the real thing. Before acting outside of your comfort zone, mentally rehearse your actions and visualize success in that situation. The more you practice the situation or event within your mind the easier it will be for you when the time comes to physically experience it.

Change your wardrobe. You’re accustomed to dressing a certain way. Dressing in your usual manner doesn’t evoke any anxiety or cause you to change any behaviors. An effective way to turn up the heat a bit is to change your style. You’ll feel slightly out of place and at least a few people are bound to be drawn to the change.

Take a new route home. Shake things up a bit by taking a completely different route home. You never know what you’ll see that you’ve never seen before. You never know who you might meet that you never met before. However the world is no longer as friendly as it once was so please exercise caution when planning a route.

Give someone a compliment. Giving compliments can force you to hover outside of your comfort zone. You don’t know how they’ll take it. The resulting conversation is left to chance and forces you to grow socially.

Spend time with risk-takers. The “type” of people you spend your time with matters. So, spend some extra time with risk takers and people who are known to “not give a f%$#”. This will help you to become less critical.

Compare the best and worst outcomes. Many of the most rewarding opportunities in life have few downsides and huge upsides. Approaching an attractive person and applying for a job that forces you to grow are two examples. There are many things in life that have great upside with minimal downside. Realizing this helps you gain confidence.

Take tiny steps. Take the smallest step you can that would feel like progress. Continue this process and eventually you’ll reach the end point and achieve what you set out to do – one small and deliberate step at a time!

Involve a friend. Do you want to become comfortable talking to strangers? Would you like to take salsa lessons? Drag a friend along with you to any activity you’d like to try. You’ll have support and you won’t feel alone.

Pretend you’re a brave person. Imagine you’re an actor playing the part of who you most would like to be. How would you think, stand, and behave if you had to pretend you were he or she? Become that person.

Try something new. Take up a new activity that isn’t very threatening. It could be trying a new restaurant, going to see a play, dusting off your bike and going for a ride, learning to ride a motorcycle, or taking tennis lessons.

Have the courage to leave your comfort zone behind if only for a little time each week. You and your life will grow in new and interesting ways. Remember: There’s nothing for you in your comfort zone besides comfort.

Your life can be and should be about much more than that! Because you only get one.

I am a doctoral student, certified behavior specialist and ordained minister from Houston.

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