Every Monday, I open my Instagram app and read inspiring motivational quotes coupled with photos that help someone get lots of likes on #motivationmonday. But getting that motivation to break routine takes so more much work- more than what you will find on flip through social media over Monday morning coffee.
There is actually a lot of science to breaking your routine and it’s pretty awesome when you do. But exactly what is a comfort zone? Why is it so easy to fall into a familiar routine? What do we gain when we do break out of our comfort zone? Why does the fad of new and exciting things fade so quickly? Lastly, how do we do it? Answer all these questions is the easy part, making them a reality is the hard part. So let’s jump to it…
What is Your Comfort Zone and Why it’s a Beast to Leave it
The comfort zone is quite self-explanatory. It’s the place where your behavioral activities fit into routines and patterns that minimize your stress and anxiety levels. There are obvious benefits to maintaining a comfort zone. Like the definition states, it reduces our stress and anxiety, which in turn maintains regular levels of happiness.
This idea of comfort zone has been around for over a century. Psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson classic experiments coined the term in 1908. They found that the state of relative comfort created a maintained level of performance. They also discovered that just outside the comfort zone existed a mental state called “Optimal Anxiety.” Here is where our stress are slightly elevated and we can maximize our performance. But their experiments also found that there is a fine line between optimal and over anxiety. Here our stress levels are too high to be productive and our performance drops off steeply.
You know your “Optimal Anxiety.” It’s the little push you give yourself, a challenge, it usually gives you some stellar results. But pushing slightly too much gives negative results. These negative results reinforce the idea of challenging yourselves as a bad idea. So, our natural tendency is to slip into a neutrally anxious zone, the comfortable place. This place is full of your favorite food, familiar environments, and routine activities. This is why venturing out of your comfort zone is not as easy as a motivational quote.
Don’t vilify your comfort zone as a bad thing, holding you back from awesomeness. It is a needed place to process the things you have discovered about yourself while venturing into your optimal anxiety. Leaving your comfort zone means increased risks and anxieties, which can be both bad and good.
What You Can Achieve When You Try New Things
Optimal anxiety is the place where we can achieve peak performance. It sounds like “try more stuff, do more things” but there is a mental game involved. What do we actually achieve when we step just outside the comfortable?
- You Achieve More Productivity Comfort kills productivity. This is true in both our personal and professional lives. Here’s the scenario: You have one week off to fill, a vacation, what will actually make you a better more productive person in your professional life? One week chilling at a resort sipping Mai-tais by the pool? Or setting off to the unknown venturing off the grid spending a week trying new activities and pushing your personal limits? Well, studies have shown that venturing out and trying new things during your personal time makes better and more productive during your professional time. Check out our post The Vacation Relaxation Myth.
- You Deal Better with the Unexpected When you take risks in a controlled environment, like adventure travel, you arm yourself with dealing with unexpected changes when life forces them upon you. Taking risks and challenging yourself on your own terms conditions your brain to see the end results of optimal anxiety, peak performance. Learning to live outside comfort zone better prepares you for life.
- Your Optimal Anxiety Grows with You Stepping out of your comfort zone gets easier with practice. Each time you push yourself to try something new you get accustomed to the state of optimal anxiety. So, the next time you try you are willing to push a little further, your comfort zone adjusts. What was once a fear-inducing, becomes easier. BOOM! personal growth happens and you achieve being a better you.
The benefits of trying new things have a tendency to linger on. There is a personal growth that happens when we learn a new skill, visit a new place, or try a risky activity.
Why Returning to Your Comfort Zone is Important
You cannot exist outside of our comfort zone all the time. Coming back time to time is important to process your new found experiences. The phenomena of hedonistic adaptation can also take place. This is when things that were once new and exciting quickly become boring and mundane. Think about how many time this has happened in your life? But there are ways to fight this.
- Every day can be an adventure. Try new smaller things. Try out that new ethnic restaurant in town. Take a different route home from work. Mix up your workouts. All these small experiences make the big ones seem that much bigger and pronounced in your life.
- Make a Habit of it. Commit yourself to trying something new once a day, week, month, or whenever. Optimal anxiety is about stepping out of your comfort zone in controlled managed ways, not about stressing yourself out. Test your boundaries often.
- Record your life. Take photos, write in a journal, start a blog. These are great comfortable activities that can help you harness those optimal anxiety moments in tranquility.
Adventure Travel the Best Way to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Adventurers are explorers of both an outer world, especially the unspoiled, exotic parts of our planet and an inner world of personal challenge, self-perception and self-mastery. Adventure travel gives participants the ability to step out their comfort zones in ways that nothing on the planet can provide. When you adventure you learn more about yourself, gain more confidence in your everyday life, and learn to face unexpected challenges with zeal.
This why we at Adventuresque do what we do! We provide adventure travelers the best of Caribbean high-adventure. We enjoy seeing everyone that we take on adventures, push their own limits. When was the last time you had an adventure? Adventuresque.com
Founder/ Head Tour Manager at Adventuresque
Matt McArthur at Adventuresque, an adventure vacation company in the Dominican Republic. Adventuresque offers extreme vacation packages, family adventure packages, and glamping 2-night packages.