How to Leave Your Comfort Zone and Enter Your ‘Growth Zone’

Comfort ZoneLife is full of opportunities to step outside the comfort zone, but grabbing hold of them can be difficult.

Sometimes the problem is not being aware of reasons to do so. After all, if the feeling of comfort signifies our most basic needs are being met, why should we seek to abandon it?

What holds people back most of the time is their frame of mind rather than any distinct lack of knowledge.

This article looks at the shifts in thinking required to step outside of comfort and into personal growth. Along the way, we’ll outline useful tools, tactics, and examples to help make leaving the comfort zone as rewarding as possible.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients create actionable goals and master techniques to create lasting behavior change.

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What Is the Comfort Zone in Psychology?

Now firmly embedded in cultural discourse, the metaphor of ‘leaving one’s comfort zone’ became popular in the 1990s. The phrase ‘comfort zone’ was coined by management thinker Judith Bardwick in her 1991 work Danger in the Comfort Zone:

“The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.”

Within the comfort zone, there isn’t much incentive for people to reach new heights of performance. It’s here that people go about routines devoid of risk, causing their progress to plateau.

But the concept can be traced further back to the world of behavioral psychology.

In 1907, Robert Yerkes and John Dodson conducted one of the first experiments that illuminated a link between anxiety and performance.

They saw that mice became more motivated to complete mazes when given electric shocks of increasing intensity – but only up to a point. Above a certain threshold, they began to hide rather than perform.

Corresponding behavior has been seen in human beings. This makes sense because in response to anxiety-provoking stimuli, the options are either fight (meet the challenge), flight (run away/hide), or freeze (become paralyzed).

The Yerkes–Dodson Law (Yerkes & Dodson, 1907) is true not just for more tangible types of performance, such as being given a stressful new task at work, but also in many life areas such as understanding ourselves, relating to others, and so on.

The core idea is that our nervous systems have a Goldilocks zone of arousal. Too little, and you remain in the comfort zone, where boredom sets in. But too much, and you enter the ‘panic’ zone, which also stalls progress:


From Comfort Zone to the Growth Zone

When leaving the comfort zone, fear doesn’t always equate to being in the panic zone. As the below diagram shows, fear can be a necessary step en route to the learning and growth zones:


Source: ‘Leaving The Comfort Zone’ Toolkit

It takes courage to step from the comfort zone into the fear zone. Without a clear roadmap, there’s no way to build on previous experiences. This can be anxiety provoking. Yet persevere long enough, and you enter the learning zone, where you gain new skills and deal with challenges resourcefully.

After a learning period, a new comfort zone is created, expanding one’s ability to reach even greater heights. This is what it means to be in the growth zone.

It’s important to state that like most behavioral change attempts, moving into the growth zone becomes harder without some level of self-awareness. Thus, it can be beneficial for clients to consider the following:

  • How big are their zones?
    Across every life domain, everyone’s zones vary in size. To leave your comfort zone, you must appreciate its outer limits. Similarly, you must develop an intuitive sense of where your panic zone lies. Taking on challenges that lie somewhere in between will stretch you, leading to growth and learning.
  • What are their strengths?
    Understanding and capitalizing on personal strengths can be of great use. Most people have experience leaving the comfort zone in at least one area of life, and there are usually plenty of insights to be uncovered from this experience.

In reality, the process of moving from the comfort zone to a growth zone may not be linear. Peaks, troughs, and plateaus often complicate the journey. Sometimes, we even need to retreat to the comfort zone periodically before mustering the strength to leave again. Nevertheless, appreciating the steps can help in tolerating uncertainty.

While occupying the comfort zone, it’s tempting to feel safe, in control, and that the environment is on an even keel. It’s smooth sailing.

The best sailors, however, aren’t born in smooth waters.

We’ll explore a few powerful benefits of leaving the comfort zone in the next section.

Benefits of Leaving the Comfort Zone: 4 Examples

Aside from enhancing performance, there are plenty of less-direct benefits of leaving the comfort zone. A full list would require a separate article, so here are four top-line, broadly applicable examples.

1. Self-actualization

For many, self-actualization acts as a powerful incentive to leave the comfort zone. The concept was popularized through Abraham Maslow’s (1943) theory of human motivation, which he described as follows: “What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization.

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs operates like a ladder, with the satisfaction of our ‘basic’ and ‘psychological’ needs being analogous to inhabiting the comfort zone. But whether we’re conscious of it or not, the theory argues our next requirement is for personal growth and fulfillment.

As long as the decision to leave the comfort zone aligns with a person’s values, this shift is akin to making a bid for self-actualization. Why is this important? For one, not striving for growth could mean falling into a state of inertia later in life.

2. Development of a growth mindset

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s (2008) work on mindsets marked a paradigm shift in the field of positive psychology. Her research distinguished between two contrasting belief systems – the fixed versus growth mindsets.

With a fixed mindset, people believe they have set doses of each ability, with a corresponding ceiling on how much they can achieve. Failure reveals inadequacy, and criticism becomes a fatal blow to self-esteem.

The growth mindset means recognizing humans as malleable. From this stance, setbacks become opportunities for learning (Dweck, 1999) and our potential becomes unlimited.

Intentionally leaving the comfort zone goes hand-in-hand with developing a growth mindset. While the fixed mindset keeps us trapped by fear of failure, the growth mindset expands the possible. It inspires us to learn and take healthy risks, leading to positive outcomes across life domains.

3. Resilience and antifragility

Life isn’t exactly a predictable affair; perhaps then, people shouldn’t be either. Sooner or later, everyone faces adversity. A habit of expanding our comfort zone equips people to handle change and ambiguity with more poise, leading to resilience.

Taking this further, statistician Nassim Taleb (2012) introduced the concept of ‘antifragile’ systems, which “thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors.” Examples include evolution and immune systems, as well as the human psyche.

While resilient systems bounce back to the same level after a shock, antifragile systems learn to grow from them, reaching new heights. To step outside the comfort zone then is to purposefully cultivate antifragility – so long as we don’t veer into the panic zone!

4. Greater self-efficacy

As outlined by Albert Bandura (1997), self-efficacy is the belief in being able to execute necessary actions in service of a goal. Goals that lead to higher self-efficacy are specific, not too difficult, and short-term (Yailagh, Lloyd, & Walsh, 2009).

Leaving the comfort zone means a phase of trial and error, during which at least some level of success is inevitable. Experiencing this success builds our self-efficacy, with belief in our ability starting to grow.

Like other benefits of leaving the comfort zone, this probably won’t happen overnight. Yet the cumulative upward spiral of achievement and confidence can become a potent asset for anyone.

4 Tips to Support Leaving Your Comfort Zone

What follows are four useful tips to support clients in leaving their comfort zones. These are a mix of mindset tips and practical guidance on setting goals.

1. Reframe stress

Physiologically, there’s no difference between anxiety and excitement (Smith, Bradley, & Lang, 2005). Both entail a ‘stress response,’ but whether they’re perceived as positive or negative is a matter of labeling.

Society tends to conceptualize all stress as ‘bad,’ but the idea of ‘eustress’ or ‘positive stress’ challenges this. Eustress provides the energy to get through a public speech, go on a romantic date, and so on. These stimuli can be reframed as exciting, propelling us out of the comfort zone.

2. Understand neuroplasticity

An essential step toward internalizing the growth mindset is to embrace neuroplasticity research. Once understood, less courage is needed to make the first move away from comfort because failure itself becomes integral to the journey.

At the core of Dweck’s theory is that humans are malleable and adaptable. Another good way to appreciate her philosophy is by watching this TED talk:

3. Prioritize

Occupying the comfort zone isn’t always detrimental. For example, it might be reasonable to stay in your ukulele-playing comfort zone but not your managing-personal-finances one.

The point is to identify bottlenecks: areas of life where being too comfortable does more harm than good. Encourage goal selectivity in clients so they can focus effectively.

4. Small steps

It’s okay to take small, methodical steps, as well as larger, bolder ones. Leaving behind the comfort zone doesn’t mean recklessly throwing caution to the wind. Every step forward is progress.

Patiently fostering self-awareness while intelligently assessing each zone’s boundaries is a sure way to make the process as smooth as possible.

7 Ways to Leave Your Comfort Zone

Having covered the what, why, and how of leaving your comfort zone, let’s now cover seven ways someone might try to do so.

1. Do everyday things differently.

In everyday life, there are ample opportunities to challenge yourself. Turn off your smartphone and television while having dinner, decide what to wear more quickly, or just slow down to take in the surroundings on a walk. These changes break you out of old, comfortable routines.

2. Expand your professional skillset.

Growing your skillset can foster creativity and refresh your self-confidence, as well as increase employability. Skills like public speaking, negotiation, and leadership can represent a new challenge for many people. Investing in them can build resilience, personal satisfaction, and open up more opportunities than ever.

3. Try a new diet.

Many people want to improve their diets and stop relying on ‘comfort foods.’ Doing so often means trying something new.

Sticking to a healthy diet can be as challenging as it is rewarding, with self-efficecy growing as you hit milestone goals along the way.

4. Take workouts to the next level.

Similarly, many aspire to this goal. For some, it can mean running their first 5K, but for others, it might be completing a triathlon.

Aiming high with exercise is emblematic of leaving the comfort zone and a great way to get the ball rolling.

5. Get creative.

Creativity – anything from writing a poem to building a business – usually involves an element of risk. Creative endeavors are about stepping into the unknown, with failing and subsequent learning as expected outcomes.

Exercising creativity is a good way to train yourself to have a growth mindset and let go of a need for perfection from the outset.

6. Challenge your beliefs.

While exploring alternative perspectives can be uncomfortable, it enables growth and insight by challenging entrenched beliefs.

This might take several forms, such as reading varied book genres, diversifying who you talk to, and visiting new places. It’s easy to get stuck in our ways, but this can lead to complacency – a hallmark of being in the comfort zone.

7. Practice honesty.

When employed sensitively, honesty can be a tremendous catalyst for personal growth. Whether being straight with yourself in a private journal or telling someone close how you feel, honesty forces people out of their comfort zone. Through honest communication, we can understand ourselves better and build deeper bonds with others.

10 Inspiring Quotes

Here are ten quotes that encapsulate many of the ideas discussed:

All growth starts at the end of your comfort zone.

Tony Robbins

You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.

Brian Tracy

My comfort zone is like a little bubble around me, and I’ve pushed it in different directions and made it bigger and bigger until these objectives that seemed totally crazy eventually fall within the realm of the possible.

Alex Honnold

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Becoming is better than being. The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming. They have to already be.

Carol Dweck

One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.

Abraham Maslow

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.

Benjamin Franklin

You have calibrated life when most of what you fear has the titillating prospect of adventure.

Nassim Taleb

The level of effort you tolerate from yourself will define your life.

Tom Bilyeu

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.

Nelson Mandela’s Useful Tools is an excellent repository of tools you can leverage in supporting clients to leave their comfort zones behind.

Our Toolkit offers various worksheets and exercises designed to help people enter the growth zone and realize their potential.

Here are three examples:

  1. Facing the Effect of Fear-Based Beliefs on Goal Achievement
    This tool introduces clients to the impact of fear-based beliefs on goals and personal growth. Exercises challenge them to analyze how their anxieties stop them from pursuing goals that would be meaningful to them.
  2. Leaving the Comfort Zone
    This tool helps clients weigh the costs of staying in the comfort zone. The four zones are explored in more detail, with questions to prompt clients to apply the knowledge to their own lives. Ultimately, the goal is to trigger a positive upward spiral of personal fulfillment.
  3. Moving Toward a Growth Mindset
    This intervention moves people toward the growth mindset by correcting fixed mindset thoughts. The exercise encourages active reflection, with a useful ‘mindset log’ worksheet.

An additional resource that may seem bizarre yet revealing is titled My Gravestone. For any client reluctant to depart from a comfortable routine, reflecting on their future tombstone could be a remarkable incentive to step into a growth mindset.

A Take-Home Message

Recognizing opportunities to leave the comfort zone isn’t always easy; neither is seizing them with conviction.

It’s crucial to cultivate a mindset that lays strong foundations, paving the way toward the growth zone. This includes seeing yourself as inherently adaptable, reframing stress, and believing in your ability to endure fears and doubts.

Every person faces this choice, knowingly or not. You can settle for what you know – the seemingly safe, familiar, and routine. Or, you can become receptive to opportunities for growth, challenging your personal status quo and seeing what you’re capable of.

When this becomes a habit, the benefits to be reaped throughout life are copious. Not only are disappointments curbed and regrets avoided, but we also reach our highest human potential, acting as an inspiration to others.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free.

If you’d like to help others succeed in life, our Motivation & Goal Achievement Masterclass© is a comprehensive training template for practitioners that contains everything you need to help your clients reach their goals and master motivation-enhancing techniques.

About the Author

Dr. Oliver is a doctor and writer based in London, holding an integrated medical and psychology degree from University College London. Oliver has worked in several inpatient Psychiatry settings after qualifying. He believes in the intentional cultivation of values and strengths-based approaches to promoting wellbeing. Oliver aims to motivate and inspire people to recognize their potential and act on goals congruent with their authentic self.


The Long Term Effects of Childhood Trauma | Kati Morton

1.04M subscribers
Today Dr. Alexa Altman and I sit down to discuss trauma and how if the PTSD or other trauma symptoms go untreated it can follow up in later life. Research even shows that trauma or abuse can affect our own children and be passed down through our genes!! But there is a lot we can do to combat this, like catching it early on, asking those uncomfortable questions, and helping those in need.
The reason I wanted to have Alexa back on the channel is that I am partnering with the Kailash Foundation and YouTube to help them raise money to end child slavery. Kailash has worked his entire life to give every child a right to a childhood, and you can help today by donating to their foundation. Kailash’s documentary “The Price of Free” will be released on Soul Pancake’s channel on November 27th and it follows Kailash and his team as they fight to get these children out of horrific work environments where they are held, forced to work, and unable to go home.
Please join Alexa and I as we work with Kailash to end child slavery. Also, before you buy anything this holiday season check if it’s child slavery-free!! Do NOT shop at Marshalls, TJ Maxx, or Home Goods!
Check the item on the app “Good on You” to know what’s child slavery-free or not. Price Of Free I’m Kati Morton, a licensed therapist making Mental Health videos! MY BOOK “Are u ok?” A Guide To Caring Your Mental Health


Effects of Childhood PTSD: Crappy Childhood Fairy

When I learned the truth about childhood trauma and complex PTSD, at first I was really angry… here I talk about the way I learned the facts, and how that explained so much about why everything I’d tried hadn’t worked. Below are links to the free webinar and other resources mentioned in the video: *** MY ONLINE COURSES: Register for my online course HEALING CHILDHOOD PTSD here: BECOME A MEMBER Get access to ALL MY COURSES in my Membership Program. NEED ONLINE THERAPY? If you’re seeking therapy, BetterHelp can connect you with a licensed, online counselor, please visit: I receive commissions on referrals & recommend services I know and trust. FREE TECHNIQUES Learn my simple daily techniques to help calm CPTSD symptoms. CPTSD QUIZ Wondering if you have common symptoms? Take the quiz here:

Creating a Calm Place: Grounding Activity for Anxiety

Grounding Activities are an essential skill for managing Anxiety, Stress, PTSD, and improving mental health. Visualizing a Safe place can be an essential technique for grounding the body and mind. When stress, anxiety, or panic seem to be taking over, we can actually trigger our nervous system to respond by calming the body and mind through “perceived safety”. By bringing to mind your safe space, your favorite environment, or your comfort zone you can actually reverse the stress response. This is an essential coping skill for managing anxiety, panic, and PTSD. Do you feel stressed out even when nothing’s the matter? Do you feel tense, anxious or panicky? Our amazing brain has the ability to imagine danger in a way that triggers that fight flight freeze response, even when we’re safe. But we can counteract that “danger” response by bringing to mind a safe place.

Container Imagery Guided Meditation


This container imagery meditation is designed to help develop the skill of holding difficult emotional material in a way that we can choose when to delve into it and when to put it way for another time. The container imagery exercise is useful as a self-help tool and also as an adjunct to various healing therapies including EMDR for trauma treatment. This meditation is also available without music in the background: Please listen to the Somatic Listening Introduction to learn about the premises behind this practice and how best to use the recordings in this series:

Dr. Gabor Maté Interview | Addiction, Trauma, ADHD, Psychedelics


Tim speaks with Dr. Gabor Maté, a physician who specializes in neurology, psychiatry, and psychology. He’s well known for studying and treating addiction.

I’ve wanted to invite Dr. Maté to this podcast for a while because he is not only an expert in the pathologies of addiction, but he’s experimented with — and used successfully — tools that are perhaps outside the realm of traditional psychiatry. He is also a co-founder, along with Vicky Dulai, of Compassion for Addiction, a group that advocates for a new way to understand and treat addiction.

Connect with Dr. Gabor Maté: Like Dr. Gabor Maté on Facebook: Show Notes: SUBSCRIBE: About Tim Ferriss: Tim Ferriss is one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People” and an early-stage tech investor/advisor in Uber, Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, Duolingo, Alibaba, and 50+ other companies.

He is also the author of five #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers: The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, The 4-Hour Chef, Tools of Titans and Tribe of Mentors. The Observer and other media have named him “the Oprah of audio” due to the influence of his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, which has exceeded 200 million downloads and been selected for “Best of iTunes” three years running.

(34) Alice Miller – The Drama of the Gifted Child – YouTube

The first publication of “The Drama of the Gifted Child” (1979) and of this book are separated by fifteen years of experience – the author’s experience with her own self-therapy and with other recent therapy methods, and finally her knowledge of the life histories of the several thousand readers who have written to her. The research into childhood she has undertaken in this period has led to a further fine-tuning of her earlier findings, as is documented and illustrated here with an abundance of examples.The author examines the consequences of repression at the personal and social level, the causes of the physical and psychological harm done to children and how this can be prevented, and finally the new methods at our disposal for dealing with the consequences of infant traumas.
For more info about Alice Miller and her work: Alice Miller, née Alicija Englard (12 January 1923 — 14 April 2010), was a Swiss psychologist of Polish-Jewish origin, who is noted for her books on parental child abuse, translated into several languages. Her book The Drama of the Gifted Child[2] caused a sensation and became an international bestseller with the English publication in 1981 Her views on the consequences of child abuse became highly influential. In her books she departed from psychoanalysis, charging it with being similar to the poisonous pedagogies. (wikipedia)

 What is TRAUMA THERAPY? – YouTube

What is trauma therapy? What is resilience and more importantly, what is the goal of trauma therapy? Today I talk with trauma specialist Dr. Alexa Altman about all things trauma therapy and wellness. We decided to start by defining trauma. Trauma is when we are bumped out of our resilient zone, meaning that we do not have the tools to calm ourselves back down and keep moving forward. Instead we may go into fight, flight or freeze in order to get through it. Our fight and flight responses are what mobilizes us to protect ourselves. It helps in the moment, but if that response continues for a long time and we don’t get any reprieve from it, that would be when we would diagnose PTSD or C-PTSD. If we are unable to run away or fight back we may go into a freeze response. Alexa explains this as dissociation or feeling like we are cut off from all that is going on. Just like fight or flight, this helps us survive what is going on because the other 2 options are not available. The whole goal of trauma therapy is to practice bringing ourself out of fight ,flight or freeze and back into the resilient zone. The more we do that the better we get at it and the larger our resilient zone gets. Then we are able to handle more and more life stressors without getting thrown off or bumped out of our resilient zone. I hope this was helpful, and as always please share! Alexa and I filmed many more videos that will come out each Monday this month! My hope is that her expertise helps you better understand trauma and how we can work to overcome it. xox
My video on EMDR:! I’m Kati Morton, a licensed therapist making Mental Health videos! JOURNALING CLUB Every Tuesday & Friday I post a journal prompt to help keep you motivated and working on yourself. Ordering my book “Are u ok?”


This Container Meditation Exercise is great for when you find your thoughts swirling or your body in a mode of anxiety. The container exercise (used in EMDR)…

Crappy Childhood Fairy

Most people are familiar with PTSD flashbacks — the kind we associate with combat veterans who are haunted by a war memory. With Chronic PTSD (CPTSD), we may have “emotional flashbacks” — mood states from childhood that are disconnected from present day events, though we don’t always know it. ***

EMDR Therapy: What You Need to Know

here is a great article to start with.It explains some of the basics.



What to know before you try EMDR therapy

EMDR therapy is considered to be safe, with many fewer side effects than those of prescription medications. That said, there are some side effects that you may experience.

EMDR therapy causes a heightened awareness of thinking which does not end immediately when a session does. This can cause light-headedness. It can also cause vivid, realistic dreams.

It often takes several sessions to treat PTSD with EMDR therapy. This means that it doesn’t work overnight.

The beginning of therapy may be exceptionally triggering to people starting to deal with traumatic events, specifically because of the heightened focus. While the therapy will likely be effective in the long run, it may be emotionally stressful to move through the course of treatment.

Talk to your therapist about this when you start treatment so you’ll know how to cope if you experience these symptoms.

The bottom line

EMDR therapy has proven to be effective in treating trauma and PTSD. It may also be able to help treat other mental conditions like anxiety, depression, and panic disorders.

Some people may prefer this treatment to prescription medications, which can have unexpected side effects. Others may find that EMDR therapy strengthens the effectiveness of their medications.

If you think EMDR therapy is right for you, make an appointment with a licensed therapist.

Book Review: “When The Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress”

I love this book and using many of the concepts with clients. Very thought provoking and not the average read. But an eyeopener and with words to live by.

Here is a link to a great review of the book.