If you are always calm and working within the confines of your same old habits; in other words, if you are always in your comfort zone, how will you ever know what you truly can handle and explore your real potential? Our brain is naturally protecting us from danger zones. It wants to follow routines and doesn't like changes. Stepping out of your comfort zone makes you more creative, decreases your own limiting beliefs and enables you to use new ways of thinking and acting. We extend our own limits, explore new ways of dealing with challenges and expand our potential, getting stronger and opening a new growth space with magical possibilities.
How can you break your limits and go out of your comfort zone?
1. Trust in yourself and use your inner potential Sometimes we are too critical of ourselves and live with limiting beliefs: „you can’t do this, you are not experienced enough, you don't have the ability, etc.“. Moreover, those around us want to protect us and discourage us because of their own limiting believes. But each of us has their own strengths and unique potential. First, trust in yourself and explore your inner potential by doing new things or doing things differently. Prove to yourself that you are able to handle new challenges. You are capable of more than you would ever think! I wouldn’t ever think about crossing the North Channel relay in 12 degrees of freezing water, with toxic jellyfishes and killer whales- but at the end. I trusted myself and jumped into the water.
2. Think big and start with small steps Don't be afraid to set high goals and define a vision for yourself. The limits are your thoughts. Believe in something and thinking big is the first step towards your vision. Towards realizing your goals, don't put yourself under pressure and start with small steps. For example, go first for a 10-minute run and set your goals higher and higher step by step. You will be surprised how you can run 100 minutes in a few weeks. When I was in London this summer, I ran 3 times a week next to the Thames river in addition to my swim trainings. I started slow and set a goal that each week I would be faster on the same route. After 10 weeks, I was faster and had a higher conditioning. The same thing with cold water: In my preparation for the English and North Channels, I started with short cold showers for just 10 seconds. After 10 weeks, I could manage to have 10-minute cold showers. All big things start with small realistic steps, which set the base for preparing yourself for bigger steps. There are no limits to what you can accomplish- except the limits you place on your own thinking.
3. Move towards your fears Fear is a natural and essential part of our individual growth. Every time we consciously choose to step out of our comfort zone, the next uncomfortable thing becomes a little bit smoother, and we know that we can overcome our fears. Our fears are stopping us from going one step further. The more you face your fears, the more you will see that you can control your emotions, and that your fears are a perspective of thinking, which could be changed. 10 years ago, I had hypothermia because of a cold-water swim. I found myself in the hospital. As a result, I had so much fear of cold water, and felt uncomfortable in the cold. In order to strength my mental toughness and overcome my fear, i swam in 3 degrees of cold water in Munich Icebach. I involved friends as well, and we all enjoyed the challenge. This confrontative experience showed me that I am stronger than my fears.
4. Break your routine How can you explore yourself in different ways when you do the same thing every day in the same way? Drive through a different route to work, run the opposite way of your usual running route or do your hobby in a different time of the day. At your job, work in another team or project and put yourself in new environments. This will enable you to think differently, get inspiration from different circumstances, and give you the possibility to explore yourself in different situations.
5. Give up control and trust the process I am a control freak myself but have learned that I cannot control everything in my life. You can control your mind, your body, your emotions, what you eat, what you drink, what you do, where you work, with whom you speak etc., but there are also external factors, which make life more complex and at the same time more interesting. I love the main rule of Design Thinking: „Trust the process!“ Sometimes, you need to accept the unclear uncertainty zone- let things go from time to time. Do everything you can do, believe in what you do and want, be also be open to letting things go and trusting the process. At the end, magic can happen- like the creative new ideas in the Design Thinking process.
6. Try something new and agree to something you wouldn't normally consider Agree to a project, which may not 100% match your expertise, or try a new hobby, a new food or go to a weekend activity with different people. Even if it may not work out at the end, the experience matters. My sister is a yoga teacher in addition her busy work. She always wants me to come with her to different yoga camps. One weekend, I found myself in a unique yoga camp. Everyone had white clothes, was so focused, and at the beginning I felt myself as a stranger and tried to adapt myself to this different environment. Every unique experience shapes our thoughts and opens different perspectives.
7. Ask questions even if it is uncomfortable Do not be afraid to ask tough or even stupid questions like a child. Like EY’s slogan, „The better the questions, the better the answer “, ask yourself and others challenging questions and try to see things from a different angle. Also ask for feedback. Ask what you feel without hesitation. The basic question „why „defines the purpose of each action. Stop and ask yourself why you are doing the things you do and how you could improve yourself and others. Help also your environment to find their own answers in or outside their comfort zones.
8. Follow your passion Take the time to identify your real passion. If you don't know it already, don't worry. Try different things and reflect on how you feel. What is your energy source, where you feel strong and happy? Identify activities that energize you and make you feel happier and stronger in your overall life.
9. Go to new places and speak with strangers Do not be afraid to speak to people in the street, in the office or in the metro. Go to new places where you can meet different people from different cultures or expertise. The more you explore others and unkown places, the more you explore a new piece of yourself.
10. Be Mindful and self-aware Mindfulness means keeping a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, body reactions, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. By being mindful, you pay attention and accept your thoughts and feelings without judging them- without believing, for instance, that there is a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we are sensing in the present moment rather than digging in the past or imagining the future. To improve your mindfulness, you can start with meditation or even short self-reflection sessions. I started with the Wim Hof Method, which is a combination of meditation, cold water exposure, breathing and focus. This method helped me to raise my focus and courage to step outside the comfort zone.
In summary there are no limits to what you can accomplish. Except the limits you place on your own thinking. Wish you a happy new year 2020, where you can be yourself, follow your passion, feel your inner soul and go with the flow by trusting the nature and enjoy every moment with confidence, balance and mindfulness without being afraid to go out of your comfort zone, transform yourself, explore your limits and being authentic.
Inspirational sources: success.com, Tools of Titans, The Iceman - Wim-hof, Forbes,