By John Wood

“We shall have no better conditions in the future if we are satisfied with all these we have in the present.”– Inventor Thomas Edison

In 1974, John Lennon produced an album called “Pussycats” for his friend and fellow musician Harry Nilsson.

On the back of the album cover was the following quote by Lennon (using the pseudonym Dr. Winston O’Boogie):

“Everything is the opposite of what it is.”

I thought about Lennon’s quote when I was doing research for this article.

Because your comfort zone is a place where you feel secure and relaxed.

A place where you feel safe.

But truth be told, what ends up happening is actually quite the opposite.

Remaining in our comfort zones considerably reduces the number of risks we’re willing to take in life.

Which means we never really grow as human beings.

Our drive to improve ourselves all but evaporates and we often fall into an existence without any real purpose.

We become in the habit of not trying and get stuck in a rut.

Life becomes less fulfilling and actually quite …

… uncomfortable.

As writer and photographer Michelle C. Ustaszeski says …

“We tend to be held back from our goals by the simplicity of our comfort zones … but just how comfortable are we? Wouldn’t we be more content living in our dreams?”

Writer M.K. Sonicuts right to the chase …

“Life loses its meaning when we get stuck up in comfort zone.”

The simple truth is, if you stay locked in your comfort zone, you’ll never be as successful in life as you want to be. If you’re feeling trapped by your comfort zone, here are 14 tips you can use to help you break out of it:

  1. Recognize you have a problem – The first step to solving any problem is to recognize that you do indeed have a problem. Because if you don’t think you have a problem, you’ll never attempt to solve it. So you must come to grips with the fact that you are indeed stuck in your comfort zone.
  2. Make the decision to change – If you’re not happy with the status quo, refuse to put up with it any longer. Make the decision right now to once and for all change your life. As American writer Max De Pree says, “We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.”
  3. Take small steps – While getting out of your comfort zone seems like an insurmountable task, it’s really not. Not if you take a measured approach to it. Remember, you don’t have to solve this problem all at once overnight. You can take small steps at the start and gradually build up to larger steps.
  4. Put a plan together – First, write down what you want to accomplish. A common “get out of my comfort zone” goal for writers is to get more clients. So let’s use that as an example. Make a list of every obstacle that’s standing in your way of getting more clients.  Maybe one obstacle is you don’t have an actual strategy to use. Research the various options. Visit the AWAI site and search for articles on getting clients. If you’re a Wealthy Web Writer Platinum member, listen to the many helpful webinars about getting clients. Many come with sample phone and email scripts and templates.  Then put together a list of businesses you want to target. Next, write up an action plan together with what you’re going to do and when. Most importantly, once you have your plan, take action.
  5. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect – There will never be a perfect time to start when it comes to getting out of your comfort zone. If you wait, chances are you’ll never begin.  For instance, if your goal is to get clients and you don’t currently have a website (or you do and it’s not quite where you want it to be), don’t use that as an excuse. If a prospective client asks, tell them you’re working on it and you’ll have it online soon. The main reason people will hire you is that they’re confident you can help make their business more profitable.  Whatever reason you have for not getting started, either address it or put it aside. But whatever you do, don’t use it as an excuse to delay action.
  6. Do a Ben Franklin – We’ve all heard of the “Ben Franklin close.” This is where you draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper and label one side “pros” and the other side “cons.” The “pro” side will include why it’s beneficial for you to take the action. The “con” side will list what will happen if you don’t take the action. Do this for each action or event you want to accomplish that is currently outside your comfort zone.  For example, if you’re doing a Ben Franklin for getting clients, one big plus on the pro side of the ledger is you’ll make more money and have a better lifestyle. A con? Nothing will change. You’ll continue to make the same amount of money (or less) per month.  Once you’ve completed your Ben Franklin, it should be obvious that the benefits of taking action far outweigh the cons. From then on, focus on the benefits and forget about the “cons.”
  7. Identify the worst possible scenario – Identify the worst possible consequences you will face if you attempt something that’s out of your comfort zone and fail.   If you ask your boss for a raise … ask a client for a referral … ask someone out on a date … ask a prospect if they ever hire outside copywriters … what’s the worst possible thing that could happen? They say, “No.”  Something to consider is that in many cases, it might not be a “no” forever. As long as you leave the door open, in time you can often turn a “no” into a “yes.”
  8. Think positive. Avoid negative thoughts – Practice thinking positive. Use affirmations. Say to yourself over and over, “I can do this,” or “I’m the king at doing this,” or “I’m a sales machine,” or “I’m a profit generating machine for my clients,” or whatever suits you. Affirmations work. And they’re always right.  Also use visualizations. Picture yourself performing the task successfully. Imagine how good you’ll feel. In your mind, run through a scene of you being successful at a task over and over again. The more you practice doing this, the more you’ll find yourself thinking positively all the time.
  9. Reward yourself – Once you successfully complete a task that takes you outside of your comfort zone, reward yourself. Go out to a nice restaurant with your spouse or partner … buy yourself a Kindle or that new book you’ve wanted to read … buy tickets to a play or concert … and so on.
  10. Team up with a friend – Partner up with someone who has similar goals to you and work on them together. Map out strategies together and hold each other accountable. If you don’t know anyone personally with similar goals, there are plenty of message boards and websites where you can connect with someone. If you’re planning to attend this year’s AWAI Bootcamp, you’ll be surrounded by people with similar goals, one of whom might be interested in partnering up with you.
  11. “Do one thing every day that scares you.” – This is a quotation from Eleanor Roosevelt. Great advice. It will get you in the habit of stretching outside your comfort zone. Here’s a brief list of some of the things you might want to do: introduce yourself to a neighbor you’ve never met … join a club or committee … take a short trip without planning it … go bungee jumping … learn a new language … start a blog … take a martial arts course … take dancing lessons … volunteer to help out at a local charity … join a local group via meetup.com … train for and run in a marathon … join Toastmasters … start writing (or rewriting) a screenplay or novel …
  12. Say “yes” to something where your automatic reaction would be to say “no.” – Your nephew asks you to play catch with him. You don’t really feel like it because you were never that good at catching a ball when you were a kid. Instead of saying no, say, “Sure, I’d love to.” Or if a friend asks you to help them do something you don’t know much about, instead of feeding them an excuse, tell them you’d be happy to help out.
  13. Always remember, nothing is ever as difficult as we build it up to be in our minds – The vast majority of things in life are not as difficult to accomplish as they initially seem. And often, once you get your feet wet, you find that you actually are enjoying yourself. Roman philosopher Seneca says it best: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”
  14. Don’t be afraid to fail – We all fail at one thing or another as we make our way through life. It’s part of being human. But keep in mind what publisher Malcolm S. Forbes (1919–1990) once said: “Failure is success if we learn from it.”

Every opportunity to move out of your comfort zone is an opportunity for personal (and business) growth. Don’t let your fear of the unknown prevent you from carving out a better life for yourself. Remember, everyone is afraid of something.

Big or small, it doesn’t matter what size of steps you take at the start — the most important thing is to get started today.

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This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) The Writer’s Life, a free newsletter that delivers original, no-nonsense advice on how to live the life you’ve always dreamed of. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.awaionline.com/signup/the-writers-life/.