Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

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Therapy Can Work

Katherine Rabinowitz, LP, M.A., NCPsyA

Licensed Psychotherapist & Psychoanalyst
Union Square, Greenwich Village, New York, NY

Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone – Why It’s So Hard and Why It’s So Valuable

Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone –
Why It’s So Hard and Why It’s So Valuable

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
~ Wayne Gretzky – former professional hockey player,
considered by many to be the greatest of all time.

Stepping out of your comfort zone.  You’ve heard this a lot, I’m sure.  I’m guessing you dismiss it as something you’re not going to do.  Why?  Fear.  Discomfort.  Not safe.  Anxiety  Nervousness.  Easier to stick to what you know and are comfortable with, you think, and why not?  Nothing wrong with being comfortable and free from worry about all the “what ifs.”  The idea of the unknown, which is what looms outside your comfort zone you imagine is like being on the Starship Enterprise, careening out into the deep unknown.  But you know what?  You’re at the helm!

What is a “comfort zone,” anyway?  You know what I mean, but it was best put by Alan Henry on Lifehack:  It’s “a behavioral space where your activities and behaviors fit a routine and pattern that minimizes stress and risk.“  Yeah.

You agree with that and think you know yourself, and that you’re best off staying exactly where you are.  It’s a common and totally normal frame of mind.  In fact most of us come into the world hard-wired that way.  Instead of an instinct to fight or flight, we choose to sit tight.  (And it can be a choice.)

What are some undesirable repercussions of the choice to sit tight?

It actually creates stress and can lead to depression.

Doing something new and unusual will have benefits and create opportunities you didn’t expect.  I’m not suggesting zip-lining in the jungles of South America, sky-diving, a solo trip across the Sahara or any other extreme or preposterous idea.

Here are a few but by no means all the reasons to give it a try:

So how do you get started when even the thought of leaving your comfort zone feels paralyzing?

The first thing you have to do is accept that for a while you’ll be uncomfortable being outside your comfort zone.  Be ok with the idea that it’s ok to be uncomfortable.  Then?  Start small.  Baby steps.  Order something different from the tiramisu you always get for dessert when you eat out.  Take a different route when walking your dog.  Say hi to someone else walking their dog.  Or someone in the elevator at work.  Lately I’ve been chatting with people sitting at a nearby table in a restaurant.  Comment on something they’re wearing.  At a concert, say something about the music during intermission.

Everyone has different boundaries that make them feel safe.  What’s hard for you to do may be easy for someone else.  So don’t judge yourself for not being able to volunteer to give a presentation at work when public speaking feels impossible.

Do challenge yourself.  If you’re a “list person,” make a list of things you’ve always wanted to do but were afraid to do.  Then prioritize them in order of difficulty and start with the easiest.  If you’re not a list person, think about one thing that would improve your life and figure out a way to accomplish it.  Have a plan.  If it doesn’t go well, don’t use that as an excuse not to try again, and to return home to the zone.

The not-so-surprising thing is that the more you do, the more you’ll feel comfortable doing, so the more you’ll do.  And the more you do outside your comfort zone the more you (and your life) will grow.  There’s a whole world out there just waiting for you to step into it.  Even if you don’t need the Starship Enterprise to get there.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
~ Nelson Mandela

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