Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Do you live in your snug and cosy comfort zone? Do you feel uncomfortable and uneasy when stepping away from your comfort zone? 

If you do, this may be a very important episode for you, because stepping out of your comfort zone is where growth and success lives. 

This is a subject of great interest me and is close to my heart. If anyone knows about the comfort zone, I reckon it’s me. 

Awkward

A person who was once awkward and shy as a young boy, I’ve continuously challenged and pushed my comfort zone boundaries well over the line in order to improve and succeed in life.

I remember a moment when my father took me to a motorbike shop when I was 11 years old. It was to look at a replacement exhaust pipe for my mini-bike. 

I was so terrified of going into the shop and facing the sales team. I sank down my seat, refused to move, and stayed in the car while my dad went in and did the deal.

Paradoxically, over the years I’ve become so at ease with being uncomfortable, there are times when I come across as being slightly arrogant and aloof. This is far from the truth. People often confuse my shyness as arrogance. 

The process of continually throwing myself into tough situations has, for a lack of a better description, hardened me up. As a result, this has made me at times appear somewhat cavalier.

Anyone who knows me well, would contest that perception.

What is a comfort zone?

You comfort zone is a psychological state where refuge is taken to prevent discomfort.

The Collins dictionary defines it as a situation or position in which a person feels secure, comfortable, or in control. Essentially, it’s when you feel safe and at ease, an environment that is cosy, predictable and familiar. 

I believe however, it is also a mindset that stunts growth and can inhibit joyful experiences. It’s an environment that impedes learning and expanding one’s mind. Further, when you stay in your comfort zone the world around you will change and eventually it will force you to adjust.

Being restricted by your comfort zone is a mindset that can undermine the fundamental  human experience; to be challenged, learn, and grow as a person.

There are three psychological states which has been identified by performance management expert, Alasdair White in his book From Comfort Zone to Performance Management.

Think of a bulls eye target.

  1. comfort zone (Think centre of a target)
  2. optimal performance zone (middle ring)
  3. danger zone (outer ring or the Kenny Loggins zone)

White suggests that in both the optimal performance zone and the danger zone are where anxiety can build the most. The comfort zone feels familiar, where a person feels secure and in control of their environment.

Growth occurs in the optimal performance zone. It’s believed that you cannot grow while living in your comfort zone. But it’s important to recognise it’s very hard for some people to leave their comfort zone.  And that is neither good nor bad; it’s just a personal choice.

Being aware of your zones, though, is such a powerful thing. To be operating beyond your comfort zone holds the potential to literally change your life, but you’ll need courage to do so. 

It wasn’t easy for me. But I can tell you, magic can happen when you take a leap of faith and leave your comfort zone. 

Stage Fright

As I’ve mentioned before, my life as a performer really began on the drums as a teenager. Even though I’d been playing piano and guitar before for years, playing drums was just a great physical outlet for a young boy. I loved hitting things, getting a physical workout, and of course, meeting girls.

Well, I suffered tremendously from nerves with each pending live performance. Days before each booking, I’d begin cramping up and losing sleep. It was a really dreadful experience to endure. 

Although I adored playing drums, I had to face the sheer terror of getting up before a live audience and perform, and I wasn’t even the singer!  Perish the thought.

This persistent nervousness would linger for many years in my musical life. I knew it had to be confronted if I was to continue, and that meant deliberately leaving my comfort zone. I was always a little shy, which is counter-productive as a performer.

Everyone’s getting a three piece together

When Holocene, the band I was playing in as lead guitarist, folded in 1995, I started a new band.  The new band would eventually become Alcotomic, with drummer Andy Strachan and bassist Paul Inglis.

Up until then, I had always been the songwriter guitarist in bands. I had always relied on talented singers to cover the frontman chores.

But I realised, for this new band, something different had to happen. I took a huge nervous breath and announced to all, I would be the singer of this new band. What was I thinking!

Let’s not forget, singing in front of anyone scared the crap out of me. But I stepped out of my comfort zone and took on what seemed to me at the time, an enormous challenge.

My first live appearances in 1996 were nothing short of terrifying. But I pushed myself and worked harder and after some time had passed, I became more comfortable and competent.

I’ll admit I was pretty average at times, but occasionally, I was really on top of my game. I improved and my stage nervousness slowly reduced over the long haul. 

I developed a way so that I was able deal with the nerves and perform in front of crowds of people. It was a kind of detachment that I was able to adopt while onstage, a different character or an alter ego.

It was astonishing that over time, I had actually transformed to become a singer – and I was sold on taking a risk.

Prettymess 2006 HiFi Ballroom

The Big Transition

By the time Prettymess came around in 2004, I had become completely comfortable in my role as a lead singer of a band. There were times when I was on stage in front of thousands of people and I’d have a little reality check mid way through the set. 

I’d cast my eyes over all the faces and think, “What the fuck am I doing here? The fight or flight instinct was always present I suppose, it just had to be managed by the part of my brain that could be rational to reduce the fear.

I clearly remember having an epiphany in Prettymess. It was a clear and vivid moment where I believe a psychological transition occurred. 

The moment when I became more confident and in control of my nerves as a performer, when I could manage my nerves and really deliver as a frontman. It was truly astonishing. Who would have thought? Certainly not me.

In that moment, I felt empowered and my sense of self worth skyrocketed. This feeling has lasted and has permeated every facet of my life. I still feel this strength and confidence decades later.

That cathartic moment has made me a person who is more confident, self assured, and at times even outspoken.

Could any of this have happened without a stepping out my comfort zone? Would I still be the boy who lacking in confidence, wouldn’t get of our family car in case somebody would see me?

The kid who took time out of high school because of shyness, or the teenager who suffered days in advance of live performances?

Absolutely not.

I will admit it was incredibly tough to stand up and accept some of these challenges, but I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t. I had leave my comfort zone to grow, and maybe so do you.

Benefits

If you are the person who enjoys challenging yourself there a many great benefits of doing so. You’ll be more productive and figure out better and smarter ways to get things done.

Each time something unexpected comes your way, you’ll be better able to handle it. Yes, being out of your comfort zone can force you to make decisions and deal with adversity on the fly. And you’ll succeed because you’ll be more confident and used to living with uncertainty.

You’ll get better at pushing your boundaries. In my experience this has absolutely been the case. The more comfortable you are being uncomfortable, the better placed you’ll be to go further and achieve more in life.

Brainstorming and creativity will come easier also. In episode 24 The Importance of Planning, I talk about brainstorming as a way of setting your goals. Brainstorming without the restriction of trying to stay within your comfort zone is far easier as opens the door to more and greater possibilities. 

Successful People

Think of all the people you know who are successful. How many of those people were challenged and extended their personal boundaries? Most will have pushed past (and like me, far beyond) their comfort zone to achieve their success.

Every biography I have ever read – and there have been hundreds, reveal that each and every person who attained some form of greatness did so by pushing themselves. Just be aware, though, it’s never going to be an easy road and you will need to accept the challenges coming your way in order to reach success.

Whether you are performing music or collecting stamps, you will ultimately build the strength to make even bigger things happen. Others will see you pushing your personal boundaries and see you as an inspiration by reaching what once appeared the unreachable.

Are There Dangers?

It would be fair to say that being out of your comfort zone is challenging, if not terrifying at times. Depending on your mental health, personality type, stress levels and life pressures more generally, there are times when it can certainly be overwhelming. 

If you’re simultaneously experiencing some of life’s biggest challenges – moving house, raising children, dealing with a death in the family, or experiencing physical or mental health issues, pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone may not be wise. Timing is critical.

Challenge Yourself

So, if you are up for the challenge, what are some things you can do to get started?  To get the ball rolling, here are 10 baby steps to help you leave your comfort zone in the music industry:

  1. Co-write a song with a friend
  2. Learn a new instrument, drums preferably!
  3. Busk in the city
  4. Take singing lessons
  5. Join a cover band
  6. Learn how to read music
  7. Give everyone in your band a hug
  8. Play a solo in your live set
  9. Start booking your shows
  10. Join a new band

Into my life

Everything I have learnt from extending myself to be able to leave my comfort zone, I have adopted  in my everyday life now. 

The list of endeavours in my everyday life includes going back to university – twice, starting a successful scooter shop, running recording studios, travelling the world, changing careers, meeting new people, public speaking, and even hosting this podcast!

Leaving my comfort zone lifted the curtain of fear and now I feel that anything is possible.

Taking the easy road is to stay where you are in life, to take the same route and continue habits and rituals you’ve developed over years.  That’s okay for some people, but you won’t grow and improve without risk. You won’t feel excitement and pride from achieving new goals and greater success.

This podcast is all about taking calculated risks, moving forward, learning, growing, and maybe even becoming musically successful. If you can’t move outside your comfort zone, there’s a huge chance nothing special will happen in your life.

Where Are You?

Let me ask you a question. Where do you see yourself? Are you careful and safe? Or do you rise to the challenge and have go? 

Really, it’s okay which ever way you swing. Just be aware of the greatness you might be capable of and you will attain, if you do decide to have a go.

My advice is: have a go. Do something small or perhaps even take on a big challenge you’d normally run like crazy from. 

What’s the worst that could happen? Embarrassment? Feeling awkward? Failure? These are all things as humans we easily recover from. 

Trust yourself and have a go. You won’t regret it.

Good luck.

Leaving your comfort zone is a subject of special interest to me. Jump on my blog and share your stories with all of us. Sharing your story can help others to identify a way they can begin to nudge their own comfort zones.

Leave your comments and any questions below. You can also follow me on Instagram @indieconfidential. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or whatever streaming service you’re using. That way you’ll be notified when my weekly episode is available.

For the next episode of Indie Confidential, I’ll be speaking with one of Australia’s most revered front of house live mixing engineers, Michael ‘Smasha’ Pollard.

I’ll catch you soon.

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