How to Comfortably Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

The adage of “getting out of your comfort zone” is far too common in self-help and personal development circles, for better and for worse. It is for the better because there is no denying that life does begin at the end of the comfort zone. However, it can also be for the worse when the practice is advertised as intentionally getting yourself in the danger zone.

As I’ve posited in Movie Montage Motivation, growth comes from a constant daily grind toward mastery. It takes time to learn and train in something you’re interested in, it doesn’t all happen in the matter of three minutes to the tune of Eye of the Tiger. In fact, it probably takes listening to Survivor’s entire discography several times over before you can deservedly run to the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s stairs and throw your hands up in triumph.

And if you pay close attention to Rocky’s facial expressions during that monumental montage, you could read the clear discomfort in his disposition that speaks volumes of how hard it actually is to get out your comfort zone. In today’s Meaningful Monday post, here are three things you can do get out of your comfort zone comfortably with little to no impact other than surprising yourself with what you could accomplish if you just applied yourself properly:

  1. Being clear about your motivations.
  2. Taking tiny steps.
  3. Committing past the resistance.

He Who Has a ‘Why’ to Live Can Bear Almost Any ‘How’ – Nietzsche

If you have a specific interest you want to become familiar with and master, it is important to evaluate what it would mean to you commit to it, as well as why you’re engaging with it in the first place. What is motivating you to learn about something beyond mere fascination with it? Maybe it’s learning about real estate investing, learning how to paint, or even in my case, learning how to play a certain genre of video game.

Whatever your motivation is, be clear as to why you want to gain some mastery in something and you will inevitably gravitate towards the methods in which you can achieve the aforementioned mastery. Or at the very least, something close to mastery; a level you’re comfortable with reaching and staying in, with the option to grow further down the line if you so choose.

Take for example my recent fascination with First Person Shooters, a genre of video game that I used to detest throughout my life. I’d seldom play them here and there and overall preferred games in third person because it is easier to see what my character is doing, as well as measuring the distance between my attacks and the positioning of my opponents.

One FPS I really want to “git gud” at is Overwatch because I am enamored by the lore, the character design, and overall gameplay. Despite my aversion to FPS games, I did play it for a while last year and got somewhat decent at it while using a Steam Controller to play it, but often felt stumped with how bad my aim was. So inevitably I figured that maybe I should switch over to playing with keyboard and mouse to have better control over my aim.

At first it felt like I sacrificed my movement skills from the Steam Controller for the sake of a very tiny improvement in my aim, but I’ve been at it for weeks now, along with playing a whole slew of other FPS games and have been in love since. I cannot believe that after all these years I have missed out on such a great genre because I wasn’t good enough at them to enjoy them, let alone garner any interest in them to begin with.

But you might be asking at this point, what is my why, and what is the how I’ve come to because of my motivations?

The simple answer is that I want to get good at FPS games so I can enjoy them better. After all, constantly getting rekt can get tiring fast, and it is gratifying to be able to avoid attacks and concoct strategies to outsmart either the AI in single player games or the human opponents in online competitive games. The deeper answer, I suppose, is wanting to be able to contribute to my team and help them achieve victory.

So how do I get good? Constant practice and playing, as well as some self reflection as to how I use the abilities of my chosen character in conjunction with the abilities of my teammates, and learning the beautiful balance between calling certain shots and letting others lead the team when they have better ideas than me. Couple that with video tutorials geared toward specific characters and how to use them effectively, as well as other general tips that can be universalized across FPS games.

Now hopefully I haven’t lost any sophisticated folks who are too good for video games–because I’ll admit this wasn’t the most meaningful example possible–but the principle is to take stock of why you want something and figure out how to get it. Sometimes you’ll stumble around blindly and trip over yourself, other times you’ll learn from cold hard experience. While this is fine for the most part, we do live in an age where there are resources for just about any interest out there with people who are more than happy to help others expand their awareness and proficiency, so seek those out as well.

Aim High, but Don’t Break Your Neck

The next thing you need to consider is how reasonable your goals are. You want to aim high enough so that there would be a noticeable difference between you right now and the you you will become as a result of your practice and dedication. But you also don’t want to aim too high that your intended goal is constantly out of reach and only serves to discourage you from ever moving forward.

This is the importance of taking it slow and taking small steps toward your goals, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s already hard enough stepping out of your comfort zone so why make things even harder for yourself, right?

What helps you digest big goals is to cut them up into tinier bite sized portions. Think about your favorite meal and what it takes to eat it. Let’s say you like burgers. While you could stuff your entire mouth with a burger, I wouldn’t recommend it. Big juicy burgers take several tiny (or a few giant 😉 bites to finish. It’s the same thing with achieving a goal.

I would even argue that you shouldn’t see the end result as your goal, rather treat that tiny chunk of the goal as the most important thing in your life. You know that cliché; life’s all about the journey and not the destination. So maybe instead of constantly looking toward who you would be as a master at something, maybe approach every tiny step toward that mastery as if it’s the most important thing and only thing in the world.

Own Your Interests, but Don’t Let Them Own You

What interests you the most? Are these hobbies you engage with alone and/or with others? Has anyone ever given you any trouble for having these interests? And on the flip side, have you ever been so dumbfounded by someone else’s interests that you couldn’t wrap your head around how one could be so obsessed with something you simply don’t understand?

Interests and You

Having interests in anything like art, sports, and any other hobbies you can think of is a way to enrich our lives and add meaning to them. As humans with a limited lifespan, we need things to preoccupy our minds with or we risk staring straight into the abyss, filled with the inherent anxiety that comes with mortality.

I don’t mean to sound so bleak, but when you stop to really think about it, we really are just distracting ourselves before death, and in my humble opinion, there is a right way to distract yourself and a wrong way to distract yourself. The right way to engage in these distractions is to be so immersed in the experience that the concept of time becomes irrelevant, while the wrong way is using interests to fill your ego and avoid connection with yourself and others.

Interests are a highly personal thing and may mean different things to one person than it does for another. For example, my lifelong interest in video games holds with it different motives than it does for others. For a lot of people it’s just a way to relax, turn their brains off, and have a good time. And that’s perfectly fine, I won’t judge them for it.

It’s just that for me, on top of those things I mentioned above, video games are also experiences I like immersing myself in to appreciate the amalgamation of art that they contain. From the graphical aesthetics, the mechanical design, and right down to the music and writing all add up to a cacophony of pleasure, meaning, and inspiration for me. Additionally, I also enjoy them because they are a way to test my capacity for skill development.

Now while there is an argument to be made that skills learned in video games are not transferable to real life, I would normally beg to differ, but for the sake of brevity I want to emphasize the more meta concept of skill development. If not the development of skills, it’s the accumulation of knowledge that comes with learning and researching different interests.

For you it might be a TV show that you’re in love with for a myriad of reasons. Maybe it hits all the right emotional beats you like or it has all the interesting concepts that fire up your imagination. Whatever it is, it is through your interests that you learn a lot about yourself. You learn what matters to you based on what kinds of details you pay attention to. You also end up sharpening different aspects of yourself through these interests depending on what kind of skills they require to become proficient in.

Sharing Your Interests With Others

The beauty of having your own personal reasons for liking something is finding people with similar interests to share your passions with. If they have different reasons than you, then it only enriches your experience further because they can point you toward other aspects of that interest that you wouldn’t have noticed on your own.

Taking another example from my life, I also like to make music and while I can humbly admit that I’m an adept songwriter, I can even more humbly admit that I have 0 clue what I’m doing production wise. I can write songs with diverse song structures, catchy hooks, and meaningful lyrics, but when I recorded my first EP this past summer, I literally had no clue how to sound engineer it to make it sound professional.

I shared a song with a music producer friend of mine and gave me some pretty good feedback on how to improve it. Little things like recording a second take for my vocals and rhythm guitar could thicken the sound of the production and make it sound less empty in terms of its sonic spacing. Couple that with another friend of mine who has insights on how to equalize the different instruments to make them pop more in the mix, these were all things I didn’t pay much mind to because I’m so hyper-focused on the songwriting itself.

For those of you who don’t know much about music, I am hoping I still retained your interest because another beautiful thing about having your own unique approach to your interests is sharing it with others who don’t initially have much knowledge on your interests until you share it with them.

As a friend to diverse group of people, one of my mantras is “your pleasure is my pleasure.” If you have an interest I have no clue about like gardening or bodybuilding, because you are my friend, you can share the things you are passionate about with me because I’m interested in learning more about what inspires you and what matters to you. I’m always equipped with an endless array of questions to get a better understanding of how other hobbies function that I may or may not get into myself.

Likewise when you share you interests with friends who support your divergent passions, sharing those interests with them also helps you understand your interests better because you are forced to describe things to people who are not “in the know” about them. Not only does it help them feel more connected to you—because they get a better understanding of what matters to you and the details you are attuned to—but you also end up developing a greater understanding of your interests because you may not have initially been conscious of what you like about them until you’ve conceptualized them in conversation.

Your Interests vs the Disinterest of Others

Unfortunately not everybody is willing to understand you to the fullest and may even find reason to dissuade you from your interests. Or worse, some people have interests that are so esoteric that it’s almost as if they have them just to affirm that no one understands them. This is quite the pickle because my focus is uniting people of similar and divergent interests, and sometimes there are just people out there who will either hate on you for liking a certain thing, or regard their own interests as something that makes them better than you.

This is where today’s title comes in handy: own your interests, but don’t let them own you.

What I mean by this is while it’s good to have interests you’re passionate about, you can’t let them consume you and turn into your entire identity. Because otherwise you risk losing yourself in a heap of unnecessary opposition.

For instance, I love listening to Metal and K-Pop. They are the top two genres I listen to and while the music itself is fun and enjoyable, there is something to be said about fans on either spectrum that rubs me the wrong way. I’m talking, of course, about metal elitists and die hard K-Poppers. They are basically two sides of the same coin for me. Metal elitists have it in their heads that only certain types of metal and certain bands can be considered “metal,” and for diehard K-Poppers, you’re not a true fan unless you have nothing but unconditional love for your “idols.”

In either case, it’s unnecessary gatekeeping that can prevent people from the outside get into either genre, let alone accept them as things that people enjoy. Throughout my life I’ve been bashed by elitist metalheads for liking metal bands that weren’t heavy enough compared to others and liking one subgenre of metal over another, as well as being called a fake fan by K-Poppers because I don’t like a few songs by one of my favorite K-Pop groups or simply not knowing every single member’s name in a 20 person K-Pop group. It’s basic tribalism at its core.

So while it is nice to find a group of people who share your interests, be wary of those who might put up certain barriers as to how and why you’re a “real fan” or not because this could be dangerous. This could cost you that interest if you’re around people who soil it with their hyper criticism and self appointed authority on that interest. Some people may know more than you and have more experience than you, and can put forth how and why you should like something, but in the end it is always entirely up to you how you engage in an interest.

If anything, avoid these people at all costs.

Avoid the kind of people who think you’re weird and unacceptable because people from your fandom, so to speak, generally give that interest a negative impression to those on the outside. Avoid the kind of people who are on the “inside” as well, if they are the type to try and dissuade you from liking something the way you want to. They may have more knowledge and experience as to what makes that hobby fun and interesting, but in the end it’s entirely up to you how and why you engage in it in the first place.

And last but not least, avoid the people who have esoteric interests that either have a high bar for entry and/or the people who have simple interests that they approach in a very esoteric way. Like art snobs, basically. People who approach their interests in the most abstract and esoteric way that even they can’t comprehend or conceptualize what they enjoy in a way that entices you because it is intentionally designed to be the least understandable thing as possible.

I have the nagging suspicion that a lot of people out there have “unique” interests not because of their genuine enjoyment of them, but rather the sense of individuality it gives them above others. The kind of people who if you ask them about their interests, they can’t even give you a straight answer to your questions or describe them to you in a way that intentionally alienates either of you from feeling any sense of connection.


How Many Times Did I Say Interest in This Post?

In conclusion, hobbies and interests are a good way to learn about ourselves and connect with others. If you’re not developing your skills or expanding your knowledge with them—or at bare minimum feeling a sense of immersion with them—then be wary of whether you’re taking up a certain hobby to feel like you belong or feel better than others. And likewise be wary of those who may show signs of this intentional misunderstanding that could lead from sharing divergent interests with others.

But all in all, our passions should be the result of our genuine fascination with them, not a desire to be a certain kind of person because that’s seeking a false sense of status and superiority over others. These are things that can give us insights on how we operate and how others operate, and in turn make the world a better place.

To harken back to my seemingly bleak outlook at the beginning of this post, being interested in a variety of things throughout our lives is one of the many ways to stave off the abyss. Have your interests, but be careful not to let them accelerate your descent into the abyss. They are meant to strengthen and unite individuals, not alienate and demean them.

What is your relationship to your interests?

Have you benefited from connecting with individuals who share the same interests as you?

Make sure to like this post, follow Your Write to Live, and answer these questions and more in the comments below!