Ah, the comfort zone. That cozy space where the heart beats steadily, palms stay dry, and breathing is easy. It’s different for everyone. For me, I’m most comfortable here, typing my words on a keyboard rather than saying them out loud. But maybe you would rather make a speech in front of thousands of people than try to write a blog post.
Your comfort zone is a good place. It’s where you spend the majority of your time so you can be a functional human being and a productive real estate agent (instead of a giant ball of stress).
But if you wish to improve—to achieve ridiculous levels of success in real estate and in life—every so often, you must summon the courage to take a step outside your comfort zone.
You’ve heard this all before. So let’s go a little deeper. What really happens when you venture beyond the safe and familiar? And what are some strategies to help you face your fears and really optimize the experience?
What happens when you step outside your comfort zone:
According to an experiment performed in 1908 by two psychologists, a little anxiety (but just a little) is actually good for you. The Yerkes-Dodson law explains that a moderate amount of anxiety motivates you and improves your performance, but too much will have the opposite effect.
A study of seniors aged 60-90 found that those who regularly engaged in learning a new skill showed improved cognition (evaluated with memory tests) at the end of three months when compared to people who engaged in familiar activities—such as listening to classical music or doing word puzzles—for the same period of time.
There’s also an emotional benefit of stepping outside your comfort zone that doesn’t need to be proven by any scientific studies: a boost in confidence. You can hear about this from anyone who has ever pushed themselves beyond their perceived limits:
“A great side effect I’ve found of stepping out of my comfort zone in one area, such as speaking at events or stepping up my exercise routine, is that growing my skill or capacity in one of these areas can give me a massive amount of confidence in almost every other area of my life.”
- Joel Gascoigne, Buffer
When you look at it this way, stepping out of your comfort zone can actually become an exercise that you fit into your daily or weekly routine. If you treat it as a habit, you can train your brain to become more comfortable with the uncomfortable. And once you’re no longer scared, you’re pretty much unstoppable.
How to face your fears & venture outside your comfort zone:
Whether you have a particular personal challenge in mind or you’ve decided to practice a weekly habit of getting out of your comfort zone, here are some tips for making it happen.
Start small. Your goal is “optimal anxiety” but not more. I haven’t been able to find a magic formula for what is considered to be the “optimal” amount of anxiety, but your best bet is to start small. Before you start attending major networking events or sending cold emails through your real estate CRM, try talking to a stranger in line at the grocery store. Before you visit a foreign country, visit a new park in your town. Pay attention to how it feels to do something unfamiliar or even a little nerve-wracking. Did it give you a confidence boost? Do you feel inspired to take on a new challenge? Good, it’s working.
Don’t procrastinate. JD Roth shares this tip on his blog Get Rich Slowly. When you spend time thinking about something instead of doing it, you build it up in your mind and imagine what could go wrong. Don’t let it weigh you down—get started now!
Recall a time you felt powerful. Prior to doing something that makes you nervous, write a power essay—a quick paragraph about a time you felt powerful. This tactic has been proven to help job candidates feel more confident and perform better in interviews. On your way to speak at the local real estate school? Jot down a few sentences about that time you negotiated an incredibly low price for a home for your newly aquired clients.
Don’t dwell on the times you felt powerless. Failure happens. Learn from it and move on. When you’re gearing up to take a big scary leap, don’t think about the times you’ve been rejected. Go back to your power essay.
Be prepared. In an article for Inc.com, Peter Economy offers this advice: “Learn everything there is to know about your field, job, marketing tools, presentation—whatever is next on your "to conquer" list. If you are prepared, and have the knowledge to back it up, your self-confidence will soar.”
What’s waiting outside your comfort zone?
What is it that you hope to achieve...but are scared to pursue?
Do you want to be a guest speaker at a local Association of REALTORS meeting? Start your own brokerage? Amp up your networking skills? Write an ebook? Travel to Japan? Learn to belly dance?
If you want to grow as a person, stay mentally sharp, ooze confidence, and achieve ridiculous levels of real estate success...things are going to have to get a little uncomfortable. (And maybe even a little scary.)
It will be worth it.