Deniz Kayadelen

Out of Comfort Zone Magic Can Happen!

Last year I was for a 6-month secondment in South Africa. From those 6 months, I was in lockdown for 4.5 months, and it was a challenging time. I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t swim and just was at home. I decided to transfer the painful situation into fruitful actions by using the additional time at home to start writing about my swim challenges and out of comfort zone experiences. Every evening, after work, I tried to write my stories and put them in a storyline. And this painful time enabled me to create this magic and writing my own book, which became in the end an Amazon bestseller.  

In this book, I document my own journey and give some reflections on how you can explore your limits, transform pain into success. I used swimming as a metaphor and tried to build a bridge towards our corporate life. 

In this blog post, I will share my insights with you about the concept and how you can step out of your comfort zone and unlock your own potential?  

Let’s start with the comfort zone model 
There are five main zones: 

First, the most comfortable area is our Comfort Zone:
We need our comfort zone, where we feel safe and know what we are doing, feeling the control and confidence of our lives. The risk of the comfort zone is that you may not be learning new things; you are experiencing more routines and could easily get bored.  

The second one is the Out of Comfort Zone, which is the most unpredictable and insecure area in our life. The more we have the courage to face the unknown, the more we grow and explore our limits. We see what we can handle; we feel our potential and break our boundaries by transforming ourselves. 

The third one is our Fear Zone: The more we have bad associations, for example, from our childhood or latest undesirable experiences, the more we face our fears. In the fear zone, most of the time, we find excuses for not trying new things, feeling a lack of self-confidence, and are more affected by the opinions of others or limiting beliefs. In this zone, the anxiety level is high. We do not feel safe, and we want to leave this zone. We want to survive, and our brain tries to convince us to move back to our comfort zone. 

The fourth one is the Learning Zone: 
In the learning zone, we are willing to deal with challenges and problems, learn new things, and explore ourselves. If we are not feeling challenged or afraid, we will not learn to overcome those feelings and situations. We are exploring ourselves through new experiences, expanding our way of thinking, and going one step further. This is the zone where we learn new things, gain more self-confidence by facing our fears and overcoming them.  

The fifth one is the Growth Zone: In the growth zone, we are setting new goals and finding a purpose for our life. We reflect and identify for ourselves the reason why we are alive and what we want to stand for.  In this zone, we live our dreams by going out of our comfort zone and facing magical moments. Our brain and body are faced with new stimulations, and this state is also activating the reward system and adrenaline in our body. 

 How can you break your limits and go out of your comfort zone?

1. Trust in yourself and use your inner potential

Sometimes we are too critical of ourselves and live with limiting beliefs: “you can’t do this, you are not experienced enough, you don’t have the ability, etc.“ Moreover, those around us want to protect us and discourage us because of their limiting beliefs. But each of us has our own strengths and unique potential. First, trust in yourself and explore your inner potential by doing new things or doing things differently. Prove to yourself that you are able to handle new challenges. You are capable of more than you would ever think! I would never have thought about swimming in the North Channel in 12-degrees water, with toxic jellyfish and killer whales- but in the end, I trusted myself and jumped in the water. 

2. Think big and start with small steps

Don’t be afraid to set high goals and define a vision for yourself. Believing in something and thinking big is the first step toward your vision. Toward realizing your goals, don’t put yourself under pressure, start with small steps.  

In my preparation for the English and North Channels, I started with short cold showers for just 10 seconds. After 10 weeks, I could manage 10-minute cold showers. All big things start with small, realistic steps, which set the base for preparing yourself for bigger steps. I couldn’t even imagine that I would be writing a book about my own story, but here it is. I started with small steps like creating my own website, writing my own blog, and now I have published my second book. There are no limits to what you can accomplish- except the limits you place on your own thinking.

3. Move towards your fears

Fear is a natural and essential part of our individual growth. Every time we consciously choose to step out of our comfort zone, the next uncomfortable thing becomes a little bit smoother, and we know that we can overcome our fears. Our fears are stopping us from going one step further. The more you face your fears, the more you will see that you can control your emotions and that your fears are a perspective of thinking that can be changed. Ten years ago, I had hypothermia because of a cold water swim. I found myself in hospital. As a result, I had much fear of cold water and felt uncomfortable in the cold. To strengthen my mental toughness and overcome my fear, I swam in 3-degrees cold water in Munich Icebach. I convinced my friends to dip in with me as well, and we all enjoyed the challenge. I was always afraid of sharks, yet despite this fear, I swam from Robben Island to Cape Town. These confrontational experiences showed me that I am stronger than my fears.

4. Break your routine

How can you explore yourself in different ways when you do the same thing every day in the same way? For example work in another team or project and put yourself in new environments. This will enable you to think differently, get inspiration from different circumstances, and give you the possibility to explore yourself in different situations. I lived in 4 different countries. In every new experience, both professionally and personally, I feel one step closer to my inner self.  

5. Give up control and trust the process

I am a control freak, but I have learned that I cannot control everything in my life. You can control your mind, your body, your emotions, what you eat, what you drink, what you do, where you work, with whom you speak, etc. but there are also external factors, which make life more complex, but at the same time, more interesting. I love the main rule of Design Thinking: “Trust the process!” Sometimes, you need to accept the unclear uncertainty zone- let things go from time to time. Do everything you can do, believe in what you do, but also be open to letting things go and trusting the process. In the end, magic can happen- like the creative new ideas in the Design Thinking process. 

6. Try something new and agree to something you wouldn’t normally consider

Agree to a project that may not 100% match your expertise or try a new hobby, a new food,. Even if it may not work out in the end, the experience matters. Every unique experience shapes our thoughts and opens different perspectives. 

7. Ask questions, even if it is uncomfortable

Do not be afraid to ask tough or even stupid questions like a child. Like EY’s slogan, “The better the questions, the better the answer,“ ask yourself and others challenging questions and try to see things from a different angle. Ask for feedback, as well. Ask what you want without hesitation. The basic question, “why,” defines the purpose of each action. Stop and ask yourself why you are doing the things you do and how you could improve yourself and others. Help people around you to find their own answers. Don’t stop yourself when people don’t understand why you do things. Even if you don’t know the answer yourself, keep going, and reflect. You will find your answer on the journey! 

8. Follow your passion 

Take the time to identify your real passion. If you don’t know it already, don’t worry. Try different things and reflect on how you feel. What is your source of energy, where you feel strong and happy? Identify activities that energize you and make you feel happier and stronger in your life. Every time I swim, I feel alive, strong, and happier than before. Those feelings show you exactly what your real passion is. Imagine you have just one day for yourself. Without any business or other responsibilities. What is the first thing you want to do for yourself?  

9. Be Mindful and self-aware

Pay attention and accept your thoughts and feelings without judging them- there is no “right” or “wrong”. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we are sensing in the present moment rather than digging into the past or imagining the future. To improve your mindfulness, you can start with meditation or even short self-reflection sessions. I started with the Wim Hof method, which is a combination of meditation, cold water exposure, breathing, and focus. This method helped me to raise my focus and courage to step outside my comfort zone. During the lockdown, I started with a full meditation led by Dr Joe Dispenza. It helped me a lot to structure my thoughts, and more importantly, to understand what I really wanted in my life. Take your reflection time at least once a week, listen to your deep inner voice, accept what you feel, and hug yourself.  

Don forget only your brain your imagination is your limit. Follow your passion every day. Explore the world, explore yourself, and go out of your comfort zone. Magic will happen! 

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