Going Out of Your Comfort Zone: Use Affirmations

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the things you’d like to do but aren’t because of the potential for discomfort, failure, or disappointment? Why is it important to push yourself to get out of your comfort zone?

We often let limiting thoughts about ourselves and our abilities guide how we live our lives. Most people aren’t even aware of how much staying in their comfort zone limits their life outcomes and what would be possible if only they had the courage to venture beyond it. 

In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of going out of your comfort zone and how to use affirmations to expand it and achieve your goals. 

The Problem With the Comfort Zone

Most people develop ways of thinking about how they should act and what they can achieve. The things they feel comfortable doing form their comfort zone. If they get close to the limits of their comfort zone, they’ll opt to stay inside it, which restricts what they can achieve. 

For example, Canfield limited himself to buying shirts for $35 or less. Then, one of his bosses took him shopping at an Italian clothier in Los Angeles. The minimum price for a shirt was $95. Canfield started sweating, telling himself he couldn’t afford the clothing in the store and wouldn’t enjoy owning such expensive things. He bought one shirt while his boss bought a number of new items. 

When Canfield wore the shirt later, he liked how comfortable it felt. He realized that his stories about who he was and what he should wear had limited his comfort. He now often custom-orders $300 shirts to get exactly what he wants. In this spirit, learn to recognize when you get nervous about leaving your comfort zone and try to work through it.

As Canfield’s story illustrates, limiting thoughts and beliefs can keep you in your comfort zone, preventing your progress toward your goals and self-realization. These could include shame, thinking you’re inferior, or thinking there’s nothing you can do to change your circumstances and achieve your goals. You may have developed these beliefs in childhood and have never processed them or worked through them.

Successful people recognize that you can’t ignore limiting beliefs and behaviors; you must acknowledge them and process them in order to make progress toward your goals. It’s like driving a car—if you discovered the emergency brake was on, you wouldn’t press harder on the gas, you’d release the brake. Similarly, identifying how you’re limiting yourself will help you stop doing it. For example, instead of telling yourself and others that you’re terrible at public speaking (a limiting belief), be positive about yourself and your abilities: Think, talk, and write about the reality you plan to create.

Take Action: Write Affirmations

Writing affirmations is a great tool to envision your ideal reality and motivate you to leave your comfort zone to achieve it. Here are seven steps to write helpful affirmations for going out of your comfort zone.

  1. Begin with the phrase, “I am…”. As simple as it seems, the phrase “I am…” acts like a command in your brain, telling your brain to feel this as reality or take the steps to make it so.
  2. Write in present tense. By writing in present tense, you describe what you want as if you already have it. For example, if you’re single, instead of saying, “I will enjoy talking to my future partner about our plans to have a family,” say, “I am enjoying talking with my partner about plans to have a family.”
  3. Include a verb ending in -ing. Using verbs ending in -ing gives action to the phrase. If you use present-tense verbs that don’t end in -ing, you’re describing something you do, but it’s unclear how often or consistently you do it. For example, saying “I feel confident and comfortable expressing myself in meetings,” is less active than saying, “I am expressing myself confidently and comfortably in meetings.” (If you use the phrase “I am,” you’ll naturally add a verb ending in -ing.)
  4. Use positive, rather than negative phrasing. What we say and think often forms images in our mind, so it’s important to use positive phrasing to create positive images. For example, you might say, “ I am loving eating salads with lots of vegetables every day for lunch,” rather than, “I am no longer dreading eating salads for lunch.”
  5. Write short affirmations. If your affirmations are too long, you risk not remembering them easily. To encourage yourself to write less, pretend you’re writing a jingle for an ad in which each word costs $1,000.
  6. Write affirmations for yourself. Make your affirmations reflect your actions rather than those of others. For example, saying “I am watching my husband do the dishes,” isn’t as effective as, “I am communicating my needs to my husband.”
  7. Use the phrase, “or something/someone/somewhere better.” Even though you have a concrete idea of what you want or need, using the phrase “or something/someone/somewhere better” keeps the affirmation open to even better possibilities than you can imagine right now. For example, saying “I am walking each morning along Waikiki Beach or somewhere better,” leaves you open to opportunities that involve walking each morning, but perhaps somewhere even better than Waikiki Beach.

How to Use Your Affirmations

Engaging with your affirmations regularly, like your goals, helps you draw the most benefits. Here are four steps to use your affirmations each day:

  1. Read them two or three times per day. Read them aloud if it makes sense to do so. Read them when you wake up, in the middle of the day, and before you go to bed. 
  2. Visualize doing what the affirmation says. Rather than thinking about how you’d look from someone else’s perspective, picture how it will feel from your perspective. How will it look? How will you feel? What will you hear? For example, if your affirmation is feeling great from hiking, imagine hearing the wind in the trees, smelling the fresh air, and feeling accomplished that you went the distance.
  3. Say the affirmation a second time.
  4. Repeat these steps with each of your affirmations.

Here are some other ways to regularly use your affirmations:

  • Say your affirmations in first person (“I am…”), second person (“You are…”), and third person (“[Pronoun] is…” or “[Your Name] is…”).
  • Record yourself saying your affirmations and listen to them on your commute, at work, or as you fall asleep.
  • Say your affirmations when doing tedious things like standing in line or exercising. You can say them out loud or in your head.
  • Write your affirmations on three-by-five cards and place them around your home. Or incorporate them into the screensaver on your computer or phone.
  • Have your parents make a recording encouraging you. This could be words that you wished they had said when you were younger, or what you need to hear now.

Affirmation in Action: The $100,000 Bill

Canfield decided he wanted to increase his earnings from $25,000 to $100,000. He wrote an affirmation that captured his intent and made a drawing of a $100,000 bill that he put on the ceiling above his bed so he’d see it when he woke up or went to sleep. Each time he saw it, he’d close his eyes, say his affirmation, and think about what it would look and feel like to have achieved it. He thought about where he would live and how his lifestyle would change. He started getting ideas for increasing his income. One idea was to sell more copies of one of his books. First, he realized he could make $100,000 by selling 400,000 copies of his book (he made 25 cents per book). Then he realized he could make $3 per copy if he published his books on his own, so he started doing that. He also started earning more money for his speaking engagements. Within one year, he had increased his income to $92,000. Now, he consistently earns over $1 million per year.

Going Out of Your Comfort Zone: Use Affirmations

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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