Why You Need To Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

By Di Westaway | Chief Adventure Chick at Wild Women On Top

Have you ever wondered why some people succeed and others fail? Why some people are resilient, and others are not? Why some people seem to cope better with stress, grief or trauma.  

You might think that successful people are more intelligent, lucky, talented or blessed than the rest of us. And certainly, some people are naturally more intelligent, privileged and gifted. But research shows that’s not the secret to success.  

In fact, studies show intelligence only accounts for about 30% of our achievement and that in fact, mental toughness, or grit, is a far bigger determinant of our success. 

Mental toughness is the perseverance and passion to achieve long term goals. And as research by Dr Angela Duckworth discovered, it’s the most important factor in achieving your goals in health, in business and in life. 

Here is the bottom line of her study:

  1. Mentally tough athletes are more consistent than others. They don’t skip workouts. They don’t make excuses. They always have their teammates back.
  2. Mentally tough leaders are more consistent than their peers with clear daily goals. They don’t let short–term profits, negative feedback, or hectic schedules prevent them from marching towards their vision. They make a habit of building up the people around them — not just once, but over, and over, and over again. 
  3. Mentally tough artists, writers, and employees work on a schedule, not just when they feel motivated. They approach their work like a pro, not an amateur. They prioritise and don’t shirk responsibilities.

This research shows that while everyone has different life experiences, backgrounds, limiting beliefs and talents, we can all work towards building our resilience to become better, stronger, more powerful versions of ourselves. Mental toughness, grit, resilience and perseverance can become your defining traits, regardless of the talent you were born with. You can become more consistent. You can develop high levels of mental toughness.

As Australia’s first female Prime Minister, and Chair of Beyond Blue, Julia Gillard said in a Women In Leadership speech: “Resilience is a muscle and if you work it, it gets stronger.” 

And if you build your resilience in small ways by choice, when life throws you unexpected challenges – and it absolutely will – you’ll be more equipped to deal with them. 

So how do we give our mental toughness muscle a workout? Here are our top tips: 

1. Get a goal

You need a challenging goal. 

And again, for the people in the back: YOU NEED A CHALLENGING GOAL! 

This goal needs to be physical, and it needs to actually scare you. Why? Because committing to a scary physical challenge will motivate you to make a plan to achieve your scary goal, which will motivate you to change your habits to include daily activities to prepare you for your physical challenge. Each of these new little habits will test your courage, perseverance, resilience and mental and emotional toughness just a little bit. For example you might decide to sign up for the 60km Coastrek team trekking challenge. And that will motivate you to get up before sunrise to go hiking when you’d otherwise stay under the doona. 

The challenging goal will motivate you to do the new habits, even when you’re busy, tired, hungover, sleepy, hungry or cold or when your will-power threatens to melt into a bowl of Sara Lee Ultra Chocolate Ice Cream. And when you finally launch into your big hairy audacious goal, or get hit by an unexpected trauma, it will again test your courage, perseverance, resilience and mental and emotional toughness but this time, you’ll be ready to roar.  

Put simply: willpower comes and goes, so we need big hairy audacious goals to motivate us to develop consistency. 

Mentally tough people aren’t more courageous, more talented, or more intelligent than the rest of us— they’re just more consistent. Mentally tough people develop systems that help them focus on the important stuff regardless the obstacles. 

So decide on that goal. That thing you said you would always do but have never found the time/motivation/finances/energy. Tell yourself, and your friends and family, you are going to do it within a specific timeframe. Then, break it down into small chunks and MAKE IT HAPPEN. 


2. Build habits

You can’t magically think your way to becoming mentally tough, but you can develop it by doing small things regularly. 

For you, it might be…

  • going three months without missing a training session
  • going one week without eating processed or packaged food
  • not getting distracted by social media at work for five days in a row
  • meditating for five minutes every morning this week
  • waking up in time to see the sunrise every workday through winter
  • getting to yoga three times a week for twelve weeks
  • calling your mum every week for a month
  • getting your 10,000 steps in every day during springtime
  • doing 10 sets of stairs three times a week 

You need to record your wins and celebrate your achievement when you do it! 

3. Change your mindset

Just like a muscle, mental toughness needs to be worked to grow and develop. If you don’t push yourself in small ways every day, you’ll shrink when things really get tough. Heartbreak, grief, the loss of a job, the loss of a friend, financial strife… things can come out of the blue and you need to know that whatever happens, you’ll be able to cope. 

If you have a mindset that always wants to take the easy option, you need to shift this. This is HARD. Taking the easy option is, well, easier. But in the long run, it makes life harder. 

So, practice taking the hard option every day in every way. Do that tenth set of stairs when your heart is thumping through your chest telling you to stop at nine. Choose a walk before or instead of wine. Push yourself to ask the extra question when it would be easier to capitulate. Walk home instead of getting an Uber. Prove to yourself — in a thousand tiny ways — that you have enough guts to stand up and say YES I CAN. It’s your physical actions that prove your mental fortitude.

Because you CAN do it. You are capable of far more than you believe. So now, it’s time to practice doing things you never thought you could, and realising how strong you really are. 

Who is with me? 

Did you know we have an amazing group on Facebook, with thousands of adventurous women just like you? Head over to the group and tell us how you're getting out of your comfort zone this winter. We'll help keep you accountable, support you through the challenging bits and cheer you on from the sidelines. We have $250 worth of Paddy Pallin gift vouchers to give away, so post some photos of you escaping your comfort zone for your chance to win! 

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