Alex O'Brien

Retirement Life

Why everyone should break out of their comfort zone in retirement

Why everyone should break out of their comfort zone in retirement

Think back on what you had planned before you retired. It’s safe to assume one of your plans was to try something entirely new, perhaps a hobby or new pastime. Now that you are retired, ask yourself, “have I done what I set out to do?” If the answer is no, we’re going to show you why you should.

The idea of a “comfort zone” has existed since 1908, when psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson found that humans are actually more productive with a bit of stress. Without stress and anxiety, we have no driving force. This state of low-stress is known as “optimal anxiety” – the sweet spot where we’re just stressed enough to be productive, but not so anxious that we begin to shut down.

It’s not only productivity that you’ll benefit from if you break out of your comfort zone. You’ll also experience these very welcome perks:

  • You’ll be more adaptive to change – as we’ve explained previously, we become less tolerant of change when we age because the part of the brain responsible for accepting new things deteriorates over time. However, people who choose to take new opportunities are more prepared when other, less welcome changes are forced upon them.
  • You’ll get addicted to trying new things – once you’ve done it once, the adrenaline you get from breaking out of your comfort zone will prompt you to do it again and again. That state of “optimal anxiety” will become more normal to you and you’ll keep trying to out-do yourself with new, exciting things.
  • You’ll become more creative – going after new opportunities and having new experiences inspires you, makes you ponder the future and consider the past. You never know, you might just start to feel the creative juices flowing and be inspired to put pen to paper or paintbrush to canvas!
Doesn’t that sound good? Of course, it’s a lot easier said than done. Here are a few simple ways you can begin your journey towards living a more impulsive life.

  • Do something every day that scares you – whether it’s buying a new book or seeing a movie without reading a review, taking a new walking route, tasting a new cuisine… there are always small things you can do to push yourself just slightly outside the realm of comfort.
  • Act on impulse – your intuition is rarely wrong, so instead of spending hours, days, even weeks making a decision, decide on the spot and stick to it. Once you realise how much more productive you can be this way, you’ll begin to trust yourself more.
  • Go slowly – breaking out of your comfort zone isn’t about working up the courage to jump out of a plane or ride a rollercoaster. Making small changes in your attitude and the way you approach new situations is all you need to get yourself on the right path. It’s not about how big the step is, it’s about taking the step in the first place.
Tell us in the comments below, what’s the biggest way you’ve broken out of your comfort zone?

Related links:

Reawaken your creativity in retirement

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Retirement doesn’t have to sap your self-esteem