Humans evolved to be risk-averse. As social creatures, we don’t always feel comfortable standing out from the crowd, and in small populations (as humans typically evolved within) taking a risk could lower your chances of survival.
But as artists and creators – risk is necessary to success.
In teaching actors at USC, I’ve noticed that one of the hardest things to get them to do is to be “outrageous” with their acting choices. To go too far. Even though that’s always the advice acting teachers are giving! “Go too far, and then you can dial it back.”
But people are afraid of doing what they think will be making a fool of themselves. The truth is, however, when you “go too far” you’re actually going exactly as far you need to go. The ideal place to get to is exactly one step outside your comfort zone. That’s where vulnerability shows up, and real moments begin to happen.
But how to get there?The only way to do it is to try. But sometimes trying in front of your acting class, or even an audition, or while you’re actually on stage or in front of a camera can be too daunting.
I’ve realized in my own life, that doing anything new requires a lot of practice. But it’s not always easy to “practice big.” So I’ve begun to “practice small.” If you can step out of your comfort zone in very small ways, it will allow you to do it in bigger ways.
So here are 4 small ways you can practice stepping out of your comfort zone:
1. Speak with a Foreign Accent.
Checking out at the grocery store? Throw on a British accent. Ordering at Starbucks? Be Italian!
I used to do this all the time when I worked as a cashier at Borders Bookstore. It was a lot of fun and allowed me to practice being silly.
2. Smile, Wave, and Say Hi to People You Don’t Know
Walking down the street? Smile at someone. Wave. Say hey. Not only is it scientifically proven to make you feel better, you’ll get used to interacting with total strangers by just being yourself. Bonus points if you do this while walking with friends.
3. Wear Something that Makes You Feel Uncomfortable
Maybe it’s a “My Little Pony Shirt” you were given as a gag gift. Or maybe it’s cat ears that you only wear on Halloween. Put em on, and wear them all day. Yes, people will stare, yes people will ask you about it, but you’ll learn that in the end – it’s not that big of a deal. And most people will say things like, “Hey! Cool cat ears!”
I remember the very first time I ever wore a speedo to go swimming. That was a HUGE step out of my comfort zone. But the more I did it, the more I realized it wasn’t a big deal at all. Now I don’t even bat an eye lash wearing one at the beach. And if I ever feel uncomfortable, I just think to myself – “If anyone asks, I’ll put on my accent and tell them I’m Italian.”
4. Buy Someone’s Coffee at Starbucks
When you’re in line at Starbucks, place your order, turn to the person behind you and say, “And I’ll get whatever they’re having.” They’re bound to resist at first, but if you insist, they’ll eventually let you. And chances are they’ll probably ask you why you did that. And then you get to tell them, I’m practicing stepping out of my comfort zone and doing things I wouldn’t ordinarily do. Now you’re having a conversation with a total stranger. Congrats.
So whether it’s for your acting class, or you’re just trying to get up the courage to talk to the girl or guy you like, practicing taking a risk and stepping out of your comfort zone each day will give you the courage to do it in bigger ways.
Your task is to try one of these things today in order to take a risk and step out of your comfort zone.
The more you do it, the better you’ll be. Trust me.
What are things you did that were outside your comfort zone? Tell people in the comments below!