Friday, September 19, 2014

The Fall 2014 Comfort Zone Challenge for College Students

College students ... 

Do you want a well-paying job? You must become well-rounded!

Do you want a successful life, in every sense of the word? You must expand your boundaries to find all that life has to offer.

College is a great place to transform yourself. Why? Because what have you got to lose? If someone judges you, just move on … you’ll likely not see them again (and they don’t need to be part of your personal universe any more). There are plenty of persons who will like you for who you are, and who will appreciate the fact that you are committed to continuous self-improvement.

All it takes is an active effort on your part to extend, just a bit each day, your Comfort Zone.

Will you take on the challenge to “Expand Your Comfort Zone” – by doing one thing each day that scares you? 

Many of your fellow students have chosen to expand their comfort zones. After tackling the exercises (see attached document), they wrote about their experiences. Here are insights from your fellow students:

“I was challenged by my Business Law professor to open my eyes and explore new things I have never thought to accomplish before. He handed us a list of 26 expand your comfort zone ideas to help us open new horizons in our personality. When he first handed this list to me I felt extreme anxiety because I do not like going outside my comfort zone.”

“Life Is Either A Daring Adventure, Or It Is Nothing.”

“This assignment was nothing like anything I have ever done before. When I first got this assignment I was very nervous about all of this and felt like I just did not want to do it. I am very glad that I did this assignment as it has allowed me to open my eyes and grow more. I feel better about being more open to new things because they were not nearly as scary as I imagined they would be and left me feeling great.”

“By expanding your comfort zone, you are giving yourself access to all that life has to offer. You only have one life to live, live it to the fullest everyday with no regrets.”


“Who knew something so little could act so big; I definitely did not.”

“An extra hour of sleep can change your entire day.”

“I have been able to pay more attention in class and I am no longer a zombie walking around campus. Overall I am surprised about the outcome of this, I didn’t think that there would be any different results at all.”


“I told a stranger to come sit with my friends and me while we were eating lunch. He seemed pretty content being alone, and I was very skeptical of bothering him at first. I got up anyway and told him to come grab a seat with a few friends and me. He responded ‘Sure, I’d love to,’ and he pulled over a chair. We all ended up chatting for over an hour and decided to hang out that weekend … If I never approached him, I wouldn’t have met someone with whom I have so much in common with and who can potentially become one of my greatest friends.”

“The last act of kindness that I did was inviting a very shy, introverted girl in my class to come hang out with my roommate and me over the weekend. She seemed surprised by my offer … we could just hang out and watch movies, instead of going out. I didn’t think she would come, but sure enough I received a text asking if she could stop by for a bit. I was glad she came by because she ended up being a ton of fun, and she undoubtedly broke out of her shell by the end of the evening.”


“What I especially liked about my experience in the writing center was that he did not hand the answers over to me. My proctor explained my problems and had me find them myself which further improved my learning process. I definitely see myself going there again and again!”


“I have never had a tutor before in my entire life so going to ask for a tutor at the Student Success Center was actually very humbling.”


“I went into CDH and randomly sat with a group of freshman. They were happy to have me hang out with them. We spoke about their experience so far and what they have planned for the future. Although our maturity levels were different, they made me feel welcomed. They showed me that college students are always enthusiastic to meet new people.”


“I wrote a letter addressed to my [relative] about how this is the time of my life where I let go of all the resentment, anger, and bitterness that has been built up toward her over the years. Writing this letter really helped me channel some deep, inner emotions that I haven’t connected with in years. As I was sitting in front of the computer, I felt a wave of every emotion come crashing down on me, anxiousness being one of them. I did not know what to expect from this exercise. After writing the letter, I had felt as if this weight was lifted off my chest.”


“The first activity that I attended was the ‘Night on the Green.’ I sat outside for the live concert and then decided to stay for the movie. I’m usually the last person to get involved on a college campus, but this activity turned out to be a lot more exciting than I expected. I met a ton of people from my major and even some from my hometown …  I’ve learned that sitting in your room can and will negatively affect your social life.”


“Giving out these compliments to people I had never met brightened up their day, and made me feel good about myself.”


“I chose to join the (a campus organization). I was worried that I would not have enough time to study and do homework. I quickly realized that, if I spend less time each day on the internet and watching television, I can get my studying done and go to (the club meetings and activities).”


“My third activity was showing three of my friends the “Power pose” TED Talk online. They all thought it was actually a good concept and thought about giving it a try. A few days later two of them came back to me and told me that they each tried it before a test and they felt better about those tests.”


“The fourth exercise I chose was something I really never thought I would do, “Let go of your self-judgment for a day. And do something others would never think you would do. Feel good about yourself. If others think ill of you – they do not matter; they are no longer part of your personal universe.”


“I posted this picture to Facebook, tagged both of my parents in it, and told them how much I really appreciate them. I also texted them both and thanked them for some of the little things that they do for me that mean so much. Of course, I couldn’t name them all because the list is endless. The instant trigger of happiness I added to their lives was the most self-rewarding feeling in the world.”


“I, too, suffer from being incredibly self-conscious; I’m shy, timid, anxious, and extremely worried about what others are thinking about me. As a result, I generally keep my mouth shut during class, nod, and think the whole time, ‘Please, don’t call on me.’ When a teacher asks me to talk or present something in front of the class, I dread it. A very good point was brought to my attention by Dr. Rhoades – this was to ‘rush toward my fear.’ If you’re afraid of something, why drag it out? Get it over with and be able to feel the achievement after the task is completed. That’s why I decided to ‘speak up in class – when you normally would not speak up.’ So, when it was asked of the class to present a success tip and explain how it impacted our life, I volunteered to present. Yes, I was nervous, embarrassed, and afraid the kids would think I was foolish, but I marched on. Dr. Rhoades also said, ‘No one knows you’re embarrassed besides yourself,’ so I marched on. After the task was completed, I felt good about myself. It helped me realize that no one determines my happiness besides myself, so why does it matter what anyone else thinks about me?”


“I chose to unplug my television for a whole week. I found this to be a bit challenging considering my absolute favorite shows … From doing this activity though I realized I finished a lot more homework earlier during the week and didn’t have to worry about doing it later at night after practice or a game like I usually would. I found that unplugging my TV actually benefitted me in that I focused more and got assignments done early and didn’t have as much of a distraction. Furthermore, I learned that if I want to get things done and out of the way I’ll do them first so then I can possibly have some down time to relax and watch TV once in a while and I can be worry free!”

“It felt good to not be such a couch potato and accomplish some stuff that I normally would have been scrambling to get done.”


“The last activity that I performed would be analyzing and changing my group of friends. Even though I came to Alfred State not knowing a single soul, it seems that I still tend to become friends with the same kind of people as I did back home. Not that there is anything wrong with the people I have become friends with as of now, but I would like my college experience to not be remembered by all the people I met who cannot miss a party but by the people who helped me reach my goal and provided a positive influence on me.”


“After putting these quotes up people asked me why I was on a positive mood streak or posting success tips. Instead of tell people I had to do an activity for class, I said because I am changing my life around to be a more positive successful person in my life. To strive to be the best I can be. Doing this has made me happier day-by-day, and made me feel better about myself. It is something I will continue to do at least once a week.”

“I chose to post a success tip every day for five days on my Twitter. I enjoyed doing this activity because I knew that someone was reading it and it may or may not have impacted their life in some way. I always got a favorite or a re-tweet on the success tips I posted. This activity makes me want to continue to put something inspirational up more often. There is too much negativity on social media, and I’m going to change that by posting my success tips!”


“I joined a study group. I knew that this would be a test to see if I were now more socially comfortable. In one of my classes we were to have our first exam, and I wanted to make sure I passed. Usually I enjoy working alone, but I wanted to see what difference it would make for me to work with others. I was amazed at the amount of ideas and tips I was able to put forward to help everyone pass. About two weeks ago I would have never wanted to work with others.”


“This activity scared me, for I felt embarrassed to say anything to these strangers. I didn’t want people to think I am the weird freshman on campus. After I had done this all day, I began to realize that it became easier to say ‘hello’ to the people I passed by. I also began to take notice that the people didn’t think I was some weirdo, and laugh at me. They all just looked happy that someone said something to them and smiled back at me. Seeing the people smile made me happy and put a smile on my face as well.”

“As corny as this was, it managed to keep me in a decent mood throughout the day into the evening. I’ve realized that if you walk around the halls with a frown on your face it will put you in an uncertain, negative mood. One smile that you send out to a peer can change their day for the better.”


“Thank you for reminding me that there is always more room to grow.”

“I have realized that to be successful in life that one must go through many uncomfortable moments.”

“After each exercise, it became clearer that the more insecure I felt about completing the task before hand, the more I was able to learn from it.”

“It was evident that after reviewing all of the exercises that the ones that helped me the most were the ones that I feared the most.”

“Doing these six tasks was the most stressful and anxiety-driven experience of my life. They have also opened up a new door for me to explore myself … I hope to continue the process of expanding my comfort zone so that employers are willing to give me a chance to show what I can really do.”

“Thank you for teaching me to take risks.”

Ready to accept the challenge? Here is your assignment.

Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote, “Do one thing each day that scares you.”
I once met two brothers, students in my class, who – despite having characteristics of introverts – were outgoing, friendly, and always willing to tackle new challenges. Having lunch with them one day, I discovered their secret. Each and every morning, as their mother sent them off to school, their mother said: “Do one thing today that scares you.”
We must realize that our brains are hard-wired, from the days of the cave men, to flee from danger. But in today’s society, where interpersonal skills are so highly valued, we need to learn to overcome fear. Otherwise fear prevents us from achieving, and it takes a far greater bite out of our life than we should permit it to do.
While not all fears should be overcome, many fears cause us to be anxious in social situations. To overcome these and related fears, each of us needs to seek to “expand our comfort zone.”
As you expand your comfort zone, you actually grow as a person to fill out these new boundaries.
If you have a larger comfort zone, and continue to push the edges of it out, you really do grow as an individual – you have more experiences, undertake more learning, and acquire more wisdom.
Understand the Need to Say “Yes”!
In the 2008 movie “Yes Man,” Jim Carrey plays Carl, who reluctantly promises to stop being a "No Man" and vows to answer "Yes!" to every opportunity, request or invitation that presents itself thereafter. While the result (in the movie) is both hilarious and, at times, moving, the movie is actually based upon a real experiment. In fact, after the movie, some individuals chose to say “Yes!” for an entire week. Here’s one blog post indicating the results:
If saying “Yes!” to everything for a week is too much of a challenge, then consider an alternative – calculated activities to expand your “comfort zone.” For much of the past 30 years, I’ve taken on the challenge of expanding my comfort zone. Being a severe introvert, I first learned how to socialize at receptions and similar events (a skill I am still working on). I began to give speeches and presentations, first to small groups; this evolved into my current ability to give speeches to a several hundred or a few thousand people at various conferences without any undue nervousness.
Each and every one of us has her or his own “comfort zone.” Studies have shown that 40% of college students possess social anxiety – i.e., shyness. And the remaining 60% possess anxiety in other circumstances, such as public speaking, meeting someone new for the first time, etc. The truth is that each and every one of us can expand their comfort zone, significantly, over time. And college is a great place to undertake this effort.
Why do this? Life’s magic occurs largely outside your current comfort zone. If you want to suck all the marrow out of life, as I do, you need to be willing to put yourself out there into areas of “discomfort.” Then, as you adjust, you become more and more comfortable in those situations, thereby expanding your comfort zone, you actually grow as a person to fill out these new boundaries.
If you develop a larger comfort zone, and continue to push the edges of it out, you really do grow as an individual – you have more experiences, undertake more learning, and acquire more wisdom.
In short, you experience life more fully.
As an added bonus, when you interview for a job in your career field you will be a better interviewee, and job candidate. The better jobs go to the graduates who are more personable and well-rounded!
Your Assignment: 
First, watch the following TedX talk, only six minutes long: “Measuring Comfort Zones” by Marcus Taylor at TEDxMelbourne. (6 minutes).
Then, for each of the next nine weeks, choose two activities each week from the list below. Choose those activities that scare you – i.e., those activities that expand your comfort zone. Please note that you may not repeat any activity.
At the end of each week, you should write down your progress in your journal. Schedule a reminder on your smart phone for the same day and time, once a week for nine weeks, to record your journal entries.
Your journal entries might start off in the following manner:
I expanded my comfort zone over the past week by undertaking two activities I would not have normally undertaken.
For the first activity I … (Describe the activity. What was the result for you? How did it make you feel?) As a result of all of this experience, I have realized that ….
For the second activity I … (Describe the activity. What was the result for you? How did it make you feel?) As a result of all of this experience, I have realized that ….
Here are the activities to choose from:
  1. Eat something different – a food item you have not tried in at least a year.
  2. Give at least three people compliments on any day, when you normally would not (counts as one activity).
  3.  Smile at (all) strangers, and say “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” or “Hi” to all the people you pass by, for one entire day – and wherever you are!
  4. Get to sleep (bed) one hour earlier for four nights straight, and at the same time each night (this counts as one activity).
  5. Speak up in a class – when you normally would not speak up.
  6.  Go to an on-campus event or which you typically would not go to, or engage in a new activity on-campus.
  7. Thank a friend or family member for their ongoing support.
  8. Tell someone they are loved.
  9. Let go of your self-judgment for a day. And do something others would never think you would do. Feel good about yourself. If others think ill of you – they do not matter; they are no longer part of your personal universe.
  10. Perform on Karaoke night.
  11. Show three friends or acquaintances the benefits of the “Power Pose” and show them the video (Google search: “TedX Power Pose”).
  12. Unplug your t.v. and video games for one entire week.
  13.  Use the writing center on-campus for assistance in reviewing the draft of an essay or paper.
  14.  Do your math homework in the math lab, seeking assistance when needed.
  15. Ask for a tutor.
  16. Form a study group, or join one, during the next seven days.
  17. See a professor for guidance on “how to do better” in a particular class, or on a particular assignment.
  18. See a professor for tips or career paths and/or “how to best network to find jobs or internships.”
  19. Obtain counseling at the student health center to talk through a problem or to seek ideas on how to relieve stress.
  20. Apologize to someone you have done wrong / admit you were wrong.
  21. Write a “personal log entry” in which you forgive someone for a wrong done to you. Let go of bitterness and anger. Let go of a grudge. (Whether you choose to communicate your forgiveness to the other person is up to you, and dependent upon the circumstances.)
  22. Perform three “random acts of kindness” in one day (counts as one activity). For ideas on random acts of kindness you might undertake, Google search the term “random acts of kindness.”
  23. Go up to a stranger in a student dining or coffee shop area. Introduce yourself and ask him or her if you can ask them a few questions, for an assignment you are working on. Find out the person’s name, major or occupation, hometown, and what they like most and least about the college or the program they are in.
  24. Change your group of friends (i.e., don’t “lie down with dogs”), or disassociate yourself over time from one friend who tends to drag you down.
  25. Undertake a civic engagement activity with others.
  26. Post a “success tip” once a day, each day, or your dorm room door or another place on campus, or on your social media page, for five straight days. Make certain you indicate below the success tip your identity, such as: “This success tip provided courtesy of (your name).”

These exercises can be powerful, if you approach them with an open mind and a view toward personal growth.
Take the challenge. Do six of the exercises above, and record the results.
Adopt the mantra of continual self-improvement, in all aspects of life.

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