It's also important to realize that everyone's comfort zone is different. What might be totally normal and safe-feeling for you might be someone else's worst fear. And what might really make someone else feel happy and regulated might be a huge scary leap for you. It's personal, and only you can own your own recipe of comfort vs. discomfort. Below are two (fictional) examples that I made up that illustrate just how different two people can be:
What's great about comfort zones is they expand and grow. The recipe is simple: pick something that you either avoid or that is uncomfortable. Then do it (or try to do it!) a little each day, or week, or minute. Whatever works for you. Step away from what's nice/comfy/easy, and be a little awkward/scared/uncertain for a certain amount of time. Then step back. That's all it takes. Repeat this often with a small step you want to take. After enough minutes have been logged in which you have stepped out (and survived), you start to get more desensitized to whatever feeling makes you avoid it. It becomes more "normal." This is when you know that your circle of comfort has grown.
Your comfort zone will expand and expand as you try more and challenge yourself more. What you were once terrified of will become something you can do daily. A goal you thought you could not achieve will become a reality, or at least become much more reachable. Because it yields great results and personal growth, enduring discomfort for a short while actually becomes addictive. It's not the discomfort or risk that is so addictive; it's the incredible sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction that comes with pushing boundaries that becomes so wonderful we crave more. We become more willing to sacrifice our comfort because we know a reward will come afterward, whether the reward is simply satisfaction and pride or a prize or achievement.
I make it a habit of stepping outside my comfort zone pretty often. However, I decided recently that I ask my students to go beyond their comfort zones, so I should take an even bigger leap than usual. Although I perform on stage very regularly, and have been part of many professionally produced recordings, I have always been reluctant to record myself casually and share these recordings with anyone, especially not on social media. I was too perfectionistic. I could always find a flaw in each performance. Nothing ever made the cut. To me, a live performance "disappeared" from the audience's ears once played, but a recording could be relived over and over. I felt great discomfort with displaying any imperfection in a public and "re-playable" way.
I joined the Facebook group Etude of the Week, in which flutists are invited to share their rendition of an assigned etude with other members of the group. I made myself record every etude assigned and post each one, no matter how much time I had, and no matter how imperfect they were. The first several times were really difficult for me, but the group was incredibly supportive. Several months into my weekly postings, I can say I have been completely and thoroughly desensitized to sharing video on social media. I have also found a new voice and a way of sharing my gift, have learned a lot about my playing, and made many improvements. This is definitely a topic for another post!
So please, consider making yourself do something you avoid. Step outside that comfort zone whenever you can. You can always step back if you've gone too far. Just try again later. The key is to know what you don't want to do, and take that first step.
Have fun trying, and feel free to ask questions in the comment section below. I'm always happy to help!