“Wearing an outrageous wig in public…For the first minute or two of this challenge I felt very awkward and uncomfortable. It felt like everyone was looking at me and judging me negatively. However, it was amazing how quickly I stopped caring as much whether or not people thought I looked… weird” – James Fraser
Getting out of our comfort zones. Not something most of us do on a regular basis. Indeed, most of us spend much of our life safely inside our comfort zone, avoiding experiencing fear and anxiety at any cost. This is especially true in social situations. There can’t be anything worse than getting outside your comfort zone in public, right? Maybe starting up a conversation with a stranger at the mall, saying something to them that makes you look foolish, and getting disapproved of. Ouch. It is painful just thinking about it! But getting out of your comfort zone is non-negotiable if you want to become a better man.
James Fraser from Newfoundland Canada recently completed the first round of our Next Level Comfort Zone Challenges, and became a better man from doing so. Here’s his story.
My perspective about the importance of getting outside my comfort zone changed after meeting Michael Riley, a man on a mission to help men “be a total bad ass in all areas of life”. Michael has created a program called Next Level Comfort Zone Challenges, specifically designed to get his students outside their comfort zones socially through a series of fun, outlandish challenges.
As Michael describes,
“Some of the benefits of doing Next Level Comfort Zone Challenges:
- Break free from social anxiety, shyness, self-doubt and limiting beliefs
- Approach attractive strangers and start a conversation easily and effortlessly
- Create amazing relationships with like- minded people and have an awesome social life
- Say ‘yes’ to more opportunities
- Become more assertive and learn to say no to things you don’t want or want to do without feeling ‘bad’ or guilty
- Stop caring what people think of you
- Speak up in meetings, ask your boss for a raise, promotion or take on leadership roles
- Know on a deep level that you are good enough and deserve the best in life”
With all these potential benefits of the Next Level Comfort Zone Challenges, Michael had my attention pretty quickly! I decided to give his program a try, despite being very nervous about starting the program. Some of the challenges were so far outside my comfort zone that I couldn’t even imagine myself doing them!
With the incredible support and encouragement of Michael and the members of his Change Through Action Facebook group, I successfully worked through the challenges, gradually building up from the fairly easy challenge of recording a brief video log introducing myself to the members of the Facebook group, to the more difficult challenges such as these ones I outline below….
The Next Level Comfort Zone Challenges
These are my three favorite Next Level Comfort Zone Challenges. Each challenge put me into a situation in which I did something unusual socially that made me feel uncomfortable, giving me the opportunity to push through my fears and reduce my concern about what other people think of me.
Wear An Outrageous Wig In Public And Buy A Coffee/Drink
For this challenge I bought an afro wig from Dollarama, put it on, and walked around the mall for about five minutes, including stopping at Tim Hortons to buy a coffee.
Here I am, just as I was beginning the challenge:
For the first minute or two of this challenge I felt very awkward and uncomfortable. It felt like everyone was looking at me and judging me negatively. However, it was amazing how quickly I stopped caring as much whether or not people thought I looked funny and weird.
Wig At The Mall
The most amusing part of the challenge was that I had conversations with two people while wearing the wig, and both of them carried on totally normal conversations with me without even mentioning the wig. This seemed to be the same experience that other students in the program had as well, with people they encountered during the challenge not saying anything about the odd hair and not seeming to really care.
By the end of the five minute challenge, I still felt a little uncomfortable for sure, but had a new sense of ease, starting to feel more like it is alright for me to act how I want to act socially instead of behaving in a way to get other people’s approval.
Meditate In A Shopping Mall
This challenge involved sitting down on the floor in the middle of a busy shopping mall, closing my eyes, and starting to meditate.
I took this picture just as I was sitting down on the floor to begin the challenge. You can tell I don’t look particularly comfortable(!):
Sitting on the floor in the mall, while getting some odd looks…
The most difficult part of this challenge was taking the action of actually sitting down on the floor, because it seemed like such an odd thing to do, and would therefore draw attention to me right away. I walked around the mall for literally an hour feeling too nervous to do it, before I finally got so frustrated with myself for wasting time and not pushing through my fear that I finally went ahead with it.
So I sat down on the floor inside the mall in front of the entrance to the Bluenotes clothing store, with my legs crossed and my eyes closed, and started meditating. For the first 30 seconds I was extremely anxious, and felt like everyone around me thought I was crazy. Each time I opened my eyes I definitely noticed a few people giving me some weird looks, which did make me feel quite uncomfortable. I only had to do the challenge for 60 seconds so I knew I could push through the fear for that long. After about 30 seconds the anxiety started to diminish a little bit. Although I continued feeling uncomfortable during the whole challenge, I successfully made it to the 60 second mark, stood up, and walked away.
Afterwards I felt proud for persevering through the challenge, not letting the intense fear prevent me from doing something I wanted to do, and continuing to make progress towards not being quite so concerned about what others think of me.
Wear A Mask In Public And Say Hi To Strangers
For this challenge I bought a mask at Dollarama (the most non-threatening mask I could possibly find, to minimize the chances during this challenge of someone thinking I had a robbery in progress!), put the mask on, walked into Walmart, walked around in the store for a little bit, picked up some Maxwell House coffee, went to the cash to pay for it, and then left.
Here I am picking out the mask at Dollarama:
Purchasing the mask I used for the Wear A Mask In Public challenge
I decided to stream this challenge live via Facebook to the Change Through Action group, which made the challenge even more scary, but added a layer of accountability — once I started streaming live I wouldn’t be able to back out of doing the challenge because the fear of backing out of the challenge live in front of the group was even more intense than the fear of doing the challenge. Doing this challenge live had the added benefit of me getting real-time supportive comments from other group members, which made me feel less like I was just a crazy person walking around in a mask, and more like I was a member of a group completing a fun challenge.
So I sat down on a bench outside the store, put the mask on, and started the Facebook live stream. I walked in the front doors of the store, starting to panic a little bit as it sunk in how crazy this challenge was. My plan was to get in and get out of the store as quickly as humanly possible.
Making the challenge worse, the mask partially blocked my field of vision, so I came close to running into a few people as I was entering the store!
Walking around the store, I definitely got some interesting looks. I was surprised again though that nobody stopped me or said anything.
With my vision partially obstructed, I had trouble finding the aisle with the coffee, so wandered aimlessly around the store for a few minutes.
Once I finally found the coffee, I grabbed it and went up to pay for it as quickly as possible. The cashier actually seemed to find the mask rather amusing and got a laugh out of it. I then left the store, completing the challenge!
This is the challenge I had been the most nervous about beforehand because it was going to draw so much attention to me. It was the challenge that made me feel the most socially abnormal, and I figured some people would think I was being stupid and childish. After completing this challenge I felt elated about pushing through such intense fear and couldn’t stop smiling. I felt a particularly large boost in confidence right away for days after as a result of knowing I would no longer let fear control me.
Why You Should Do The Next Level Comfort Zone Challenges
As a result of doing these challenges I began noticing changes in my daily life right away. I felt more confident instantly, and noticed that I was not so concerned about what other people thought of me anymore. In fact, I found that doing these comfort zone challenges was the most beneficial thing I’ve ever done for building confidence, reducing anxiety, and freeing myself to act more authentically socially instead of acting in a way to get approval from everyone I meet.
The first time I noticed something major had changed for me was in a meeting at my job, during which a co-worker was giving a presentation. In this meeting there was a mix of people well above my pay grade, including senior managers/scientists. Throughout my whole life I would have sat through the meeting quietly, not having the courage to speak up and give my views or ask questions. In this particular meeting, all of a sudden I started speaking up without even thinking about it, and asking questions about the project that was being presented on. As a result of speaking up and asking questions, I was approached later on and given an exciting opportunity to potentially get involved with the project. It’s hard to overstate how amazing it felt to no longer be sitting on the sidelines but rather being free to speak my mind!
Every other student from the program I talked to seemed to find similar benefits in their daily lives.
Another benefit I got out of the program was having the opportunity to meet and connect with Michael and the really cool students in the program. We bonded as a group quickly through our mutual desire to improve our lives and push through our fears, and our willingness to get vulnerable. I have stayed in contact with several members of this group, despite living on opposite ends of the planet.
I would definitely recommend doing Next Level Comfort Zone Challenges, especially if you want to learn how to push through your fears and free yourself up socially. If you live in Newfoundland, Canada, maybe we can do some challenges together!
James Fraser is on a journey of adventure and personal development that has involved trekking for 12 days through the Himalayan mountains to Mount Everest Base Camp, attending two 10 day Vipassana meditation retreats in Montreal, attending two shamanic retreats in the Andes mountains of Ecuador, bungee jumping in Nepal, and paragliding in Cuba. A believer in the philosophy of being “so good they can’t ignore you”, James writes about his projects designed to develop new valuable skills (computer programming, web writing, entrepreneurship) and become a better person in all areas of life on Medium. To connect with James, get in touch with him on Facebook and Twitter.