Whether we realize it or not, most of us put a lot of work into ensuring that certain things in our lives remain constant… few surprises, no uncomfortable challenges or unfamiliar boundaries.

What we treat as our personal “comfort zone” may be invisible, but it is very real and the longer we live within our ‘zone’ the more difficult it becomes to move beyond those boundaries… familiar places, people and activities, even the habits we long to break.

The thing is, for better or worse, life has a way of throwing us off-balance with unexpected events – loss of a job Y2mate, a death or illness in the family, an unexpected move or change in relationship. It’s usually at these times we are confronted by the boundaries we’ve created over time, making life transitions far more challenging.

Expanding your comfort zone doesn’t mean completely changing your life or doing something crazy. It’s about showing yourself that you can do more than you thought you could. Every single step you take, no matter how small, will have a positive effect on your self-confidence.

Most of us have built up some pretty sturdy walls around our comfort zone, so change will require deliberate, concerted effort. And I have found that it’s easier to expand the comfort zone in small, steady, steps than in great big leaps. But in order to do that, you need to intentionally take expansive action on a daily basis.

Following are a few painless ways you can begin to expand the boundaries of your comfort zone.

Try a new food: It’s easy to fall into eating the same foods, same meals over and over. Experimenting with a new-to-you food or cooking a new dish is a fun and easy way to begin getting comfortable with different experiences.

Go back to school: Take a class, learn a foreign language, take up an instrument or a new sport. Any of these activities will allow you to expand your knowledge and comfort zone in a rewarding yet unthreatening way because you’ll be surrounded by other people who are also learning something new.

Use public transportation: This one might be more fun that you think and you’ll be amazed at the discoveries you’ll make, the things you’ll see you never noticed before, and the really awesome people you’ll meet!

Eat at a restaurant by yourself: Does eating alone in public, especially in a sit-down restaurant, make you feel uncomfortable? Begin to increase your comfort level by practicing eating out for breakfast or lunch. You’re far more likely to see other solo diners and family groups during the day which will help to take some of the pressure off. Choose a lively dining spot with food you like that has relatively quick service. Bring something to read so you have someplace to look instead of continuously looking around the room and it will also help you to eat a little slower because you’ll be tempted to eat quickly to “escape.” To quickly sooth nerves after you’re first seated engage the waiter – smile, ask for recommendation, comment on the weather, etc. Even in a crowded restaurant wait staff appreciate and respond to a friendly smile and grateful customers.