Think back to a time you felt truly excited, happy, exhilarated and proud of yourself. Chances are, it was the result of accomplishing something new, trying something different, or pushing yourself outside of the boundaries you normally set for yourself. Big moments we remember fondly often started as something we were nervous about or even downright scared to do. But we did them — and afterwards we felt great about it.

If you’ve been in the same position or industry for some time, you likely have developed and honed a certain set of skills. That’s why at any stage of your career it’s a great idea to learn to branch out. Take a class on a subject that’s not your area of expertise. Learn a new skill. Volunteer to lead an effort at your company that will require you to think in new ways.

Comfort zones are an important part of life. They keep us from partaking in reckless and self-destructive behavior. They create a safe environment for us to live our daily lives. Knowing the parameters of our comfort zone is valuable self-knowledge.

But sometimes, it’s valuable to step outside of that comfort zone. Why? Well, the science is simple. When we test ourselves, we step up to the challenge and do some pretty amazing stuff that we didn’t realize we were capable of. When feeling the right amount of anxiety about a situation, we respond by being more productive and creative.

And the more often we intentionally push ourselves out of our comfort zone, the better we will be at handling difficult or unanticipated changes when they occur. In the same way, the more you leave your comfort zone, the easier it becomes to do so. That way, the next time you want to try something that’s scary, you’ll have an easier time mustering up the courage.

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