Using “Yes, And” to Break Free of Your Comfort Zone


As a father, there are few things that bring me greater joy than simply hearing one of my kids call out, “Daddy!” to me.


However…at 9pm, after they should be asleep, I am downstairs snuggled up on the couch, engrossed in a TV show, and trying to unwind after a long day of work and parenting? 

Not so much.

This happened (again) last night, and (again), I found myself a little annoyed. Not because it’s all that hard to check on them (it really isn’t). But because once I was on that couch, I was comfortable. Like, SUPER COMFORTABLE.

And my annoyance was not about whether they needed help (they did, but not really…), or if it was justified (eh...), or if it was something they could handle on their own (they most assuredly could have). It was about the fact that I was so comfortable I had a tremendous feeling of inertia that turned anything requiring me to leave my comfortable cocoon into a huge annoyance.

But I love my kids, so I did…

When It’s Good to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

It is one thing to want to stay in your comfort zone while watching TV at the end of the day. It is entirely another to limit yourself to your comfort zone when it comes to your life, your career, your relationships, or your business.

I made a video explaining the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and how you can use “yes, and” to help you do it. Scroll on down to watch it!

Here’s a sneak peek of what I cover on the video:

  • Redefining the “comfort zone” - I don’t think “comfort zone” is actually the best term for what people mean when they tell you to get out of it.
  • The “yes, and” approach - How “yes, and” can help, one small step at a time.
  • Analyzing progress - It’s important to reflect and learn from our experiences expanding our comfort zone.
  • Practical strategies - Actionable steps for personal and professional growth.
  • How this applies to leadership  - You’ll find some tips on how you can help the people you lead expand their comfort zone as well.

If you prefer reading over watching, there's a transcript below the video.

If you or your organization would like my help in breaking out of the comfort zone, get in touch with me here.


Have you ever felt just so warm and comfortable, like maybe it's a rainy day out, you got your sloth blanket wrapped around you and your warm cup of coffee or tea, and you just don't ever wanna leave that state? Of course you do.

We all do, and it is awesome. No one wants to leave a great state of comfort. Now, it's one thing, though, if you're talking about staying comfortable on a rainy day or a cold day where you're just got nothing to do, so you wanna just stay wrapped up in your blanket. It's a completely other thing, though, if we're talking about staying stuck in your comfort zone. So if you ever feel listless, kind of unmotivated, like things aren't moving forward for you, or if you are a leader and you sort of feel like your people are not that engaged or operating below their potential, like you believe in them more than they believe in themselves. 

So if you ever feel sort of listless, like unmotivated, disengaged, kind of stuck spinning your wheels where you are, or if you're a leader and you feel like you're getting a lot of resistance from your people, they're unwilling to try new things or stretch themselves, and this could lead to two things. Number one, it could make you feel like you believe in your people more than they believe in themselves. Or number two, it could be causing a lot more problems and headache and stress for you because you're spending so much time and energy dealing with the resistance then this video is for you.

Hey, I'm Avish Parashar. I'm a professional speaker.

I've done improv comedy for 30 years, 30 plus years, and for more than 20 years now, I have used improv as a tool as a speaker and trainer to help individuals and organizations respond to change, communicate more effectively, innovate, and yes, get out of their comfort zones. 

So we're all familiar with the comfort zone, and if you've ever listened to a speaker or a motivator or trainer or leader, you know, they always stress the importance of getting out of the comfort zone, and I do as well. However, I think for the sake of this discussion, we might want to reframe a little bit about what we mean by comfort zone, because frankly, there's nothing wrong with being comfortable. And I think part of the reason people struggle is because there's this constant drive to do more and achieve more and never just be satisfied. So comfort's not necessarily a bad thing. 

I think when most people are talking about the comfort zone and getting out of your comfort zone, what we're really talking about is getting out of your routine, getting out of what you feel is familiar, getting out of your default, and most importantly, getting out of the zone of what you believe is possible. So when we're talking about comfort, we're more talking about your perception of possibility and capability, not necessarily comfort. So taking that as what I mean by comfort zone, there are a few reasons why you'd want to get out of your comfort zone, because staying in the comfort zone can lead to some problems.

Number one, as stated in the beginning, stagnation. And this is okay. If you're totally happy with where you are right now in life and happy with where you are going, what your path is, then it's not necessarily important. However, many people, they feel stuck and stagnant, and they're not sure why. And they look externally like, oh, it's the job or I'm overwhelmed. But a lot of it is that because of those externalities, they retreat to this place of comfort and routine and familiarity, and all that does is breed more stagnation. So staying in the comfort zone can lead you to feeling stagnant and stuck. 

Number two, staying in that comfort zone can lead you to missed opportunities. I had firsthand experience with this a number of years ago. You know, when I was first starting on my speaking journey using improv comedy, I bumped into someone, kind of met through a networking event, a guy who was really in the business of putting together videos and training materials. And I happened to mention to him, I do improv.

And he said, oh, I love improv. I've wanted to put together a training series on improv for a long time. Do you want to partner with me? So of course I said, yes, and I jumped on it. And that led to some products that led to some revenue and it led to a really great friendship now for years and years. But what's funny is when I spoke with him about it, I wasn't the first person he had approached about this. He had actually asked someone else earlier who he came across to do improv and said, hey, I want to do this product. Do you want to do it with me? And that person wasn't comfortable with that at that moment. They felt they weren't at the place yet.

They were like, nah, and I totally get it. We all have to make our own decisions, but his unwillingness to get out of his comfort zone meant the opportunity moved and passed on and I was able to take advantage of it. So staying in that comfort zone can make you miss opportunities. 

Number three, it can actually increase your level of stress and unhappiness, which is weird and ironic because one of the biggest reasons we stay in our comfort zone is because we want to lower our stress, right? We feel that it puts extra stress on our body to do new things and it's uncertain and there's anxiety. We just want to be calm and less stressed and happier. So we stay in our comfort zone. The irony though is when you stay in the familiar and routine, you can get that little voice in the back of your head that isn't comfortable there.

And that's a weird thing, right, in the comfort zone. But it's like, there should be something more. Oh, I'm not working on this. I'm not doing that. And there's a difference between distress and eustress, right? Distress is the kind of stress that we mostly think about when we use the word stress, which is negative. It makes us feel bad. It makes the hormones go crazy. 

But eustress is a positive response. It's a type of stress that actually leads to more engagement and growth and positive hormones and feeling. And when you get out of your comfort zone in the right way, it will often create a feeling of eustress where, yeah, it can be hard and you’ve got to figure some things out and it's a little bit tiring, but the end effect is positive. You're happy you did it. Whereas staying in the comfort zone often leads to distress because we feel like we're spinning our wheels and not moving forward. So ironically, the thing we're doing to lower our stress increases it. 

Finally, number four, and this is the biggest one for me, is staying in our comfort zone, our routine, our default, our zone of capability or perceived capability, is that it ultimately can lead to a lot of regrets and what ifs. You know, there are regrets of omission and regrets of commission. A regret of omission is when you regret something that you didn't do. And a regret of commission is when you regret something that you did do. And there have been studies about people who are dying and what they regret. And they show that the farther away you move from an event, the greater you have a regret of omission. Which means that maybe immediately you have a stronger regret for doing something like you're happy you skipped out, you're happy you said no because it let you stay in your comfort zone. But in the long term, when people look back on their lives, they regret the things they didn't do.

Which means that yeah, right now staying in your comfort zone might feel good for the moment, but down the road, if you just keep staying in that comfort zone, that zone of perceived capability, you're going to look back with regret because staying in that zone is gonna lead to regrets of omission. You're gonna miss out on doing lots of things you could have tried, you should have tried. So you gotta overcome that short-term regret to avoid the long-term one.

So what do we do about this then? As a speaker, as I mentioned, I use improv comedy to teach professional and business and communication skills. And one of the biggest ones I talk about is the improv comedy idea of saying “yes, and” instead of “yes, but.” So it's a foundational idea to the world of improv, right? You're taught that “yes, and” on stage is the key to working with others, to responding to change, to improving creativity. 

And offstage I found “yes, and” is incredibly powerful as well, both personally and professionally. It improves communication and relationships. It lets us respond to change in the real world and it opens up innovation. And for me, “yes, and” and “yes, but” is a simple way of knowing whether you are in your comfort zone or not. Because when we say “yes, but,” we're saying yes, I'm gonna step up to the edge of my comfort zone, but I'm gonna stay right here where I'm comfortable. And when you say “yes, and,” you say yes, I'm gonna step up to the edge and I'm gonna take a little step out.

So one of the things in my keynotes, in my training workshops, I go deep into what “yes, and” is and how it's different from “yes, but.” And I talk about the power of just saying little “yes, ands” to get you out of your comfort zone, not in a huge way, but in a little way.

And you can use that as well. So here are a few ways you can use improv comedy ideas, and to start getting a little bit out of your comfort zone about your out of your zone of perceived capability and start moving forward and avoiding some of those consequences we talked about.

Number one, think small. I know as a motivational speaker, I bill myself as the world's only motivational improviser. I'm supposed to be talking about taking massive action and jumping in with both feet, burning your boats and whatnot.

That is kind of exhausting. And I think massive action can work in some cases, but often it just leads to burnout or it leads to procrastination. So what I advise in my keynotes is to think about the power of taking small steps, just little steps out of your comfort zone, right? We've all got the amygdala, the reptile part of the brain. I think it's back here on the brainstem. And that is what holds the fight or flight response. And when you think of massive action, it triggers the amygdala and the fight or flight.

Big changes trigger the amygdala, which is why we either resist it with a fight or we avoid it and run away with flight. But when you think small, when you think of a small enough step that gets you out of your comfort zone, but it's not so big that it triggers the amygdala, it makes it much easier to take action. When I'm doing a workshop or a keynote, I play a small improv game that really stresses this. And it's amazing the things you can build and how fast you can get going when you think in terms of small steps.

Number two, analyze as you go. So when you're gonna take small steps, the key to making that work is to periodically stop, pay attention, and think about “how did that step work? Should I take the next step in that same direction or should I change direction?” This is something that really matters in improv comedy. When you're creating comedy on the stage, whether you're doing something solo or with partners, one of the most dangerous things you can do is to have a fixed path. Like you get a suggestion from the audience and then you say, oh, here's where this scene's gonna go. That's when you get in trouble. 

As an improviser, what you have to do is you have to take a little step, say a sentence, make your “offer” as it's called an improv and then see how your partner responds and let that change your next step. This is what we talk about in my keynotes is this power of act, analyze, adjust. And too often what happens is let's say you watch this, you're like, I'm gonna get out of my comfort zone and you start down a path. But then you make that a fixed path and all of a sudden at some point that fight or flight response is gonna kick in or that won't work and you're gonna retreat back to your comfort zone.

So the key is to, after you take a step you don't have to do this like every five minutes but periodically stop. Think about, “okay, what are the steps I took? Did they work? Why did they, why did they not? And let me make an adjustment then. Let me make my next step a little bit different.” And when you do this, it'll get you out of your comfort zone over and over again instead of linearly, which is gonna lead to a path that's gonna take you back. 

Number three, and I will admit my own personal failing, this is the hardest one for me as a speaker, as a content creator, as whatever. And that is to focus on process, not product. Or another way of phrasing that is focus on activity, not results. When it comes to getting out of our comfort zone, we often just want to have a reward for doing it. Like, oh, if I get out of my comfort zone I should get these results, right? That's what Avish said. That's what these speakers tell me. But results are the function of so many more things than just your actions, right? There's a lot of externalities, there's environment, there's other people's response, there's algorithms, there's random changes, like whatever you're focusing on. Even things you think you have direct control on, right? There's mood, there's biochemistry, there's...

So focus on your process and your activity. If you're like, “I'm gonna get out of my comfort zone by waking up a little earlier, or by going for a walk, or by writing, or by having conversations, or network,” whatever it is, yes, the results matter and you want to get results. But make your assessments, your act, analyze, adjust about the process.

“What can I adjust in the process?” Not, “oh, I tried this, it didn't work, let me give up.” But rather, “did I do what I said I would?” And if you didn't, then go to analysis and adjustment. This is very hard for me, right? I will often employ a strategy and I'm just so focused on the results that I get overwhelmed when it doesn't work and I'll go, ”this is stupid.” And that is my failing, and I'm working on that to get out of my comfort zone again. You can do the same. 

Number four, embrace failure.The one thing that separates people who can perform really good improv from those who struggle is that the good improvisers embrace the possibility of failure. They know that improv might mess up, it's a part of the art form, and they don't get worried about that. They realize that it happens, it's not a big deal, and it's not the end of the world. Whereas improvisers who struggle are so worried about not pleasing the audience or not doing the game right, it cuts off their creativity, they don't do well. 

Offstage, the same is true. If you're getting out of your comfort zone, out of your zone of perceived capability, chances are you're going to fail, right? Because you're not doing the things you know work and the things you know you're capable of. And you have to go into it embracing that possibility and knowing that, hey, this might not work. And then use that as a learning opportunity, not as an end result, right? 

This kind of combines the idea of act, analyze, adjust, and focus on process, not product. It's embracing failure and knowing what, knowing that it's a real possibility. And it can be a good thing because from our failures is how we learn, from our successes, we just keep doing the same thing. And that's going to happen out of your comfort zone. 

Number five, getting out of your comfort zone doesn't always have to be uncomfortable. This is one of the reasons why I reframed “comfort zone” as “zone of perceived capability.” Now, there is a whole school of thought around motivation, engagement, dopamine, all this stuff, where the discomfort is the point. That's a separate topic, separate video. 

When we're talking about growth though, getting out of our comfort zone really just means doing things that you don't feel you can do, doing new things, things you might fail at. And that doesn't have to be uncomfortable. So you don't have to come up with the most miserable approach. So let's just say you want to build an exercise habit. And you might think, oh, the no pain, no gain. I have to go pay a lot of money to a personal trainer who's going to get on me and force me and I'm going to be miserable, but that's what I have to do. That's one approach. But another is that you could find something pleasurable, like going for a walk, and go for a walk with a friend.

Now that makes it pleasurable. It's still out of your zone of capability or routine because it's not something you're doing. So don't always feel that getting out of the comfort zone has to be uncomfortable. Again, that's why I rephrase it as routine, default or perceived capability. So there's my perspective on the comfort zone, why it's dangerous to stay in there, why it's important to get out and five ways you can get started getting out of the comfort zone for yourself, or you can encourage your team to do these same things if you are a leader, right? Get them to take small steps, have them periodically evaluate what they're doing, make sure failure is not final for them, make sure they are comfortable with making mistakes as they're getting out of their comfort zone and make it more pleasurable and fun for them as well. 

If you have questions, put them in the comments below. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you get out of your comfort zone. And if you are a leader or a conference organizer and you think this message will be of value to your team, your department, your organization, please be sure to contact me and let me know, I would love to work with you!

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