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Podcast: Comfort Zones Aren’t Where We Grow

Today’s guest has a simple plan for radical life changes: Step outside of your comfort zone.  Lucia Giovannini is a former supermodel-turned-psychologist whose new book advises that the path to a meaningful life lies in stretching our intellectual and emotional abilities.  Lucia believes that making a concentrated effort to learn and grow on a daily basis can make you a happier person, and help you realize your true potential. And isn’t that the goal of a well-lived life?

Listen in as Lucia gives easy, practical tips for expanding your horizons, reaching the best of your abilities, using your talents to serve the world, and finding inner happiness.

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Guest information for ‘Comfort Zone’ Podcast Episode

Lucia Giovannini is world renowned sensation, a former international Italian supermodel – turned transformational speaker and author of 13 books.  Her newest book, A Whole New Life, has been translated into 8 languages, and is available in English from Post Hill Press, a Simon & Schuster imprint.  

Her 25 years of inspiring work through conferences &  has been influenced by growing up throughout different parts of Italy and Africa, immersed in the beauty and the pain of those unforgettable lands. Her work crafts a synergy between traditional psychological techniques, motivational practices, and ancient eastern rituals that turns her seminars into profound experiences for Asian and European audiences alike.

Lucia holds a doctorate in psychology and counseling, a bachelor’s degree in psychoanthropology, and is an international affiliate of the American Psychology Association. Please visit her online at https://www.luciagiovannini.com/

About The Psych Central Podcast Host

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.

Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Comfort Zone’ Episode

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: Welcome to the Psych Central Podcast, where each episode features guest experts discussing psychology and mental health in everyday plain language. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.

Gabe Howard: Welcome to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Podcast. Calling into the show today, we have Lucia Giovannini, a former Italian supermodel who holds a doctorate in psychology and counseling and a bachelors in psychoanthropology and is a member of the American Psychological Association. Lucia, welcome to the show.

Lucia Giovannini: Gabe, I am really honored to be here.

Gabe Howard: I am extremely excited to talk to you about our subject, which is stepping outside your comfort zone. But before we get started, I really just want to ask — What’s it like to go from an Italian supermodel to a doctorate? For some reason in our culture, we tend to think of those things as mutually exclusive. But obviously, they’re not.

Lucia Giovannini: Well, yeah. Well, for me, it was actually stepping out of my comfort zone. I started working as a model, and then it soon became a full-time career. And at the beginning it was awesome. So I moved to Milan, and I was living in a beautiful house. I was traveling the world, et cetera, et cetera. But after a while, a short while, I started feeling depressed because since I was a child, I’ve always felt a deep calling for creating a better world, not just for us humans, but also for the other beings that share this planet with us like animals, trees, mother earth. And so really listening to this call again, and I had to do this going through a depression, sadly. But the depression was actually a wakeup call for me. So in order to follow my true calling, I had to leave everything that I had created so far — my house, my career, my marriage, at that point. So it was really stepping out of my comfort zone.

Gabe Howard: When you talk about stepping out of your comfort zone, do you literally just mean doing something that makes you uncomfortable or is it — is it deeper than that?

Lucia Giovannini: Definitely doing something that makes me uncomfortable, but it’s even more than that. In my case, for example, I was scared to death to let go of all my certainties. And so it’s really going beyond fear, going beyond all your conditioning beliefs that say you won’t make it, you are not good enough, you will not be able to survive, et cetera, et cetera. So it’s really uncovering new territories or traveling in, you know, new paths.

Gabe Howard: Did the people around you see this as concerning or a cry for help or self sabotage? Going from, you know, modeling and like you said, all that glamour over to academia, which again, people see as really two different worlds. So was there concern from the people around you that you were running away or abandoning something that used to be important to you?

Lucia Giovannini: Well, they actually thought I was crazy. I tried to speak, you know, with my husband at that time, and he said, well, seek help because there’s something wrong with you. Then I spoke to my friends, my co-workers, the other models, or photographers, or you know, fashion designers who are my friends. And all of them said, “Well, you know, I think there’s something wrong with you. Please seek help, seek professional help.” So it was really difficult. And even after I took that decision and I let everything go, all my friends abandoned me because they thought I had gone crazy. So that was the other harder part. One hard part was, you know, the money and the other, the other part was my friends and all the people around me, because they couldn’t understand that depression was a reality. My soul talking to me, trying to reach me and signaling me that there was a new path there for me.

Gabe Howard: And we can kind of see why we hold it, you know, beauty and glamour and money and fame in very high regard. So on one hand, I think they may have been concerned because after all, something that used to be important to you, you have now lost interest in. And then, of course, there’s that societal pressure of probably a lot of people wanted to be you. So they couldn’t understand why you were walking away from something that they saw as so desirable. Do you think for people out there who are walking away from something that they’ve spent a lot of time and effort in, that the reaction of their friends and family and support system is a barrier to them moving on?

Lucia Giovannini: Well, yeah, definitely, because, I mean, we as humans are social animals, so it’s not that we cannot make it alone. Of course we can. But it’s much more difficult if we don’t have a support system. And if all the people around us — our best friends, our partner, our family — doesn’t understand, you know, what we are going through, it’s not easy. And of course, in my case, I also doubted myself. Apparently, I had it all. So I also started out in myself thinking, have I really gone crazy? You know, am I really throwing away everything good that there is in my life? I mean, I was looking around me and all the other people seemed happy, my co-workers seemed happy, the other models, my husband seemed happy, at that time, my husband was a fashion model as well. So why are they happy? Why for them, it’s OK and it’s not for me? If the people around you don’t support you, it’s also easy that you start doubting yourself as well.

Gabe Howard: Obviously, we just met and I know it turned out okay for you and I know you’re doing wonderful things and great things, and I know that more importantly, you’re much happier now. But even as I’m listening to you, I’m thinking, oh, man, I don’t know. That’s a lot to give up. So I imagine that many people, when stepping outside their comfort zone, feel exactly the same way. What are some ways to get over that barrier or what are some ways to not only step outside of your comfort zone, but to do so when a lot of people — and people who are very meaningful to you — really aren’t backing that plan?

Lucia Giovannini: So I normally advise people to ask some coaching questions: What is the cost for me to stay in this situation? We normally focus on the cost that we pay to follow our dreams. We normally ask ourselves, OK, but if I do that, like if I leave my job, if I leave this relationship? If I don’t, I’ll leave my home town. What will be the cost that I will pay? I will have no money. I will have no friends, will fail, etc, etc. But we seldom focus on another question which is far more important. And it is — what is the cost that I’m paying if I stay here? If I stay in a job that I don’t like anymore? If I stay in a relationship that has nothing more to offer? If I stay in a situation that is my comfort zone but doesn’t make me grow, doesn’t nurture me anymore? Once you realize that the cost that you are paying is so high, then it really gives you a good motivation to go out of your comfort zone. Another thing is really to ask another coaching question, which is: If I didn’t have fear, if I didn’t feel fear, what would I do? Because normally we let fear advise us instead of letting love be our advisor. Normally we make decisions out of fear rather than making decisions out of love. And so that’s another new paradigm.

Gabe Howard: I really like what you said there. There’s a meme on Facebook that I really like and that says “Instead of imagining what could go wrong, imagine what could go right.” We’re afraid. We don’t want it to happen. It’s uncomfortable. It feels poorly. And we allow that to stop us from getting to the thing that feels positive or good or extraordinary. And then we end up sort of like right in the middle, right? Where we’re no longer afraid, but we’re also not excited. We’re safe. And that’s what a comfort zone is. Right?

Lucia Giovannini: Yeah. Actually, I think we should call it discomfort zone rather than comfort zone, because it becomes a prison after awhile. I mean, for me, I wasn’t so courageous to jump out of my comfort zone immediately. I spent, like, at least a couple of years, if not more, you know, in that depression, trying to get this thing changed. Lying to myself. Keeping on telling myself that I didn’t have any clarity on what I wanted. But internally I was very clear on what I wanted. It was just that it was too difficult to admit it even for myself. So I stayed in that discomfort zone for, like, a long time, and it became a prison. And this prison, it suffocates you. It takes all your energy, all your vitality. And so we call it the comfort zone. But it should really be called discomfort zone.

Gabe Howard: We’ll be right back after we hear from our sponsor.

Announcer: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counseling. Our counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counseling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.

Gabe Howard: We are back talking about ways to improve your life by stepping outside of your comfort zone. I think the idea of having safety can be a prison. And I think that that is really what is going to maybe challenge the audience, because the audience is going to think to themselves, wait a minute, if you’re saying that I’m safe, I’m in prison. Can you expand on that? And in a way to let people know that just because you’re safe or mediocre or OK, that doesn’t mean that you’re excelling or succeeding. It just means that you’re safe. And that “safe” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not necessarily a good thing either.

Lucia Giovannini: Well, I’d like to quote Maslow, you know, Abraham Maslow, the great psychologist of the last century?

Gabe Howard: Yes. 

Lucia Giovannini: He used to say that if you plan to not choose your capacities, if you plan to play safe, plan not to stretch yourself, you’ll be unhappy for your whole life. Of course, I’m not saying that we should jump off the cliff with no parachute or do stupid things. But the idea is to stretch ourselves because otherwise we can’t grow. Exactly the same as, you know, when we go to the gym. Say we lift weights — after a while, we need to increase the weights. Otherwise, we don’t train our muscles. If we train for a marathon or even just, you know, running after a while, maybe we started running five minutes and then we run in 10 minutes, then we run 15 minutes, then half an hour. Then we run faster because that’s the way we train. If we keep on running just for five minutes at the same speed for a year, then we are not really training. And that is so obvious when we talk about sports. But the same principle here applies to our inner world. If we don’t stretch ourselves, we don’t grow. And if we don’t grow, we don’t develop our capacities. And if we don’t develop our capacities, we’ll never know the full expression of our talents — we’ll never be self-actualized. I think the meaning of a life — of a human life — is really to use our capacities, our talents, to serve the world in some ways, to serve the communities. And so the only way to do that is really to stretch ourselves, to train ourselves. And in order to do that, we need to do new things to train exactly as we would in the physical sense.

Gabe Howard: Thank you so much. And I couldn’t agree more, and in preparing for this interview, I read a whole bunch of things that you wrote and one of the articles was stepping outside of your comfort zone. And it was a… it’s a short little article, and it has three things in there that you can do to step outside of your comfort zone. One of them is trust your gut. And I understand that and I’ve heard it before. And one of them was believe in yourself. And that makes sense. I understand why we have to believe in ourselves. But the one that really caught my eye and I’d like you to talk a little more on is the very first one. And it said do something ordinary in a non-ordinary way.

Lucia Giovannini: Yeah. So the idea there is to really let go of your fear of being judged by other people and to train yourself with little things like, for example, you could wear a pair of shoes of different colors or open your umbrella on a sunny day. Do something that is really ordinary but in a different way. So you will be, may be, judged by other people, but you just don’t care. You will catch the attention of other people, but it’s OK, because one of the limitations that we self-impose on ourselves is that we want to please other people, that we don’t want to be different from others. And yet our capacities and our talents are in our uniqueness. So if we don’t do things because of our fear of judgment, then we are limiting ourselves. And so this little exercise… and it can be, I don’t know, sing out loud, you know, while you are walking on the street. Just sing your preferred song and sing it out loud. It may be, you know, little things or even ask people favors, like, even people that you don’t know so well or your co-workers. But ask them weird favors like “Would you buy me a holiday?” They would look at you and say, “Have you gone nuts?” But it’s okay, because then you can say, it’s OK, I’m just, you know, doing an exercise. But the idea is really to be OK with other people’s judgment. To be OK if other people say no to you. So you’re more free to really be yourself.

Gabe Howard: One of the examples that you used in your article was brush your teeth with the wrong hand. So if you normally use your right hand, use your left hand. And I did this. I went ahead and brushed my teeth with the “wrong” hand. It was very difficult to do. And it took an ordinary habit, something like brushing my teeth. And it turned it into this, you know, 5-minute exercise and/or ordeal. It made something ordinary, non ordinary.

Lucia Giovannini: Absolutely. And this has also got to do with our awareness because we humans are creatures of habit. So, for example, we always brush our teeth in the same way. We don’t put our awareness on brushing our teeth, and that’s OK. But the exercise is precisely because then when you brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand, then of course you need to put your attention into that, and so that’s how we slowly, slowly change our habits. The same goes with — for example, it’s normal to wear our shoes when we go out — but when you wear two different sets of shoes like one in one color, and the other one of a different color, then you’ve done something different. Then you are more aware, you know, of how you dress, of the people looking at you. And then it brings your awareness to your everyday habit. And so once you’re more aware, you also can start deciding to add new habits. So you are doing new things instead of keeping on with your routine.

Gabe Howard: The other article that I loved was the 21-day challenge, and you give 10 examples of things that you can do over those 21 days. And there are some expected things in there, you know, exercise at least 20 minutes every day, improve your diet, throw away things that you don’t need anymore. And I think a lot of people can really relate to those. We see that a lot. And then there was a couple of suggestions that I think — while not as obvious as diet and exercise — I think people can really relate to, you know, like learn something new, or use positive words instead of negative words or be more creative. But there were three in that list that really gave me a moment to pause. The first one was: Do something for yourself early in the morning.

Lucia Giovannini: Yeah, because we are all so used to being good parents, being good partners, being good daughters or sons, being good workers. In other words, do our duty. And that’s OK, of course. But at the same time, we risk to spend a whole day doing things for others or doing what we have to do instead of what we really want to do. And so we risk of getting at night with some resentment within us, with some sensation that, you know, we’ve been running the whole day without really taking care of ourselves. If we start the day doing something for ourselves first and then we go about doing our life. We all have a vase full of love and that love can flow to the others as well. What if that vase is not full of love for ourselves first? We don’t have anything to offer, to really offer, to other people. It starts the day in a totally different energy.

Gabe Howard: And of course, the flipside to that, which sort of goes along with doing something for yourself early in the morning, is before going to bed, spend 10 minutes to think about what went well during the day. We tend to hold onto the negativity, right? Is that kind of the logic of patting yourself on the back?

Lucia Giovannini: Well, it’s even more than that. As you said, our minds are programmed to focus on the negative. Our reptilian brain is primed to do that. And so we really need to do something to use our awareness and our intention to do something to steer the wheel of our brain in a different direction. It’s also that when we start focusing on the positive, then we feel more motivated to go on with our projects. Otherwise, if we always focus on what’s not working, we lose interest and we lose motivation. We lose energy. And then we decide, why should I care? Nothing works.

Gabe Howard: The most exciting one on the list and one that I personally have never thought of for happiness, stepping outside of your comfort zone, improving your life: Teach something every day. Share your gifts with other people.

Lucia Giovannini: Yes, there are many reasons here. So one reason is the best way to learn something is to teach it, because of course, when we teach something, we need to know it well. For example, if we teach someone — let’s say our kids, or a friend, to be positive — we need to train our positivity. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to teach it. And so that forces us, you know, to learn something new. And also the other reason here is to share our knowledge, to share our experiences. To, in a way, try to make a difference in the world. And when I talk about the world, I mean, our community, our family, our co-workers, our friends, or even the bigger world out there, the idea is really to share your talents, your gifts with the world, with someone else — to feel that our presence is useful.

Gabe Howard: It has been great speaking with you, and I really appreciate all the information that you’ve given us.

Lucia Giovannini: Thank you, Gabe. It was amazing.

Gabe Howard: Where can our listeners find you?

Lucia Giovannini: So they can find me in my website, which is my name, basically, www.LuciaGiovannini.com. L U C I A G I O V A N N I N I dot com. And alsofind a free gift, a five-part video series on change, on how to create the changes we want in our life. And there they can also find my book, A Whole New Life.

Gabe Howard: Thank you so much for being on this show, we really appreciate you and we appreciate all of our listeners as well. Please don’t forget to give us a review on whatever podcast player you found us on. While we like five stars, we also like it if you use your words. You can also head over to our Facebook group at Psych Central.com/FBshow. That’ll take you right in. Join and I’ll approve you and you can talk to me and suggest anything that you want. And remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling anytime, anywhere, simply by visiting BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. We will see everybody next week.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to the Psych Central Podcast. Previous episodes can be found at PsychCentral.com/show or on your favorite podcast player. To learn more about our host, Gabe Howard, please visit his website at GabeHoward.com. PsychCentral.com is the internet’s oldest and largest independent mental health website run by mental health professionals. Overseen by Dr. John Grohol, PsychCentral.com offers trusted resources and quizzes to help answer your questions about mental health, personality, psychotherapy, and more. Please visit us today at PsychCentral.com. If you have feedback about the show, please email [email protected] Thank you for listening, and please share widely.

Podcast: Comfort Zones Aren’t Where We Grow


The Psych Central Podcast

The Psych Central Podcast is a weekly podcast hosted by Gabe Howard. New episodes are released every Thursday at 7 am and can be found at psychcentral.com/show or your favorite podcast player.


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APA Reference
Central Podcast, T. (2019). Podcast: Comfort Zones Aren’t Where We Grow. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/podcast-comfort-zones-arent-where-we-grow/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 5 Sep 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 5 Sep 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.