Illustration: Matija Medved

One Day at a Time

You’re Out of Your Comfort Zone. What Can You Do About It?

Daily insights on life in the face of uncertainty, by psychiatrist and habit change specialist Dr. Jud Brewer

Published in
6 min readApr 30, 2020


Did you know that your mindset has a big impact on how you deal with uncertainty, and may impact your reaction not just to the current crisis, but to any life challenge you face?

I suspect that you, like me, have observed a few clear patterns regarding yourself lately. In the face of fear and uncertainty, some people seem stuck, even paralyzed, by all of this — while others are stepping up. Some are even stepping out of their shells, surprising themselves and those around them by what they are capable of in the face of danger.

Why is that?

We have all been forced out of our comfort zone by this global challenge and huge break in our routine. The million-dollar question, is what happens when we’re out of our comfort zone? Do we run back toward it, seeking safety in the familiar? Do we freak out and accidentally run the other way, into the proverbial panic zone where our brains shut down? Or do we plant our feet firmly in our current reality and step up to the challenge of learning what this new experience has to teach us?

The zone you choose has a lot to do with your mindset.

Carol Dweck, PhD, is a Stanford researcher who coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” decades ago, based on her research into how kids and adults respond to challenges. Dweck describes a fixed mindset as the belief that your basic intelligence and abilities are unchangeable–you’ve got what you’ve got, and have to utilize them the best you can. Growth mindset, on the other hand, is a belief that your abilities can be developed and improved over time.

Dweck has been studying mindset for decades. According to one definition, a mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people. Or, simply put, a mindset is a person’s worldview. Our mindset…



Jud Brewer MD PhD

Addiction Psychiatrist. Neuroscientist. Habit Change Expert. Brown U. professor. Founder of MindSciences. Author: Unwinding Anxiety. @judbrewer