November 2, 1980 is a day that will personally be etched in my memory forever. Like many major life events that can be both terrifying and exhilarating like getting married, giving birth, first real job etc., that day for me marks the day I was most out of my comfort zone.
You see we all have a zone. Whether we know it, acknowledge it, give it much thought or not, we all have a zone that we like to stay in because, well, it’s comfortable.
We humans are hard wired to move towards pleasure (comfort) and move away from pain.
Pleasure can take many forms such as feeling content, doing something familiar that we feel capable or competent in, or repeating activities or actions that make us feel good. We all have a working knowledge / memory of what brings us happiness, comfort, contentment, and what activities or actions that invite anxiety, discomfort or distress.
So why would any of us leave the nest where it’s so warm and comfy?
If our natural wiring moves us to play it safe, don’t take risks, stay in your circle and don’t go outside the lines, then won’t our lives go better if we just stay there?
Because our minds need some level of stress and stimuli ( lest we get too comfortable and complacent) – sometimes we need to venture a bit out of our zone.
When we teeter or dive headlong out of our zone, that is often where the really incredible, memorable and magical moments of our lives await us.
It is there that we grow, stretch and expand beyond just doing what we always do. It is there that we often get to find out more about ourselves and what we truly are capable of. Now, we are not talking about doing crazy, unsafe or harmful things to be clear. Just engaging in activities or events that broaden our horizons, challenge our current capabilities (or what we think our capabilities are) is what keeps us learning, growing, and expanding our lives.
For some, anything outside of their comfort zone can feel daunting or anxiety provoking. This motivates many to routines and habits that rarely if ever change. While that may feel safe and comfortable, it can also lead to a dulling of our lives where we lack any excitement or challenge.
When is the last time you even thought about doing something outside your comfort zone?
What might that even look like for you?
You might start with a list of “things I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t gotten around to yet”
And let that be your guide. This ride won’t last forever so make a commitment and put it on your calendar to do the one thing on the list you want to do most.
You might also consider forming the habit that when opportunity to abandon your comfort zone occurs, you will take a deep breath in, count to 10, breathe again and consider how this opportunity might impact your life, health or growth. Could this be something that will grow, stretch and expand you? Then thoughtfully consider if this is a moment in time to venture out of your zone.
Once you make the decision here’s a few things to keep in mind.
You most likely won’t do the new thing perfectly or even well. Maintain your sense of humor and remind yourself to celebrate doing something new that felt outside your zone.
Ensure that you are either alone, or with safe people as you embark on a new adventure. It may feel a bit vulnerable venturing out of your zone, so ensure you have emotionally safe, caring and supportive people around you!
Remind yourself it is okay to have some anxious feelings around going to a new place or trying something new for the first time. Focus on the experience and not the outcome.
This may require daily mental work if the choice you made to expand out of your comfort zone involves something ongoing like a new job, or promotion at work; that it may take time until you start to settle in and feel more competent. Treat yourself with compassion while you are in the learning, just- getting -started zone.
The distress and discomfort of stepping out of your comfort zone is real and can manifest signs and symptoms of distress physically, emotionally and mentally. When I jumped out of a Cessna airplane static line on November 2, 1980 I vividly recall my knees knocking on the plane and feeling a wave of sheer terror. I can also recall the feel of the breeze whizzing by as I gently steered the toggles while floating back toward the ground. That day I enjoyed one of the most beautiful, scary, magical adventures of my life.
What will you do today or this week that will get your knees knocking? Share how you are choosing to leap out of your comfort zone by continuing the conversation. Join us in the LWK community FB group!