“If you don’t push your boundaries you will never know the true extent of your power”
If you want something different, you have to do something different right? A big part of making this happen is understanding that, outside of your comfort zone is where the magic happens! Do you really want to spend the rest of your life doing what you do day in and day out? I most certainly didn’t. So I made it my New Year’s Resolution to step outside of my comfort zone every chance I got and I mean every chance!
There were times when stepping out of my safe space was a complete disaster. But, the vast majority of the activities and events I tried were such an amazing experience, I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner. With practice, the once frightening experience of saying yes when I wanted to say no became automatic. So automatic, in fact, when a friend asked me to take a road trip-expecting my typical excuse of no time, too much to do, etc.-we were both shocked when I said, “Of course!” It was a blast. You have nothing to lose by opening yourself up to new and exciting things. And you have so very much to gain!
1. Make a commitment
It’s important to commit to a goal, and stepping outside of your comfort zone is as important as any other goal. You don’t have to deal with the particulars right now, but commit to step outside of your comfort zone whenever the opportunity presents itself.
2. Start small
No one is asking you to go skydiving and to feed sharks without a cage. Treat this as a reasonable level of conditioning. I stepped outside of my comfort zone in a big way when I took an advanced Zumba class. I’d been hanging out in the senior/beginner class for a couple of weeks. I used the excuse that advanced Zumba happened during work. So, when I got off an hour early one day, I went to the advanced class. I didn’t want to go, and I was afraid of making a fool of myself. Well turns out that I absolutely made a fool of myself, and I loved it!
3. It’s OK if you don’t like it
I’ve been very committed to stepping out of my comfort zone, and I’ve said yes to many things I was sure wouldn’t work out. Most of the things I tried were awesome, and I discovered that I really enjoyed them. But, a few things I said yes to will remain a cherished memory-of that moment when it was over and I never had to do it again. When you try new things, you’re bound to encounter a few things that are just not your thing. Don’t worry about it, and don’t let it derail your progress. It’s not failure and it’s not proof that your comfort zone is a better place to reside. It’s success because you did something you were completely unprepared for and you embraced it, and you know for sure now that it’s just not your thing.
4. Visualize the possibilities
When I first started trying new things, I spent the day before imagining how awful it was going to go. How I was going to fail miserably because I wasn’t good at something. Or, how I was going to be stuck doing something for an entire day/hour or whatever time it took.
In order to fully experience a new activity, I used positive visualization and imagined myself not only enjoying my time, but also excelling at the activity. It was a huge step towards entering every new experience with an open mind and a good attitude. By practicing visualizing success I freed myself to let go of my expectations. And letting my negative assumptions go made it easier to get out there and just go for it.
5. Enlist the help of friends
Trying something new with a friend is always more fun, especially if that friend is equally unsure. The very first time I went rock climbing, I invited a friend of mine to come try it with me. The two of us were very active together, riding horseback in the woods for miles each week. No one would come with us because every time there was an opening to let the horses gallop, jump over a fallen tree, or race up a steep hill we’d do it. And most people weren’t brave enough to try and keep up with us. So why, when we so willingly climbed onto 1,000 pounds of power and freewill and go off into the wild, were we so afraid to be harnessed and rigged to climb an artificial rock-wall? It was silly, but going together inspired us and now leads us to this next tip.
6. Jump right in
Terrified and overwhelmed by all the equipment, not to mention the 20 foot wall before us, we took the short tutorial with an employee and then we jumped right in. I went first, because it was my idea. I clipped the carabineer to my harness and she clipped in hers to belay me (to use a pulley system and catch me if I fell) and I started up the wall, one heart pounding foot hold at a time. My friend yelled encouraging words to me as I climbed. Once, I looked down to see how I was doing, big mistake as I’m quite afraid of heights. She looked so tiny, and looking up I realized I still had a way to go. So I pushed on and I climbed all the way to the top. That moment, when my hand touched the wall and I prepared to repel down, was the best. I will never forget how amazing it felt to accomplish something so difficult. My feet touched the ground and we switched over.
Her face was pale as she started up the wall. Several times, she called out that she couldn’t do it, that she was done. I hollered out encouraging words, even told her how very close she was, even though I was exaggerating. I think her eyes were closed, because she believed that she only had a few feet to go and pushed on. She touched the ceiling and let out a squeal of sheer delight. We spent the rest of the day conquering each of the twenty progressively harder walls. We went home bruised, covered in chalk and exhausted. I can tell you now it was totally worth it!
7. Nothing is forever
No matter what out of the box thing you commit too, nothing is forever. If you promise to help your friend build a deck, you’re not going to be building that deck for a hundred years, hopefully. It’s just a weekend, or maybe a week, so don’t get discouraged. Or maybe you went after a job that you thought was perfect for you, but it turns out to be nothing like you expected, don’t worry. Just like you made a change and tried something new, you can make a change and find something else that you do or will enjoy. If something you signed on for ends up not being enjoyable, know that it does have a definitive start and stop, and will not go on forever. So dive in and give it your all, onwards and upwards!
8. You’re never too old or too young
There is no expiration date on your dreams. There’s no minimum age for greatness. You can do and be anything at any time you just have to go after it and make it happen. You choose your time table, and you choose when you’re ready to go after something. I’ve found that I’ve had the most fun doing things that were considered too old for me or reserved for 20-somethings. Who cares if you’re “too old” or “too young”? Just go for it. There’s nothing more fun than doing something new and proving to yourself and others that your age has nothing to do with how awesome you are.
9. Embrace chaos and enjoy the opportunities
There are going to be opportunities for new ventures that are going to be completely and utterly chaotic. If you lean into the chaos, rather than fight it, you’re going to find some beautiful things and exciting adventures. The aforementioned road trip is something I used to avoid because of the chaos. My friend is free-spirited, wild, and fun, which I enjoy in small doses. I like carefully laid plans and predictable travel routes. So I knew that saying yes to a road trip was saying good bye to predictability. She had a basic destination in mind, with a general idea of when we were going to return. But everything else was up in the air.
We headed out with our GPS and a full tank of gas. I would read signs for attractions as they came up. Did we want to see the world’s biggest ball of yarn? Well, of course we did! Explore the longest string of natural caves this side of the Mississippi? Absolutely! We went where the road took us, always heading in the general direction of our planned destination. We saw things I never would have found on my own. And we had so much fun that we’re planning on doing it again every year or so.
10. Turn impossible into it is possible
There’s a long list of things I want to do, many of which I never believed I could do. As I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried new things, I realized that I could do so much more than I ever imagined. I also realized that, all those times I’d told myself I couldn’t do something, I was lying to myself. How did I know I couldn’t do them when I hadn’t even tried? I didn’t think I could climb rocks and repel down, but I did it. Twenty times in one day, in fact. I didn’t think I could kayak in the ocean, but I did it. There was even a time when I didn’t believe I could be a writer.
So now, instead of just waiting for new opportunities to present themselves, I’m going after them, and finding a new way every few weeks to push myself away from the mundane. I still work while taking care of my family and my responsibilities. But, now my kids know that becoming an adult isn’t the end of your fun life, it’s actually just the beginning.
11. Inspire others
Tell people about stepping outside of your comfort zone and what that experience did for you. Share your successes, and your amusing failures, on social media. Tell your friends, your family, and your neighbors about all the amazing and unexpected things that happened when you opened yourself up to the possibilities new experiences offer. If you know someone who’s feeling bored or unsatisfied in their lives, let them know that there’s a huge world out there, just waiting to be discovered. Offer to join them on a few adventures. Let them know that they will never know what they’re capable of until they try. How exciting does this sound!
12. Write it down
Write down your adventures. When you’re feeling uninspired or fearful of new experiences, read over what you’ve already done. Remind yourself often that you are AMAZING and BRAVE, and so much more. As we fall into routines, it’s hard to remember that we’ve done great and unique things. Even writing this piece, I’ve realized that I need to do something new, even though I just stepped out of my comfort zone three weeks ago and I have something else planned for next week.
It’s a new month, time for a new adventure! Reading about all the fun things I’ve done this year reminds me of how wonderful those experiences were, and how great I felt accomplishing some pretty remarkable things. But don’t just write down what you’ve done; be sure to write down what you still haven’t done that you want to do. It’s not a bucket-list. This list isn’t about what you want to get done before you die, it’s about living!
Just because something is impossible doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. So get out there! Find more happiness and live an exciting life you’ve only dreamed of. You have it within you to be greater than great!