I always see motivational quotes and images telling people to get outside of their comfort zones, but what does that mean really? Do we crumple up our comfort zones like used paper and discard them in a bin? Do we straddle the fine lines between comfort and discomfort? These quotes and images tell us what we need to do, but they don’t always provide advice on how to do it. Sure, it seems pretty straightforward, but that’s not the case for everyone, especially if change gives them anxiety (or just sends their current anxieties overboard). However, even without direction, we can still wriggle out of those comfort zones without causing complete turmoil in our lives.
The first step is understanding that we don’t have to make radical changes to step outside our comfort zone. Even the smallest of changes can make a positive impact for our lives. Let’s use running as an example. Maybe one day you decide you’re going to run that charity 5K you’ve always talked about. When your first day of training comes around, you find that you struggle to complete one mile without stopping. The task suddenly appears more difficult than anticipated. That’s when you’d like to give up, but that small voice inside won’t let you. So, you start to make changes to improve your running, such as eating healthier and completing 5K specific running drills. Combine these together and one day you’ll wake up to realize running has become easier and you’re more than prepared for race day. Sure, the work was hard and maybe overwhelming at times, but you still accomplished more than you were sitting inside your comfortable bubble. Consider this when you’re ready to try something new and you have the ability to become a version of yourself you never knew existed. Exciting, isn’t it?
The second step is realizing that not all comforts have to be sacrificed in order to achieve greatness, as it were. As exhilarating as change can be, it can also be exhausting. There’s a certain point where all of this welcome chaos empties your tank and you need to refill it. If you’re running on fumes you’re going to either implode or stop completely (probably both). That’s where comfort comes in. It’s important to create a space, or visit a space, that contains the things that are part of your comfort zone. It could be a reading nook in your home or your favorite table at your local coffee shop. I think this is especially important for people who are over-thinkers or worriers or general anxiety sufferers. Speaking from personal experience, the only way I navigate the decided changes in my life is by having my comforts available when I need them. Sometimes I have to step out of the craziness and into the calm to adjust my perspective. Comfort doesn’t equate laziness or failure. It often equates reflection and renewal.
The final step is remembering that we can step out of our comfort zones at any time in our lives. Life isn’t fixed on an immovable linear line, as we’ve been lead to believe. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Life, in my mind, is fixed on a line full of ups and downs and loops and curves. Sometimes we settle for some time and the line straightens itself out, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. We are capable of making ourselves uncomfortable during any season of our lives. You’re never too young or old to make a change. In fact, I think it’s change that keeps us on our toes as we mature and get older. It keeps life from slowing down and becoming stagnant. Breaking those comfort zone barriers is what adds color to all the grays that attempt to settle in. Paint for as long as you can.
So, I may not have all the answers, and you might think all of this is just more inspirational fantasy, but I hope you gained something from it. I hope you decide to step into a new adventure you’ve been thinking of for days or months or years. I hope you don’t forget to take a breath when you need it. I hope you jump into the pool with both feet when you’re ready. Whatever you decide to do, just remember this one thing: there’s so much life to discover once you step outside of your comfort zone.