Be willing to step outside your comfort zone once in a while; take the risks in life that seem worth taking. The ride might not be as predictable if you’d just planted your feet and stayed put, but it will be a heck of a lot more interesting. – Edward Whitacre, Jr.
Have you ever visited the edge of your comfort zone? Have you ever flirted with the tantalizing prospect of venturing beyond it?
Hopefully, by the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll be ready to take one small step – that will feel like a huge leap – across the boundary and into the realms of the unknown.
Here are 10 things you will learn…
1. How wonderful flirting can be.
You will never learn how fascinating you are to others, or how absolutely, astoundingly lovely you are in their eyes, if you don’t step away from the comfort of living in the shadows of conversation rather than allowing others to actually see who you are.
In social situations, we tend to cling to our comfort zones and interact with people (even family) only so far as our protective bubbles allow, but what is it we’re protecting?
Our feelings from getting hurt? Or keeping a feeling of inadequacy insulated so we don’t have to think about change?
True sparks of interest in someone come fairly rarely. Don’t miss out on learning how you might spark others.
2. Where you are might not be where you’re meant to grow.
So many of us think our nirvana is just out of reach… but only ten feet away!
What if you were to consider the possibility that it’s in Australia? Or Japan? Nigeria? Iceland? The world exists to be explored. It’s the prime reason the ground stays under our feet rather than giving us a salute and a wave to go floating off into space.
How far you’ll travel to find that which is worth looking for is entirely something you will only learn as you stretch your comfort zone outward.
3. Your bones might not be made of metal, but you’re stronger than you think.
There’s a level of risk-avoidance hardwired into us: we don’t race toward cliffs, we don’t invite emotional turmoil, and we certainly don’t leap without looking.
But, at the same time, there’s an undeniable level of curiosity.
We have to know what happens if. What happens if I climb that mountain to ask the universe for a raise, an answer, or a comfort? If I fall, will I break?
You won’t break. And here’s a trick: even when you’re falling and rolling, if you open your eyes from time to time you’ll find it seems like you’re flying.
4. People give you a lot more credit than you think they do.
When you’re in your comfort zone, you tend to ignore the limits you place on yourself, which, paradoxically, leads to accusing others of not appreciating you.
It only takes a single instance of stepping outside of your comfort zone to see that people think you’re smarter, more capable, and more you than you credit them.
As for your own accomplishments? They polish so much brighter away from the dull of the zone!
5. Given the chance to be awesome, people will be awesome.
When it comes to asking others for help, many of us exhibit Gollum’s (from The Lord of the Rings) most recognizable trait: We hates it!
We’d rather sit within zones of sufferance than actually trust the world to be a hospitable, charitable place.
Truth is, total strangers help total strangers every single day in almost every conceivable way (financially, emotionally, spiritually, compassionately), and all of us fall under the category of “total stranger” to, literally, billions of people. That’s an enormous resource.
But if you’re more comfortable hating the Bilbo and Frodo Bagginses of this world, those who might offer to help carry a burden or two, you’ll remain in your comfort zone and deny countless people the opportunity to be the lights people want to be.
6. Being wrong is not a mark against you; being intentionally wrong is.
There are those who stay in comfort zones specifically to avoid ever being wrong about something else.
It could be a sports zone, a book zone, a political zone, or a social zone; so many different kinds of zones, but in this context they all fall under a common name: the Echo Chamber.
Echo chambers are all about staying safe when there’s a good chance you’re wrong about something or there’s a good chance of discomfort, but you will never learn anything more about life than what pings within the chamber walls.
7. Love does not wait to be found, nor does it call stagnation growth.
Love asks a lot. For something that’s supposed to be so energizing and uplifting, it puts us through more paces than army training.
Which means it’s a lot easier just shrugging and saying there are no good people out there; that we’ll be perpetually single; that nobody really loves anybody else or, worse, no one will love “me.”
Comfort in discomfort. We complain in our zones, we stay in our zones; we neither go out of them nor let anyone in.
Outside of these bubbles: glorious mergings and serendipitous entanglements. As with flirting, you’ll never know how wonderful someone is until you allow yourself to be wonderful too.
Love demands active participation. It craves challenges, exploration, and the courage to sometimes fail at things. Ultimately, love should coax one out of a zone, not into one.
8. Happiness is not stasis.
Happiness is never inside a comfort zone. Happiness requires engagement. Happiness is going where you’ve never been, seeing those you’ve never seen, experiencing that which, up to that moment, you had not quite experienced before.
If it’s not clear by now, here it is spelled out: “comfort zone” is a misnomer. Very rarely is time spent inside one “happy,” and comfort should always imply happiness.
9. Life is wonderful.
The closer you get to the edge of a comfort zone, the more vibrant the view outside the haze. Yes, there are still idiotic politicians, galling reality shows, and daily parades of humanity’s worst moments, but those are hardly the sum of the world.
And you see that. Quite clearly and for one simple reason: your world expands.
Your view of life is not confined to the somewhat addictive preconceived notions and reinforced patterns inherent in a comfort zone which relies on keeping you somewhat muted and grayed for its survival.
10. Challenge is good.
The heart is a muscle. The brain is a muscle. The body is a network of muscles, and we’ll likely find out soon enough that the souls are too.
But you’ll never learn this lesson if you don’t challenge yourself.
Muscles need to be challenged, otherwise they atrophy. Comfort zones need to be pushed against, thereby increasing our mental mass. They need to be jumped across, giving our hearts a workout.
And they should always, always, be questioned, because questioning increases our self-awareness, which allows us to see more precisely where we limit ourselves with self-imposed boundaries and restrictions.
It’s at the edge of zones that the boundaries between what is desired and whether we’re willing to reach for it get thinner and thinner. You’ll see that the thicker, limiting walls never really provide comfort, they provide immobility to keep us from getting hurt, like a kind of invisible cast.
Except we’re not broken inside. We don’t need a protective cast. We want to run.
Do that. Run. Straight for one horizon, then on to the next. If there’s one overarching comfort in life, it’s this: to feel without doubt that we are truly alive.