Our comfort zone is the space where our behaviors and activities fit into familiar routines that minimize risk and feelings of stress. In our comfort zone there is the sense of certainty and security.
There’s nothing wrong with being in our comfort zone, unless we get too comfortable. When we live our entire lives within our comfort zone, we run a different kind of risk: of missing out; fewer opportunities; less excitement and less joy; regrets of what might have been.
“Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch
There are good reasons to step outside your comfort zone, to do something that makes you uncomfortable, to put a “toe in the water” or a parachute on your back.
Four Good Reasons To Take Risks
- When we challenge ourselves we move toward our highest potential, our peak performance.
When I first started working with a personal trainer my upper body strength was….well, not strong. I could do 2-3 pushups on a good day. But working those muscles on a regular basis, with the help of a trainer who pushed my limits, within weeks I was able to do 20-25 pushups.
- Trying new things boosts our creativity. We learn to explore new options and think differently.
Creativity is innately risky. When we share our creative work, we expose ourselves to the possibility of criticism and rejection. We are vulnerable. But risking failure opens opportunities for creative achievement and innovation. And being willing to show our vulnerability opens us up to deeper, more authentic relationships with others.
- Stepping outside our comfort zone can help us age better.
Medical research shows that challenging the brain to learn new and demanding life skills, helps us stay mentally sharp as we age. And trying new activities widens our social circle, leveraging the many benefits of interdependence.
- Taking risks is essential if we are to continue to learn and grow throughout our lifetime.
Last week I enrolled in a script writing class. I am easily the oldest student in the class, and probably the least familiar with the workings of the theatre. It’s outside my comfort zone, and I’m open to learning how it works. If I had let fear of failure hold me back, I’d miss out on this opportunity to learn how to tell a complete story with dialog. I don’t know how to do that…..Yet!
A Parachute. A Calculated Risk. A Crazy Rush.
When I was a child I had a recurring dream. I could fly. In my dreams I soared over landscapes and landed on rooftops. The feeling was one of absolute freedom and joy. I wanted so badly to fly in my waking hours, not in a plane as a passenger or a pilot, but like a bird with my own wings.
Freshman year in college I came close. I joined the university skydiving team. In those days the technology was not what it is today. We jumped with old army parachutes that we learned to fold and pack ourselves. On a good day, when the wind was calm, we hit the ground at an estimated 15 miles per hour. We had to know how to land and roll, or we’d risk a broken ankle or leg, or worse.
The first time I jumped was in February; the ground was frozen solid. The entire right side of my body, ankle to shoulder was bruised; it showed that I had landed properly. I was proud. It was awesome! I could fly!
I don’t skydive anymore. I have other interests. But that particular risk at that time in my life, taught me that I had courage, that stepping outside my comfort zone was safe and exciting, and that it was okay to go after my dreams.
I have found that, for me, living right on the edge of my comfort zone is where I feel most alive, where I am most challenged, and where I have the most fun.
You get to decide how big or how small you want to go with risks. Whether you decide to just stick a toe in the water for now, or strap on a parachute, no one else gets to dictate what risk means to you.
Call to action:
This week, take a chance. Do something that you’ve been thinking about, dreaming of, procrastinating on, or saving for “some day”. Someday is today.
Try out for that play. Finish that poem, essay, novel. Take a yoga class, a fencing class, a dance class. Ask your boss for a raise. Ask that man/woman you’ve been wanting to get to know out for dinner. Step outside your comfort zone.
Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Let us know what you did and how it felt. We can’t wait to see your comments!