Step outside your comfort zone
We’ve all heard about comfort zones and the need to step outside them if we wish to grow. There are many ways that we can step outside our comfort zones. They don’t have involve extreme sports or adrenaline adventures. Asking your boss for a raise, for example, is usually uncomfortable. Attending a job interview or telling your partner your sexual fantasies are others. But is it possible to live outside your comfort zone? Hold that thought for now and we’ll get back to it later. I can still remember my first venture outside my comfort zone. I can recall the panic I experienced the first time it happened. It was real terror because the choice wasn’t mine. I was 5 years old, and my grandfather had just thrown me into the deep end of a swimming pool – a really big swimming pool. I screamed for help, but he ignored my pleas to be rescued. “You can do it,” he repeated over and over.
Respect the water
I somehow made my way to the side using a mixture of dog-paddling and uncoordinated movements. I climbed out of the pool and caught my breath. Then he tossed me in the pool again – and again – until I no longer panicked and began to develop some sort of an unrecognizable swimming stroke. My grandfather kept telling me to respect the water – not fear it. And that advice has stuck with me throughout life. I think this experience changed me and perhaps the course of my life. In fact, I’m sure that’s why I thrive in the water even today at 74! My next step outside my comfort zone when was when I finally stopped running from two brothers who were older and bigger than me.
Ass-whippings and long walks
I was 8 and they were 11. They would chase me until they caught me and then open up a can of “whip-ass” on me. The look on their faces was priceless when one day I didn’t run and said: “bring it on!” I still got my ass beat but they never bothered me again after that. And then there was that long walk across the room when I was 12 to ask a girl to dance at a school party. I thought I was going to puke I was so scared, but I did it. By the way, she said No, and the walk back was even longer! I’ve been scared stepping outside my comfort zone many other times, of course: parachute malfunctions, scuba diving accidents, soloing as a pilot and becoming a father again just short of 60, to name a few.
What’s a comfort zone?
The answer is simple. It’s where you are familiar with your surroundings and you are comfortable. Comfort zones differ from person to person. Some are large and some are small in the beginning, but the more you step outside it the larger it gets. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable. But for me, there’s something wrong with being comfortable all the time. It stunts your growth and stops you from exploring your limits. You must learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable. My comfort zone has grown tremendously over the years, and that tends to frighten my loved ones (but that’s another story). Before you move out of your comfort zone, you must become familiar with it.
Get familiar with your comfort zone
What are your likes and dislikes? What are your core values? What makes you comfortable in your comfort zone? To succeed, you must know every nook and cranny of your comfort zone. In my case, it’s the familiarity that pushes me to venture outside it. And the more I venture outside it, the more comfortable with change I become. The cycle keeps repeating itself. The more it repeats itself, the more I become addicted to it. Once I’ve decided to leave my comfort zone, nothing gets in my way. The years are slowing me down, but they haven’t stopped the craziness in me. But my craziness and obsession with stepping outside my comfort zone is nothing compared to the way some individuals seem to live outside their comfort zones – if that’s possible. Then there are extraordinary individuals like Dave Groggins, James Lawrence and Tom Jones (no, not the singer).
Dave Groggins is an ultra-endurance athlete and former Navy SEAL. He was also an Army Ranger and an Air Force Tactical Air Control member. He has run a 100-mile race in 19 hours with just three days’ preparation and the Badwater 135-mile race – a continuous run across three mountain ranges in the extreme heat of Death Valley – in 25 hours and 49 minutes. Since then, he has competed in over 60 marathons, ultra-marathons, triathlons, ultra-triathlons and once held the world record for pull-ups, completing 4,030 in 17 hours. He credits his success to the physical and mental conditioning that he developed while trying to become a SEAL.
James Lawrence also has a very impressive CV. In 2015, he completed 50 triathlons, in 50 days, in 50 different states! Just in case you aren’t familiar with the Ironman distances, this works out to be 3.86 km of swimming, 180.25 km on a bike and a full 42.2 km marathon, – every single day for 50 consecutive days. I think you can safely say he has earned the title “The Ultimate Ironman.”
Tom Jones might be the ultimate badass, though. He has set endurance records in marathon running, and marathon paddling. In 2000, he ran from the US west coast to the east coast, which works out to be 3,170 miles/5,102 km. Upon completion of that mind-boggling odyssey, he then ran in the New York marathon. He has run the length of California twice, paddled down the California coast (1,250 miles/2012 km in 90 days) and paddled from Key West, Florida to New York City (1,507 miles/2425 km in 93 days), among other endurance feats.
Exiting your comfort zone
There are many ways to get outside your comfort zone, assuming you are ready. You can start a fitness program or improve your eating habits. If you haven’t exercised in a while, make sure you consult your physician first. And making the phone call to book an appointment can constitute a step outside your comfort zone. Try disconnecting from your electronics, the Net, social media and all the “noise” that surrounds us. And last but not least, face your fears. Most people fear public speaking. If that’s the case for you, take a course in public speaking or rhetoric. Star small before speaking to large groups. A great way to face your fears and prepare to exit your comfort zone is to make lists. Make lists of the worst things that could happen and the best things that could happen. Once you’ve listed those things, focus on the best thingsthat can happen and take the step. You won’t regret it.