Over the last few years I’ve done a lot of stepping out of my comfort zone. I started surfing, I went paddle boarding, I’ve moved counties twice, I’ve ended relationships, I’ve started relationships, I’ve changed jobs, I’ve presented to a huge room of colleagues, I’ve started education whilst working and taken on teaching an hour a week whilst doing a full-time job and I got a tattoo after years of being too nervous.
This week alone I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone several times, going on a school trip with over 200 teenagers, joining a netball team despite having not played for over 10 years, and making some big career decisions. And although I’ve been so nervous I felt sick, every time I step out of my comfort zone I create a wider circle of things I can do, until eventually things that were nerve-racking are now things that excite me.
For instance, my first paddle boarding lesson was spent shaking with fear (I do not like being out of my depth without having got there myself). However, by the end I felt content, with a sense of pride at my achievement and now would have no hesitation in doing it again. It was great fun!
My first netball meet was much the same, awkwardly standing around waiting for people to turn up, worried that I’d make a fool of myself. But by the end, although I still felt rusty I was excited to learn and grow with some good feedback under my belt, raring to go for the next session.
The important thing about taking these ‘risks’ is that you prove to yourself that you can do it, that you are capable, and it builds your confidence, making you more likely to try other risks; whether that’s in your personal life or your professional life.
This can only be a good thing. We spend so much of our life conforming to conventions, dos and don’ts, that setting these for ourselves is redundant. Where we have freedom, we should exercise it and expand ourselves.
Blocking ourselves into our comfort zone also seems to only come with adulthood, as kids we weren’t scared to try new things (except maybe vegetables). Join a dance club knowing nothing about dance? Sure, why not. Go dig in the dirt and get absolutely filthy? 100%. But then by the time we reach adulthood it’s all “no, I couldn’t possibly” “I’m far too old/unfit for that now”.
We find excuse after excuse now, but if we had done that as a child think of all the things we wouldn’t have tried, learnt, experienced?
Stepping out of our comfort zone as a child is one of the things that aids our learning and development, and makes us who we are as adults, so why stop that? Why not continue to grow and develop and learn? Why do we box ourselves in with “that’s not for me”?
Yes, it’s scary, yes, it’s a risk and yes, you may look a bit silly perhaps, but what if you don’t? What if you find something you love and are passionate about? What if you find out actually you’re really good at it? What if you meet a great friend or partner through doing it? There’s too many things that could go right by stepping outside of your comfort zone, so why not do it?
After all, as Mark Twain said,
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”