I remember coming home from school or activities as a kid and looking at Mom’s magnetic whiteboard on the fridge to see what we were having for dinner. Pot Roast was a total bummer, spaghetti was always good. I could even roll with taco salad night. I knew what most of the meals were going to taste like so I could mentally prepare for dinner. This was important because I was a “picky eater”. By the way, who isn’t? Anyway, somewhere along her domestic journey, mom got sick and tired of the same old. She got all crazy and wrote two words on her whiteboard: Something New! I can still hear her sing-songy voice saying those words when she confirmed what I read on the whiteboard. For so many reasons, it was really ANNOYING.
It was annoying because I didn’t now how it would taste. It was annoying because my mom was messing with the system. But mostly it was annoying because of the uncomfortable feeling of change and the anticipation of newness. I knew I’d have to get through the dinner, eating what I could gag down with room temperature milk and stuffing a few half-chewed bites in the paper napkin (my best friend at dinner). I just didn’t know how bad or gross it would be when it was “something new”. I didn’t give it a chance.
This is applicable to so many things in life when we are asked to try something new or do something different. A social event, a risk with reward at work, speaking up, a physical challenge, a dietary change, a relationship change, a geographic move. A comfort zone is created over time by repeating certain behaviors, activities, patterns, and then barricading ourselves behind all of the knowns. It’s so safe in there!
The comfort zone feels safe, but it’s stagnant; suffocating even. It gets boring in there. It causes anxiety because we get SO comfortable around the same people, in the same places, eating the same things, talking about the same subjects, watching the same shows, shopping in the same aisles in the same fucking stores. Even though it’s boring! Even though we want newness and excitement, challenges, changes. Why anxiety? Because we forget that we can tolerate risk and start to fear unknowns. The possibility of failure that exists in each new thing. That’s what lies on the outside of our comfort zone.
But along with the possibility of failure, lies the exact opposite. Success, friends (or bitches, like I’d say in person). A new favorite, a new skill, a new friend, a new job, a little growth, some new perspective, whatever. This newness is something that we have the power to experience every day, in many ways. We get to choose it! It’s one of our greatest freedoms.
I did not always think this way. It’s a shift that I’ve created over time. I choose to to do new things pretty often. In my pursuit of happiness and living life with intention, I’ve forced myself to change by taking leaps of faith, and invested the faith in myself. I’m not expecting someone to change me or to grant me special powers. I’ve got to conquer this shit. Red flags and fear aren’t REAL unless you’re actually in danger. Remember this! Be your own Jack Handey (you know…Deep Thoughts, SNL).
Anyway, I AM adventurous. I’ve taken big risks and done legitimately crazy and bold stuff. I also fully embrace a diverse and active lifestyle, enjoy doing many things, and find tremendous rewards in challenging myself. BUT STILL, I fight to swim in the mental sea of red flags waving when it comes to the Something New.
A little Example:
About a year ago we joined a really nice sports club so my husband could play more basketball. I prefer to do as much as possible outdoors but occasionally join him for some weights and functional workouts. When we joined I figured I’d try some of the group exercise classes and work those in to my regime. But then I never did. I’d estimate that I looked at the class schedule 50 times over 12 months.
Finally, last week I blocked off time and arranged my early afternoon schedule to try a class I’d been hearing about from friends. I LOVED it, and I KNOW I’ll be taking that class whenever I can make it work.
WHAT TOOK ME SO LONG? I didn’t know if I’d like it. I didn’t know the teacher, or the nuances of taking classes there. Where was I supposed to sign in and put my stuff? Did I need special gear? Would I suck at the class? I hate sucking. For 12 months I was lazy (because I’m human) about challenging myself to break through my block on this small, new thing.
I've done this over and over again, with big things and small things. Big things like launching my passion project. Physical challenges like running a 1/2 Marathon. Risks like showing up to that first taekwondo class, stepping up to speak in front of 200 people, moving, teaching. Emotional risks like ending unhealthy friendships and love relationships, and then starting new ones. Little things like new foods, new places, new skills, etc. Each of them uncomfortable to me for their own unique reasons. Every single one of them: worth it, whether I sucked or succeeded....because I GREW.
It’s a PROCESS, a skill, a behavior that, much like creating our comfort zone, must be repeated over and over to become a way of thinking.
Here are some of the red flags I created for the 12 months leading up to taking the class and the 5 Perspective Hacks I consistently use when swimming in the sea of red flags.
- Don’t know if I’ll like it. Hack: I might really like this
- Who will be there? Hack: Maybe I’ll meet someone cool or see someone I like!
- I don’t have time. Hack: I’ll make time by moving _______ to another day, etc.
- What if I suck? Hack: Challenge equals growth. Plus, I might not suck.
- I don’t need this right now. Hack: Now is always a great time to learn something.
So my challenge to you is this:
Get uncomfortable. Make a list of 5 things you’ve been putting off that are outside of your comfort zone, even if they’re just a little out there. Write down each one, and write down your first 5 red flags that come to mind. Next, try your own perspective hacks by turning each red flag into opportunity. Then, tackle one of them, or tackle as many as you can. Last, reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and tell me about your DIScomforts and what went down.
I love hearing about your stuff. Your responses and messages make my day and inspire me. I look forward to it. You teach me, help me grow, and give me new ways to look at challenges. It truly is my jam.