In any personal journey, we often seek perfection. We try for the “perfect” job, or just the right clothes to make us look “perfect.” We even try for the “perfect” yoga or meditation practice so we can walk a “perfect” path of healing. But this idea of perfection often creates confusion. It makes us afraid to make mistakes for fear of losing this “perfection.” When we strive for the “perfect,” anything less than perfect, which is almost everything, is judged, discredited, and thought of negatively.
However, if there's anything you want to change in your life, you're going to have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and likely tolerate some level of imperfection. This is scary for most of us. It's a comfort zone for a reason! However, no change can come from staying in the same place that got you to where you are.
We all have our reasons and justifications, or perhaps we can call them excuses, for why we can't make changes. We defend our behaviors, justify our lack of action, or blame other people for why we're stuck. We complain that it's too hard or give up because it takes too long.
Perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis are three of the worst inhibitors of change. Many of us have a tendency to want to spend the first hundred years of life ironing out all of the kinks, and the next hundred years actually living.
Such an inclination to avoid risks, to avoid doing anything badly, only prevents us from doing things we might actually enjoy, and keeps us from the regular practices that produce progress.
There are lots of reasons we get stuck in our rut and don't make change, but the most common reason is fear. Change can be scary. It can be overwhelming. It's unknown. It's not always guaranteed to be what we expected or wanted. What if you fail?
In order to grow and make changes, we have to be willing to risk failure. You have to be willing to do the hard work. And the hard work is stepping outside your comfort zone. If you're unwilling to perform a task badly, you can’t expect to make progress toward learning to do it well.
This is true for any area in your life that you want change: physical health, emotional health, relationships, work, anything.
Here's the real kicker though: You can't just step out of your comfort zone one time. You have to be willing to continually push yourself. It's really easy to get discouraged because you didn't see the change you'd hoped for right away. I know it's hard, but I promise that if you keep trying you will see change.
Here are three steps to guide you in pushing out of your comfort zone and creating change:
1. Identify what it is exactly that you want to change.
How can you get where you want if you don't know where you're going? Allow yourself to really slow down and envision the life you want for yourself. Where's the problem in your life that needs addressing, and what do you want to achieve? Paint yourself a picture of the life you want to be living, focusing on how you want to feel. From that vision, you can identify the areas in your life that need attention and possibly correction.
2. Take action.
Specifically, contrary action. For example, if you want to improve your cardiovascular health, start running. If you've already been running, start running faster. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it would be much easier to continue strolling on the treadmill with a good read, but you need to start changing it up! If you want to move on from a past relationship, start taking contrary action. Stop checking Facebook, stop sending text messages, start reaching out to other people in your life, stop isolating, step out of your comfort zone!
If you want to improve your self-esteem, step outside of your comfort zone of negative self-talk and criticism and start giving yourself positive affirmations ... even though it's really uncomfortable and difficult to do!
3. And finally, keep it up!
If you've committed to steps one and two, after some time this new action will no longer be a challenge and it will become your comfort zone. You must keep pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone if you want to continue growing and changing.
I don't believe any of us are meant to stop growing and changing. Growth is a lifelong journey that never ends. Give yourself permission to keep pushing yourself, to keep struggling with being imperfect with something, keep opening yourself up a little more, and continue growing because unless you do that, you are just depriving yourself of all your potential!