It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. As people, we tend toward the familiar—toward routine, comfort and habit. Yet often the best thing for us is to step out of that comfort zone—and into the unknown.
My last blog was a list of 20 things that happy people do every day. One of the suggestions that I made is to do something that makes you uncomfortable—because you know it’s actually good for you. This sparked a discussion about the health of doing “uncomfortable” things. For the record, I’m by no means encouraging unhealthy behaviors—just the opposite.
Example: I’m a huge homebody. Still, getting out with friends to laugh and share is good for me, so it’s important that sometimes I say “yes” to an invitation from a pal rather than decline. Another example: I love drinking a beer while I’m making dinner, but having that glass of wine or extra hoppy ale is also a habit that people form without thinking about. Sometimes it’s good for me to not open that bottle of Hop Devil while I’m making my parsnips—because it’s good for me to question my routines instead of mindlessly performing them.
Point: we need to be questioning our habitual daily life more than we do—most of us at least. Often, we grow and change as people, yet our day-to-day lives stay the same; or worse, we don’t evolve because our habits hold us back. So here are five reasons, and ways, to step out of your comfort zone and into new, uncharted territories—to become the best you that you can be.
1. Question yourself. Just because you’ve always done something one way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way—for you or anyone else. Sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone only serves as a reminder that you are living a healthy life. I get out for a bit of alone time and I miss my daughter—and am reminded of how much I love being a stay-at-home mama. Sometimes, though, changing ways serves to foster self-growth by both inspiring open-mindedness and letting our patterns change with us rather than hinder us.
2. Question others. Likewise, just because you’re taught how to do something one way doesn’t mean that it’s the right way for you. I remember learning in high school geometry that there’s more than one way to reach the same solution—and what makes the most sense to you doesn’t always make the most sense to me. In life we put on roles and faces—and even thoughts and principles—that don’t actually mirror who we really are, what we actually believe, or what we want for ourselves in life. And at times, exploring options only serves to reinforce and validate your final conclusions.
3. Say “yes” to something that makes you uncomfortable—because it’s good for you. Now this suggestion is what brought on such a conversation in my last blog. Let me reinforce that I’m not suggestion something illicit or harmful. However, for me at least, stepping out of my comfort zone is indeed very uncomfortable. Think of the times when you say “no” and you should really be saying “yes” instead. A friend asks you to dinner after work, yet you go home to watch TV reruns with your pet because it’s easier. Your yoga teacher asks you in class to try a challenging posture and you choose to not even give it a shot instead of trying it, and, yes, possibly falling. Next time a question is posed to you, whether by yourself or another person, strongly consider your response before you simply regurgitate a habitual reaction.
4. Remember that life is supposed to be challenging. Perhaps one of the best reasons to step out of your comfort zone is simple—you need a challenge. Life is full of ups and downs for a reason. Sure sometimes the downs are self-imposed or unavoidable, but all of us experience one form or another of this journey’s crazy roller coaster. It’s supposed to help us grow and become the best—and most authentic—versions of ourselves. So if you are saying “no” when you could, and should, be saying “yes,” then also ask yourself if you create unnecessary challenges and obstacles because you’re not being challenged enough in other areas that you should be. Did you start a fight with your partner because you’re bored at work? Are you dating the wrong guy because you don’t like the person you’ve become? Just remember it’s never too late to try on a new pair of shoes.
5. Let go of your past. Another thing we human beings tend to do is carry around unused baggage. We store unnecessary—and sometimes harmful—emotions and experiences because we don’t know how to let them go and move on. Sometimes the only way to truly put down old baggage is to fill your hands with a new set of luggage.
So the next time you think that being uncomfortable is always a bad thing, take a deeper look at why you’re feeling that way—and make sure that you’re not being your own worst enemy. Again, I’m not intimating that you put yourself in situations that aren’t good for you—I’m merely offering that old habits don’t have to die hard.