10 Lessons from Living beyond the Comfort Zone

Some people embrace change, actually seek it out. Others resist it like a bad parasite. I usually fall into the parasite-resisting category (it’s why I never get sick). 

Wine glass

Last year, when I put a magnet on my fridge that said “life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” I did so to remind myself that good things can happen when you stretch yourself. I’ll admit, though, that at the time, I didn’t expect to stretch very far.

Yet somehow, last summer I set into motion life plans that changed rapidly and sometimes on a daily basis. To say it was uncomfortable would be an understatement.

And yet, despite the terror I often felt, I survived it. Not only did I survive it, but I am thriving. In fact, at this moment I am sitting on a patio at a lovely Milwaukee restaurant, having just finished up a freelance editing assignment and a glass of Chardonnay (at the same time, gasp!). That I would A) work while sipping wine or in any location other than my desk, and B) choose Chardonnay just to try something new shows just how much I’ve grown from a year of living beyond my comfort zone.

Since I’ve now switched to my usual Sauvignon Blanc, I’m loopy enough to share what I’ve learned with you. (I was smart enough to stop working; it’s not fair to charge people for drunk editing). My lessons are a bit like combining “All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” with “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” only probably not as insightful and hopefully not quite as nauseating.

1)    Don’t freak out when plans change. There’s a reason plans aren’t written in blood or stone, and that reason is that your life depends upon circumstances and other people whether you like it or not.

2)    You don’t need to know every detail before you make a move; you just need enough information to make a reasonably solid decision.

3)    Sometimes you just need to make a decision even if you’re a Libra and decision-making isn’t your strong suit. Even if those decisions are scary. Even if your decisions lead you to a place you never thought you’d go. At least they got you moving.

4)    Ask for help when you need it—even if it makes you feel like some weird charity case. That’s just your emotional baggage trying to mess with you and make life harder. People who like you actually don’t mind helping you; in fact, it makes them happy.

5)    In a weird way, making massive life changes is sometimes easier than making small adjustments to your life. Probably because you have no time to second guess yourself.

6)    Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. (And I’m not referring to the massive amount of hummus and olive tapenade I just ate. That is a different kind of discomfort and it’s never appropriate even if it’s delicious at the time.)

7)    When you get past the initial freak-out moment of being outside your comfort zone, you feel surprisingly liberated. I’m guessing it’s similar to being an astronaut on your first trip to the moon. There you are in zero gravity, saying “holy crap, there’s the Earth” and wondering if you want to get down or keep floating.

8)    When you get back to Earth and not everything has fallen exactly into place, don’t assume it’s because you were a complete idiot who made very bad choices. Recognize that living beyond your comfort zone requires constant tweaking. It’s what keeps things terrifying—I mean interesting.

9)    Just do it. Yes, I stole this one from Nike, but good marketing is worth copying.

10)  Roll with it. (Thank you Steve Winwood and here’s the video if you need a dancing queen flashback.). Sometimes rolling with it is all you can do to get through the day. For a control freak like me, this was the biggie, but if you don’t let go, you’ll go crazy. You have to be willing to end up somewhere different from where you thought you’d be, because if you’re lucky you’ll end up somewhere even better than you planned.

A year ago, in my overscheduled life, I couldn’t have envisioned a completely anxiety-free day like today. Yet, here I am living this new life that still feels somewhat foreign yet increasingly fabulous. Soon I’ll need to shake things up so I don’t get too comfortable, but for just a bit I’m going to enjoy being in the zone again. 

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