Jumping Off Cliffs

This post isn’t about bungee jumping. It’s about straying out of one’s comfort zone. As I alluded to in a previous post, I’m a big fan of ditching the comfort zone. In my experience, only good things have come from me trying things beyond my safe zone.

A few examples:

When I joined a dragon-boating team, I worried that I wouldn’t be any good at a watersport, that I’d be a weak link, that the 7:00 am weekend practices would kill me. I ended up forming amazing friendships on the team, pushing myself physically in a way I hadn’t thought possible, and living the exhilaration of returning to competitive sport. Not to mention, my arms looked killer during training.

Another year, I decided to take a boxing class taught by a friend of a friend’s.Truth be told, on my way to the gym for the first class, I was temporarily gripped by anxiety for similar reasons to when I joined dragon-boating. Although that first class just about killed me (in a great way), I quickly fell in love with boxing, again met some incredible people, and now I’m quite confident I could knock someone out with a mean left jab if I had to.

The first time I had to make a solo business trip to a sizeable conference which included a number of social functions, I was nervous. I’m a pretty outgoing person, but it was still daunting. The first evening at the cocktail event, I ordered a drink at the bar, took a good swallow, and purposefully marched up to a small group to introduce myself, with a smile, to perfect strangers. So began one of the most successful and fun conferences I’ve ever attended. I also got to explore the city my way, without having to consider whether a colleague would be tagging along and have other ideas. Not only did this experience do great things for my confidence, it paved the way to my willingness and success in going  on solo vacations, even in places where I don’t speak the language. Today, solo is my favourite way to travel.

I think one of the reasons for this phenomenon is that most of the times that we try something that scares us (within reason, obviously), it’s actually not nearly as big of a deal as we think. It’s usually something that will enrich our life.

I’m not talking about hitchhiking with the shifty looking dude in the white van or going swimming after dark in a lake under a “Caution! Alligators! No Swimming” sign. That’s not challenging your comfort zone – that’s natural selection doing its job.

I just mean that doing things that you’re not completely comfortable with, but that you recognize as desirable potential accomplishments, often results in a small amount of discomfort, a lasting life lesson, and ultimately, an epically satisfying payoff.

Have you pushed your limits lately?

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