It’s almost the end of the first week of 2013. This is a time of year when many of us are implementing newly made resolutions that have to do with self improvement, such as cleaning up our diets, exercising, meditating regularly, or cutting back on our personal addictive behavior of choice. But how about a resolution to transcend our comfort zone and do something really outside of the box?
I looked up comfort zone on Wikipedia and this is how they defined it:
“The comfort zone is a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk(White 2009). A person’s personality can be described by his or her comfort zones. Highly successful persons may routinely step outside their comfort zones, to accomplish what they wish. A comfort zone is a type of mental conditioning that causes a person to create and operate mental boundaries. Such boundaries create an unfounded sense of security. Like inertia, a person who has established a comfort zone in a particular axis of his or her life, will tend to stay within that zone without stepping outside of it. To step outside a comfort zone, a person must experiment with new and different behaviours, and then experience the new and different responses that then occur within their environment.”
So, stepping outside our comfort zone incurs risk and therefore anxiety and/or excitement. When I was a fellow at The Austen Riggs Center, a unique psychoanalytic hospital in Western Massachusetts, my supervisor, Dr. Dan Schwarz, questioned my description of a patient feeling anxious. He wondered, was she really anxious or was she excited? Could she afford to allow herself to feel excited, or was she too guilt ridden? He went on to say that these states are very closely linked, and sometimes a person says that they feel anxious but that really they are excited.
Dan Schwartz’s comment always stuck with me. Most of us are creatures of habit, and we do the same activities day in and out, because it is what makes us feel comfortable. But comfort can also equate with stagnation, and a sort of sleep walking through our lives.
Last night with trepidation I went to a Swing Dancing event for the first time. There was an hour long lesson before the band started to play. I had to warn my partners that I was new at this, but most were very tolerant. I went to bed at 1 in the AM, which is really late for me. I am exhausted today and my back hurts, but it was so much fun.
I am writing this post to challenge you to step outside your comfort zone in 2013. Take up some activity that is completely uncharacteristic for you, that your friends and family will look at you and say, “You are doing what?!” You may be surprised at how you feel enlivened and refreshed by trying something new. Neuroscience has disproved the adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. We are capable of learning and growing throughout our life span. Take a chance. Do something really different and let me know what it is and how it feels. You may be an inspiration to us all.
When people on their death beds look back at their lives, most often the regrets are about what they did not do, the opportunities missed, the roads not taken, much more than regretting what they actually did. Life is really short, try something completely outside your comfort zone and live a little larger.