Does life really begin at the end of your comfort zone?

I wish I was the first person to have said that, ‘Life beings at the end of your comfort zone’. Alas Neale Donald Walsh got there first.

I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t learnt to not only step out of my comfort zone but actually over time to slowly start dismantling it.

I am constantly amazed by just how different everyones comfort zones look. For some people, they may never do more than work and watch TV at home, for others, their comfort zone is to be constantly out socialising and making sure that they are connecting with and fitting in with people, yet others find their comfort zone in travelling and trying new things, for them stopping and slowing down is as terrifying as it is for others to get out there and start exploring the world.

Even these are just facets of what your comfort zone looks like, we all have different boundaries in different areas of our lives and the fun really starts when we start to test where those boundaries are and start to experiment to see what its like on the other side. It takes strength to do that, to step up and take a risk but it is more than worth it.

It took me 32 years to understand the truth of this. For most of my life I didn’t realise that I was in a bubble. After moving around a lot as a kid, I was living in my 8th home by the time I was 8, I had become pretty adaptable and I just got on with what was in front of me. That was until I started to get a little bit of stability, spent 3 years at the same primary school and moved into he family home where we were (unknown and unfathomable to be at the time) due to stay for close to 28 years. I began to have pretty acute panic attacks at school, I didn’t really understand why or what they were about, the closest I could express to anyone at the time was that I was afraid of growing up. Looking back I realise that I was in fact expressing a fear of things changing again. I was settled for the first time in my life.

As I went on to secondary school, I began to create a comfortable, more certain bubble around me. I begged to be allowed to go to boarding school so that I didn’t have to risk moving again, and immersed myself in school life completely not looking up to see what was outside of that bubble, it was scary and threatening outside. Even when I ultimately moved on to university I retained some of that bubble, I didn’t sign up for societies or sports activities other than Lacrosse which I felt like I was supposed to keep playing because I had played it at school, even in my second year when I decided to branch out a little more I got as far as a selection of martial arts and theatre, both of which I had already taken part in to some degree in the past. I just kept returning to old favourites again and again through out my life.

That is until I had an amazing idea for a new years resolution one year.

I was 28, I aware that 30 was creeping up on the horizon and I knew that I had done far less with my life by that point than I wanted to. It was time to do something about that.

My idea was pretty simple. For the year I would try something new every week. It didn’t have to be something big, it just had to be something new. Trying a new type of food would count for example. I went much bigger than that usually, pushed along by the activities that I could find vouchers for in Time Out and through Group On and there sites.

My life really started that year. It was then that I first tried so many of the things that have helped me to move forward and live a much fuller life now.

I did more than I had anticipated; I tried studying Italian, I tried fencing, I tried bouldering, I tried running, I tried yoga, I tried pilates, I tired Zumba, I tried spinning, I took a formal IQ test, I went to the Opera, I tried boxing, I went to a dating seminar….. and those are just a few I can remember off the top of my head.

I didn’t take to everything. In most instances I went along had a go and often vowed to never do it again, spinning being the prime examples, I gave it another chance a few years later and it just isn’t for me.

The things that really sparked for me were yoga and the discovery of self development. Through talks and seminars I first encountered the idea that I wasn’t stuck being exactly as I was now. I wasn’t a finished product as I had thought. There were things I could do, things that I could read,  things that I could listen to that could help make me a better person. Before I realised what was happening I started devouring personal development books and I’ve never looked back. The self exploration work that goes hand in hand with yoga really helped me capitalise on that hunger to learn and develop. Between them they have taken me to places that I never dreamed I would go. I qualified as a yoga teacher despite being a size 20, I learnt to become comfortable having my photograph taken again, and I travelled to places that I never dreamed I would travel to (and discovered they weren’t as terrifying as I thought they would be!). It has all given me so much more than I realised was possible, countless new friends, now experiences and a sense of self confidence that my school friends would be astonished at. I dread to think where I would be now and what I would be feeling if I hadn’t given myself a push with that resolution.

The process of expanding your boundaries is never going to look the same for any two people. A key thing that I have learnt is to accept when I don’t enjoy things, and instead of pushing there to push forward in places where I can really get some value from the experience. For example, I hate clothes shopping, the whole process; picking clothes, trying them on, asking people what they think, its literally a version of my personal hell so I wouldn’t choose to try a personal shopping experience… (I did try a session with a fashion stylist once….. I thought maybe they could ‘fix me’….. I have never ever been so bored.). I would much rather spend the day pushing a different type of boundary, for example someday when I am in Finland I want to try Ice Swimming……

I am determined to keep living my life to the max and to keep chipping away making my comfort zone ever bigger.

I will never dismantle it completely……. me going diving for one thing is never ever going to happen, my deep seated primal fear of creatures that can move around better in the water than I can will see to that!  I’m ok with that though, will all have some static points around the circle that is our comfort zone. There are already many many other boundaries that I still want to push and explore more than could ever achieve in a lifetime.  There is so much that I can get out there and see and do that I’ll never be done and never be finished growing.

How about taking a step out of that comfort zone today? How about going and trying something new right now? It doesn’t have to be big, reading another genre of book, trying a new restaurant or spending a little while learning a new language on duo lingo all count. Get out there and have some fun with in and see just what happens when you burst out of that comfort zone. You’ll never know what you might be missing out on it you don’t.

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