“The best things in life are often waiting for you at the exit ramp of your comfort zone.” — Karen Salmansohn
A reader recently asked me about my personal experience with stepping outside of my comfort zone and what I have learned from the experience. After all, if stepping outside our comfort zone is difficult, why should we do it?
When I was in high school I disliked running. Not only did I dislike it, but I felt horrible at it. When we were told to run the mile, I would run a very short distance before getting out of breath and walking. This pattern continued every time we ran the mile throughout high school. I enjoyed sedentary activities, like playing video games, but disliked my heavy figure. Being a fan of the outdoors, I started taking walks at a local park. Eventually, all the benefits of running clicked inside my head. Unfortunately, this realization was followed by memories of fatigue and discomfort. Many people face this struggle between what they know they should do, versus what is comfortable and easier. Often times, the two options are so different that people struggle when they try to turn their dreams into reality.
One day when I was set to go on a walk, I went against what every comfortable thought in my head told me to do, and I ran. I started regularly running for the first time. It was difficult, and I had to stop many times to compensate for my lack of endurance, but after I ran a few more times, my endurance began to get better. Eventually, I could run a full mile. Each time I went for a run, my discomfort for running got smaller. I grew to like running a mile.
After months of running the mile, my sister suggested that I run a marathon, which is 26.2 miles. Initially, I considered the idea as ridiculous and moved on. Yet, that idea still lingered in the back of my head in the upcoming days. I became fascinated with the idea. What if I could really run a marathon? What if I could do something that seemed impossible?
When I found an online training program that I felt I could stick with, I began to train. Week after week, I followed the program. Not only could I run longer distances, but I began to notice my endurance was getting better, I was happier, and I lost some of the excess weight that I despised in high school. Along with those benefits, I began to realize what I was capable of, and how I could go beyond my self-limiting beliefs. I could do what I once thought was impossible.
On the day of the marathon, I was nervous about the run, as it would be my longest run I had ever done, by a significant amount. The course had a lot of hills and slippery terrain, but once I started I knew the only way out was by crossing the finish line. Not only did I gain a participation medal and gear from the event; I had proof that I could make my ideas and goals a reality.
Notice that I didn’t have a professional trainer or a passion for running since a young age. I am just an average guy that stepped outside of my comfort zone in order to make my dream come true. Most of our dreams require us to step outside of our comfort zones. Before we can even work on stepping outside of our comfort zones, our minds come up with excuses and fears, that make us think we cannot do it. When we begin to step outside our comfort zones, we realize that the fears are not as strong as our minds once thought. After completing the goal, we realize that the benefits outweighed the fears and we made the right choice.
If you are able to do this in one area of your life, use this as proof that you can do it with anything. Step outside of your comfort zone and give friends the support they need to step outside of theirs. Stepping outside of a comfort zone with a friend can be an even better idea that will give everyone involved a better sense of support and accountability.
When the discomfort and excuses begin to creep up, remember your goal and why you want to achieve it. Think about the benefits and positive impact achieving the goal would have on your life. Remember that the discomfort is temporary, the victory is forever. If I can do it, so can you. Step outside of your comfort zone today so you can work towards achieving your goals and dreams.
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