Many of us have heard this quote before. My sister has mentioned this to me multiple times when I’m in the thickest of frustrations. Another quote with a similar meaning is: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” (Neale Walsch).
It is this idea that one can unlock hidden possibilities if only, he or she allows himself to be stretched, to be brought to an uncomfortable place, to be shown another world that seems unreachable but is actually within reach with a little persistence (don’t quit) and patience (before [it] happens).
The problem is, many of us are unaware of a world outside of our own realities. That is because when we encounter a situation that goes against our natural instincts, we tend to turn the other way, and with good reason. It’s a way for our systems to cue us of potential danger, because we associate uncertainty with negativity and threat. Avoiding discordant ideas or situations and opting the route toward our natural inclinations touches upon our need for self-preservation. This is an important instinct and one we shouldn’t lose. However, if we shut down all doors that can potentially lead to opportunities with the impulse of dismissal, we are left with the same old ways of thinking. Our own affirming echo chamber.
How do we stretch our comfort zones when many of us are mostly unaware of where our comfort zones end?
Another complementary quote is seen in the image below, which has been published in several online outlets, Women’s Health magazine, and featured in the HBO series, Girls:
This picture is interesting because there are multiple ways to interpret it, and two of the critical ones are: 1) a disconnect between where you are and where magic/success lies, 2) the distance it takes to leap from your comfort zone to where magic is, is less than a hop.
Yesterday evening, I was about heading towards my front steps– which was poorly lighted since the lights we have are sensory ones that only turn on when someone is proximate– and a sense of nervousness sparked within me as I was walking in a patch of darkness. It wasn’t like it was so pitch dark and I was trying to feel out what is around me, but for some reason I got anxious for a few seconds as I walked through the dark. I realized that it was a physical reaction to the unknown; I didn’t know if critters would suddenly appear and surprise me through the darkness. This was a physical example of fearing an area of which we have a lack of knowledge. I reminded myself that while it is normal to feel a sense of uncertainty when I’m in situations like this physically and situationally, I shouldn’t let it be a stopping point.
So to answer the question I posed earlier, there are certain methods we can utilize to scope our environments and lead ourselves to become stronger, broaden our knowledge and start jumping into the pool of magic.
1. Understand what is natural to you. Knowing this acts like a baseline. This will help you understand later how much you’ve deviated from your natural ways, and if that deviation is focused and directed properly or leaves you lost and aimless. Some questions to answer include: what activities are you drawn to? What perspectives do you have? Why do you hold your values and beliefs? What is important to you?
2. Change your mindset purposefully. In order for us to be open to what the world has to offer, we must re-think our own ways of thinking. Instead of thinking the same thoughts every time you experience frustration (ie. inconvenience to do XYZ, being passed over for a promotion, etc), think about the possibility of immersing yourself in the work you don’t want to do. Is there a project assigned to you? Instead of declining the invitation, see it as an experiment to explore the chops you have for this new project. What do you have control over? Will having completed the project garner more benefits or consequences? If potential opportunities look ripe for this project, the issue might be solved by re-motivating yourself to push through this rough patch.
3. Dream big. We’ve heard the saying, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Following that logic, if we can’t dream something happening (ie. being a CEO of a Fortune 50 organization), how do we even know it is within the realm of possibilities? So, go out there and observe. Find that which moves you, that which you are drawn to. And when you can start to define what that success/magic is, it will resonate in you, and it will be coupled with a fire that is at once made of excitement and fear. That’s when you know it’s big enough- if it scares you a little.
4. Think about success, and what it takes to get there. Success rarely manifests itself in a humdrum way; it rarely comes searching for you in your natural habitat. Success is made of breakthroughs that are the results of activities that require a leap. Getting out of your comfort zone is thinking of the possible ways you can bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.