“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
Expand Your Comfort Zone
Back in February for my birthday, I went on a spontaneous trip to Kauai Island in Hawaii simply because I’ve never been there before. After watching a video on the top ten most beautiful hikes in the U.S., I discovered one of them is in Kauai.
Without hesitation, I purchased my airplane ticket to Kauai without having made any definite plans. My only strategy at the time was to hike the Kalalau trail along the Napali Coast.
I had only one goal – to expand my comfort zone. Because that’s the only way for me to grow.
As the day for my trip got closer, I started to create more rigid arrangements by booking a stay at a local hostel which I have never done before. By staying at a hostel, I would be forced to mingle with others.
To further push myself out of my comfort zone, I didn’t reserve a car rental as I planned to hitchhike, walk, or take the bus to get around the island. When I landed in Kauai, I started walking to the hostel from the airport with my 35-pound backpack.
The distance from the airport to the hostel is seven miles and my initial thought was to walk as far as I can before hitchhiking. But strolling along the side of the road next to the beautiful beach, I got the “hiker’s high” and ended up walking the entire distance. And of course, during my journey, I took a few breaks to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
After settling into the hostel and eating dinner at a local barbecue place, I took the initiative and mingled with others guests in the common area. Fascinated by everyone’s unique and interesting stories, I sat on the edge of my seat hearing them all. When the time came for me to share mine, I told them my plans of visiting Kalalau trail by hitchhiking or taking the bus.
Upon hearing that, one of the men offered to give me a ride to the trailhead because he also had plans to head to that part of the island. Right then and there, I found my ride to the trailhead. Before that, I didn’t know how I was going to get there, but I knew I would find a way.
After a few hours of hiking on the trail, I met five local Hawaiians (from the Island of Oahu) whom I instantly became friends with. Once we established rapport, they invited me to stay with them on the beach. Coincidentally our flights both leave on Sunday (I hiked in on Friday), therefore they offered me a ride to the airport if I stayed an extra night and leave with them.
I gladly accepted their offer and hiked together to the beach.
The trip was an amazing adventure. It went better than I could have ever planned for it. My birthday present for myself was memorable, which I’ll never forget. This was all possible because I strategically pushed myself out of my comfort zone so that I would be in foreign and uncomfortable situations.
Deep down, I knew I could handle any challenges that came my way.
Not having a car made me resourceful by walking, hitchhiking, or taking the bus. Having confidence in myself, I was still able to make new friends in new places and leverage my network by adding true value to them.
Compared to coming back home where I have all that I’ll ever need, everything else becomes relatively easy. I have grown as a person because I “survived” the discomfort I put myself in.
This empowering feeling encourages me to further push myself to learn and grow.
Your Current Comfort Zone Was Once Uncomfortable
Everything you comfortably do now was once uncomfortable.
Take walking for an example. You were too young to remember this, but you fell countless times before you learned to walk. Before you were able to do so, you had to crawl.
And in your early stages of learning how to walk, you fell down a lot. Although it was uncomfortable, you didn’t stop or give up because you didn’t know what quitting was. That same thought never crossed your parents’ minds either. You persisted and eventually learned how to walk.
Take a look at your current skill set. You had to learn everything you know now over time. And with practice, you became better at it.
Find Comfort in Discomfort
If you can find comfort in discomfort, you will have mastered life.
The life you have now is easy and comfortable. For example, if you want to go somewhere, you can simply drive or fly there without breaking a sweat. If you’re hungry, you can go to a restaurant or a local grocery store to buy what you want.
But with comfortability, you pay a steep price for complacency. Without having to face difficult challenges, you become weak and soft. Throughout life, you will inevitably face tough obstacles.
When those times come, how will you handle them?
Will you grow in the face of adversity or will you be crippled by them?
Can you rise above the struggle?
If you welcome these challenges into your life, you will learn and grow.
When it comes to building muscle, you must “break” your muscles apart so they can rebuild themselves back together to get bigger. You will feel moments of discomfort when you workout. That’s when your muscles are working intensively with the lactic acid build-up, hence you have the “burn” feeling. Your mind is telling you to stop, but you don’t because you know that’s part of the process.
This concept applies to every growth you experience. Realize when discomfort comes, embrace it, and understand that it’s there to help you grow.
Create Challenges by Design
Challenges will inevitably arise in life. But what if you can better prepare yourself for those moments?
By equipping yourself with challenges to learn and grow, you can better prepare when life unexpectedly throws you chaos. You will then have increased your capacity for dealing with difficult obstacles. And if in those tough times you can calmly handle them, then hardships won’t intimidate you.
You’ll have created confidence – the ability to face the unknown and know you can deal with it.
Experience is the only way for you to become self-reliant. Having dealt with and survived difficult hurdles, you better prepare yourself for the present moment and the future.
Certainty doesn’t exist because no one knows what will exactly happen in the future. Although you don’t know the outcome, you can better train for it by becoming more resilient, grounded, and courageous. These are some of the attributes you learn from taking risks.
You can step outside of your comfort zone with tiny steps to build confidence and victories. This way, you can build momentum towards something bigger.
Remember: Everything great started off small.
The Great Wall of China was built one brick at a time.
The tallest tree in the world was once a little seed. A marathon race is completed with one step at a time.
And for every great skill you have, it didn’t start off so great.
Look at professional athletes. Their natural “talent” are skills they have practiced for years. To see that, you have to zoom out far enough.
Take Michael Jordan for an example. He was one of the greatest NBA players of all time. But he wasn’t born a talented basketball player.
He had to put in years and years of deliberate practice of the fundamentals of basketball – dribbling, shooting, rebounding, defending, and being a team player. Being the first to show up to practice and the last to leave, Michael Jordan dedicated his whole life to playing basketball. Hence he became one of the best and won multiple championships with the help of supportive teammates and coaches.
Another example is Michael Phelps. Determined to be the most decorated swimmer ever, he performed ridiculous swim workouts twice a day. Other Olympic swimmers thought it was not humanly possible to do two of those intense workouts within 24 hours.
But to Michael Phelps, impossible was just a mere suggestion as he shattered the normal human expectation. Because of his intense training, he has won more gold medals than any Olympic swimmer in history.
You only see them shine in the spotlight, but rarely see the blood, sweat, and tears that go with their success. You don’t hear about all the work they do when they’re behind the curtain – when no one is watching them.
There’s no overnight success. You must put in the work to earn it. And if it’s truly important to you, you’ll make the time and effort. Otherwise, you won’t. It’s simple as that.
Whatever goals you have, be realistic and challenge yourself by taking incremental amounts. For example, if you haven’t run a mile in years, don’t sign up for a full marathon.
Start off with a one-mile run because that goal is more realistic, yet outside of your comfort zone. Eventually, you’ll get stronger and faster. Soon you can complete longer distances.
Expanding your comfort zone is the only way to grow and improve your life.
And if you’re not growing, then you’re dying, because you’ll stay the same while time fades away. Look at everything in nature; they’re either blossoming vibrantly or slowly decaying.
Before reaching their highest potential, they were just small seeds buried underground. That’s their challenge. But with proper support such as water, nutrients, and sunlight, they grew into beautiful flowers and big strong trees.
The same goes for you. You can’t grow without challenges.
And without growth, you become stagnant and fall behind because your competition is constantly improving. It’s easy to be complacent because you’re comfortable and safe. When tough times come, you won’t be ready for them.
Learn to use challenges as a way to help you better prepare for life. It will bring you more joy and fulfillment because you’re living close to the edge.
The life you want and the person you want to become is outside of your comfort zone, so step into it, and embrace the discomfort. After reaping the benefits, you’ll make a conscious decision to consistently push yourself out of your comfort zone.
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