On Leaving your Comfort Zone

The first time I really left my comfort zone was plagued by uncertainty and unease. Leaving Alaska — the place where I’d been unknowingly so sheltered for years — to go to school 3,000 miles away was terrifying. But slowly I became acclimated.

I joined clubs, began working at the newspaper, and laid down the roots for what I would call home during the next four years. When I returned to Alaska that summer it felt different. “How could Alaska have changed so much in a year?” I thought.

That’s when I realized that Alaska hadn’t changed, I had.

Encouraged by this change and craving more uncertainty, I began to take on even more — signing up for a Tough Mudder, going on a blind date to a ball, adopting a kitten, and studying abroad. I’ve found that when I push myself to the point where that old voice in the back of my head cries, “What in the Sam Hill are you getting yourself into?” something amazing will happen.

And the best part is that you have no idea where it’ll take you.

Never in a million years would I have guessed that saying adios to comfort in favor of studying abroad would lead to making best friends — best friends who I would then go on a crazy, Red Bull-fueled race through Europe with. Never would I have guessed that applying for the newspaper photo staff — being the lone freshman surrounded by daunting and impressive photography portfolios — would lead to me being on the sidelines of national news and sports. So how do you break through the constraints of that habitual comfort?

Enjoy the unknown

You have absolutely no idea where life can go. Regardless of age, you still have time to leave your comfort zone and discover where the unknown will take you.

Accept the good and bad

Things won’t always go as planned, so learn to accept the pot-holes, bumps, and curves in your road. Clinging to your comfort zone will only make you inflexible, unable to see the opportunity that has presented itself.

Travel

Travel, travel, travel. It doesn’t have to be far, just far enough to experience a culture outside of your own. It’ll hurl you from your comfort like a whirlwind, jumbling around all thoughts, ideals and routines until you wonder why you ever created something so obscure as a comfort zone in the first place.

Set goals

Inch your way toward that barrier to help you accomplish that amazing new something, whatever it is. Run a half marathon. Save up for a trip. Learn a new sport. Learn to cook.

Meet someone new

Part of what makes comfort zones so comfortable is the people who reside within them. These people are your foundation — invaluable and to be cherished — but it’s important to step away and meet people completely unlike you. Insight into new opinions and ideas will provide so many new directions to where your path may go.

Home will always be there for you, welcoming and unchanged. So run, unhindered and confident, until you find the limits of your comfort zone — then leave it.

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