In this moment and around every corner are greater possibilities . . .
This new year presents us with an invitation to courageously become the more alive, awake, honest, hopeful, healthy, humble, compassionate, attentive, kind, and loving versions of ourselves. We seem to arrive at these moments of possibility at times of deep reflection, crisis, and open-heartedness—and realize that we have a choice: maintain the status quo, going about things as usual, or step out of our comfort zones and make a change.
If you’re considering a change in 2018, you’re not alone. A friend shared hers with me on New Year’s Day, declaring, “Ken, I’m tired of all the things I do to win people’s approval. I’m going to stop relying on others for validation—and begin looking inward for self-acceptance.” Soon afterward, a buddy told me that he’s “sick and tired of the insanity in Washington,” so he’s going to his first protest march since 1968. Inspired by my friends’ bold moves, I resolved to stop eating comfort food, and give my knees a gift by dropping 20 pounds and keeping them off.
Whether they’re opened by our initiative, stumbled upon or instigated by a crisis, windows of opportunity don’t stay open indefinitely. When they do open, we can either walk away, deliberate, and assess the risks and benefits of making a change, or charge forward. In each breath and passing moment, we get to decide which side of our nature to embody. Do we allow ourselves to become creatures of comfort—or risk-takers and adventurers?
Awakening to the greater possibilities, and declaring “It’s time!” or “Enough!” almost always involves stepping outside of our comfort zones. And we all have plenty of them. A friend who joked that he was “in-between transitions” after his divorce, told me recently that he’s had to “step out of more comfort zones than shoes” since he’s started dating again.
Our willingness and ability to deal with the discomfort that comes with change—and our different levels of motivation—are tied to believing that it’s going to be worth it. For example, the return on investment for closing the refrigerator and pantry doors on my comfort foods, bread, ice cream and almost any desert, is happier, more resilient knees. The difficulties of changing these stubborn, self-limiting habits—or turning the corner after a divorce, the loss of a loved one, cancer treatment, a career change, a financial hardship, and so on, cannot be underestimated.
Meeting some of the greatest challenges of our lives and changing our ways takes true grit, hope, humility, and faith. Rising out of the ashes of our Plan A, summoning the faith to try something new, and just stepping up can involve significant changes in our relationships with parents, partners, colleagues—and ourselves. Facing up to, rather than avoiding, issues arising from a struggling marriage, a safe but stagnant job, a health problem, or an addiction takes courage. However, doing so may also open worlds of opportunity for newfound love, hope, healing, redemption, and joy that lead directly to our best possible future.
Comfort is a wonderful thing. Life’s soft landings and safe places provide a refuge from its hard edges, frightening uncertainties, and unpredictable dangers. There are, however, comfort zones that only appear to afford us greater safety and familiarity. In time, they become hiding places for the complacent, fearful, passive, lazy, and oblivious parts of ourselves that would sooner escape reality and avoid hard work. Lounging in these discomfort zones, disconnected from people and responsibility, we risk becoming passive-avoidant and/or passive-aggressive. And we miss out on some of life’s greatest opportunities for growth and freedom. Camping out in risk, growth, intimacy, and conflict-averse comfort zones, allows the detached, dishonest, disassociated, and/or mean-spirited, reckless, judgmental, and vengeful parts of us to ferment.
Having turned challenging corners in my own life and having helped others realize their best possible futures, I’d like to share seven noteworthy tips for stepping outside of your comfort zone:
- Seize the moment. You never know what’s around the corner. Dare to believe that it’s something good. You may have an array of self-sabotaging behaviors, including procrastination, justification, rationalization, excuse-making, feelings of overwhelm, learned hopelessness and helplessness, and good old-fashioned avoidance to keep you in your easy chair. Take a deep breath and summon the strength, faith, and courage to begin the conversation called “This is my time!” Because it is! Get up out of that chair, dust yourself off, and seize the moment.
- Write down five reasons why this is your time for change. Get out a blank piece of paper, and/or turn on your computer or voice recorder. Take another deep breath and clear your mind. Open your heart to whatever is calling for change in your life. And listen! From a place of honesty, integrity, self-compassion, and courage, write down what you want to change and how you will benefit from making such a change.
- This is my time to:
- Turning the corner and reinventing myself will allow me to:
- I am finally realizing that I need:
- And deserve:
- It’s up to me to:
- And I’m worth it.
- Visualize the better version of you, your life, your relationships, your work life, and your world. Form a clear picture of what you’re cultivating, building, and creating.
- Pat yourself on the back for completing the outline of your Master Plan for Change.
- Elicit the help and validation of trusted friends, and let them know what you’re considering doing. Tell them that you need their support, and allow them to be there for you.
- Resist old, self-sabotaging messages and behaviors (that is, those that are dismissive, critical, fear-based, and avoidant) that try and talk you out of taking care of what you need to do and change.
- Implement your Master Plan and keep adding to it. Know that your life is a beautiful work in progress.
Stepping out of your comfort zone allows your pioneer spirit to take flight and soar. Breaking free of fear and allowing self-compassion to guide you in making changes takes faith, patience, and fierce determination. Move forward, and delight in slowly becoming your best possible self, because, as Helen Keller once said, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”