Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I’d never lept out of my comfort zone. I mean, like anyone naturally would be, I’m curious. But I’d never want to go back. So much has changed and for the better. I might not be here blogging and telling you this story!
The first time I let myself be uncomfortable on purpose was years ago at a sales conference. A group of us were walking back from a team event and there it was — a suspension bridge high over a gorge. I stopped at the edge, looked down, and looked across to the other side. The words “I can’t” slipped out of my mouth. As I turned to walk back the other way, one of my co-workers said, “Why? It’s just a bridge.”
It’s just a bridge.
Thinking back on it, I remember how ridiculous that sounded to me. I was making a big deal over a bridge. Of course, it happened to be high up in the air but it was, after all, just a bridge.
I felt silly for being afraid of heights.
If you’re afraid of heights, you’ll know how awful it feels. Your gut screams at you. Your brain dreams up images of you falling endlessly. It sucks. It’s uncomfortable. It’s also uncomfortable having your co-workers wonder why you’re holding onto such a childlike fear. It’s limiting.
So, with the help of my co-worker, I crossed that bridge. He let me hang onto him and about halfway across I let go. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and did something I had been so afraid of for years.
And that’s what you do. You keep doing the thing that makes you feel uncomfortable until you get better at it or get past it.
When I took that first step outside my comfort zone, I had no idea where it would lead or how much I’d change my life.
But I took a chance. I challenged myself. I pushed myself.
Here are a few places embracing uncomfortable led me:
- Going whitewater rafting and subsequently jumping off a very high cliff into a raging river.
- Travelling solo to Paris, France to see the French Open.
- Going up in a helicopter to see glaciers in Banff, Alberta. By myself. No friends. No co-workers. Just a few strangers all wanting to see the Rockies and glaciers.
- Taking a 4-week solo road trip of California. Just me, a suitcase, lots of music, and a rental car.
- Negotiating my salary for a new job. Doing this for the first time was scary. I was worried they’d say no and take back the job offer.
- Met bloggers and entrepreneurs I’d never met IRL before. I’m an introvert. So large groups of people at conferences and me don’t always mix well.
- Speaking in front of large groups several times.
What do all of these have in common? They were scary as hell but they helped me grow. A lot. They changed my life. They opened new doors.
Without rafting and jumping off a cliff, my fear of heights may still be with me. Now I’m not afraid to walk the glass floor in the CN Tower, go zip lining, or hike up a mountain.
Travelling solo to Paris and California helped me find myself. I understand that I can be safe and secure and not rely on anyone else for happiness.
If I never negotiated my salary, I would have never understood that I deserve to be paid what I’m worth and what I’ve worked hard for. It reminded me to value myself and my time.
All of these nerve-wracking, gut-wrenching experiences taught me one thing:
To grow you must embrace discomfort and failure. To find the beauty in life, you must push yourself that one step further.
And I’ve had my fair share of uncomfortable moments and failures too.
I’ve fallen off my bike on a 50KM charity ride in front of hundreds of people.
I’ve gotten lost on road trips (this is never as bad as it seems).
I’ve failed numerous times to get a promotion.
I’ve been terrified at conferences surrounded by hundreds of other bloggers.
Each challenge faced teaches us something new about ourselves. It shows us where we need to improve, or a limiting belief we need to push past.
And I’m witnessing this again in my own life right now. Starting a business, deciding to leave corporate behind, and embracing a minimalist lifestyle are all uncomfortable adventures. Will I fail? Will I mess up? Sure I will. But I’ll never know my true potential until I push myself. And with all those uncomfortable moments behind me, I’m less afraid of this new experience. I’m willing to risk more because I’ve embraced being uncomfortable.
Good things almost always come out of uncomfortable moments. So now, instead of wondering, I always ask myself two things:
1. Is this an opportunity to learn and grow?
2. Will I regret not doing this thing/event/adventure/experience?