My Mom stopped using the computer. Sitting at the keyboard and constantly trying to remember which password and what website to use became too much for her. It was uncomfortable, so she stopped. Now she has no way to Skype with her grandchildren and can’t remember how to log on to her bank account. It means she’s no longer checking her emails and it’s been so long, she can’t remember how to log on to Facebook. It makes it difficult for friends and family to connect with her. It’s a dangerous decision as we get older. We either open up to learning new things, take on new challenges and push harder to widen our scope or decide to avoid discomfort and watch our world get smaller and smaller. My Mom always loved a good adventure. She was always so creative and so open to a challenge… open to life. But the moment she stopped, everything changed. Life started closing.
When we’re little, we’re explorers. As children, we wander out of our comfort zones to see what’s out in the world. But after we grow up and get some chinks in the armor, we’re afraid to stick our necks out again for fear of being slapped. Steadily we stop trying new things. But if you don’t take risks, you stop growing. You have to remain an explorer even as you get older.
Sure, it’s normal for our networks to shrink as we we age. But if you want to fight the aging process, then fight the urge to be comfortable. And, by the way, this isn’t just about aging well. If you want to be more productive, more creative, and you want your life to be different than it is, you have to get uncomfortable! In order to grow you have to take risks. Yes, we may fail. Yes, we may feel rejection. Takes risks anyway. it’s the only way to grow, transform and reach your potential. Try something new. That’s where I live every day.
I create a wild, crazy adventure each and every day. I purposely put myself in an uncomfortable and new set of circumstances daily in order to yank myself out of my comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be jumping out of an airplane or riding my motorcycle across the country. (Although I’ve done both of those things multiple times.) Adventure is anything you do in unknown territory. It’s about getting uncomfortable. It could be just driving a different way to work. Maybe it’s eating healthy for a week. Or how about making that call you’ve been avoiding? It’s about learning new things and making new friends and finding new business opportunities. And the more you do it, the more comfortable you get doing it.
Find an adventure every day of every decade of your life. It will be challenging— but if you keep it up your comfort zone expands. You open up instead of closing down.
One of the most uncomfortable things I ever did was try yoga. Taking a yoga class was more uncomfortable for me than skydiving. I move so fast in my daily life and slowing down enough to observe how I breath and how I feel was torture. But the more I did it, the more comfortable it became. Now, I teach yoga and can’t imagine not having the practice in my life. In yoga, we get ourselves into uncomfortable positions so that we can be more comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s the training ground for building your comfort zone. Yoga teaches you to expand your muscles while opening your mind and your heart. It’s probably why you encounter so many older people who do yoga but seem so much younger than their years.
When we think of what we want and how uncomfortable it will be to get there, most of us roll over and say I’ll do it some day. Here’s the cold hard truth: The only way your life will be different than it is, is if you get comfortable being uncomfortable now. You have to be willing to try something new. You have to be game doing something completely different, maybe even out of character. You can’t keep functioning in the same way and expect a different outcome.
The more you hang out on the couch, the less likely you’re going to get in shape, right? You have to push yourself to get up, suit up and get moving. It isn’t easy to jump out of your comfort zone unless you have a lot of practice doing it. But I promise you: The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Yes, in the short term, staying on the couch comes with a certain amount of comfort and very little anxiety. But if you want to jumpstart your life and boost your productivity you need some tension. Some call this “optimal anxiety” and you can’t find it on the sofa. The key is learning to take on something new over and over again.