Every moment of every day, we’re presented with options, like whether or not we should go to that farmer’s market we pass by every Wednesday, or whether we should greet the new neighbors, or whether we should make that phone call to our grandfather or distant cousin.
Saying no by “putting off” these things feels safer, point blank. When anything presents itself that might wobble on the edge of our comfort zone, it’s only natural that we instinctively shut down. But when we do this, we end up missing out on potentially life-altering experiences and conversations. How do we reverse this so that we can go on and enjoy our lives a bit more?
First, I think it’s important to figure out why we shut down. When we make our lives predictable, they feel safer, but they also become mundane and repetitive.
Second, it’s important to know that we can be simultaneously picky and open to saying yes if we understand the difference between boundaries and comfort zones.
Boundaries are external. We know when someone oversteps their bounds when it feels like we want to get out; it’s like a very mild claustrophobia or suffocation. This experience has a long half-life.
With comfort zones, it’s just the opposite. We don’t want to leave. They are internal. Only we have the ability to break these. It feels like an uncomfortable ache when we do, but this feeling has a relatively short half-life. Most of the time, when we go out of our comfort zone, some magic happens and we all of a sudden have a new interest, friend, or burst of energy.
This is how you can tell the difference, so that if you do go out of your comfort zone and find that you agreed to something that feels like it’s infringing upon your boundaries, you can say to yourself, “Okay, this isn’t my cup of tea, now I know for next time” without shutting down altogether.
We should take the big leap out of our zones because….
There are so many things that we have in mind on the back burner. We want to go on a cruise in the Mediterranean, start practicing Pilates, start eating organic…the list goes on.
There’s usually one overarching reason for not doing any of these things— we think in black and white and don’t want to do what seems daunting.
We think that to do any of these things, we have to go “all in” and travel like a trip advisor, have incredible flexibility, or turn our backyards into a garden.
Note to self: the irrational black and white thoughts are my comfort zones making excuses.
The reality? You can enjoy doing all of that without doing it like a pro.
Nothing makes less sense than wanting to do something that makes our cells dance and then not doing it because we’re in our own way.
Go kayaking at the nearest park, try one Pilates class instead of buying the monthly package, and grab the organic lettuce instead of your usual from the supermarket.
One step at a time, your desires unfold as your spirit rises and you begin to feel more free.
You’ll Create Relationships
I’ll be cliché here. Life is short. Each year is just a handful of days. It’s probably a good idea to ask yourself this question every now and again: “If I had to count all of the days that I decided not to do something, put it off for later, or saved it for another day, how many days would that add up to? Would it be weeks? Months? Years?”
How much of our lives are we really missing because we’re scared of diving in? The water is cold for a second— it always is— but we know that it warms up. In fact, when it does, we don’t want to get out.
In this warm space, we connect. We create meaningful and lasting relationships with people we haven’t given ourselves the chance to meet out of fear of the cold water, and we deepen our relationships with those we know we were hesitant to reach out to.
You may even find that all of the greatest friends, moments, and conversations in your life— the ones that make you feel alive— are experienced by going out of your comfort zone.
You’ll Discover More of Yourself
You’ll never regret doing something unconventional or unexpected or finally doing “the thing.”
Saying yes to new experiences and invitations creates a space outside of familiarity.
When we explore the unknown, we find new shiny toys to play with, new people who fascinate us, new lands, and what I believe to be most important, a fondness for ourselves and our new affections.
And hey, if you didn’t like the experience, awesome, you know something about yourself that you didn’t know before. Like maybe you absolutely hated skydiving. All good, heights aren’t your thing. Maybe rowing is. But you’ll only know if you try.
When you finally say yes to life, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Human beings tend to cling to certainty at the expense of growth. To avoid this, we can’t let our knee-jerk reactions be the ones we live by.
Saying yes isn’t a matter of being open and accepting all the time and breaking our limitations and boundaries. Saying yes is a matter of making sure that we aren’t constrained by our comfort zones.