I came across an old email the other day. Its subject reminded me of my former neighbor, Jake.
Jake always had his door open. No, really. The front door to his apartment was literally open, which served as an unofficial invitation for neighbors and friends to drop by.
One evening, I decided it was time for me to drop by.
Jake greeted me with a bubbly “Howdy neighbor!” He put a whiskey in my hand and started to talk about his day. He mentioned that his mother was flying to London to see a Shakespearean play.
Naturally, I asked if he’d be joining her, and, with a Mississippi drawl, Jake said, “No Ma’am!” He proudly declared he had not left the state of Texas since 1990. He vacationed at the same place, within the Texas Hill Country, every year.
At that time, I could NOT fathom going to the same place over and over again. There was so much to see in this life!
The conversation shifted to home ownership.
I told Jake I was saving for a house and proceeded to describe my dream home. Jake said, “Not me darlin’! I’m stayin’ right here!” Jake was in the process of buying his apartment and had a stack of floor tiles, in the corner of the room, to prove it.
I remember wincing at his response because I felt sorry for him. I believed he was limiting himself and, therefore, chose to stay stuck because it was safe. Why else would he travel to the same spot time and time again? And maybe he left his door open because he was lonely.
Little did I know Jake was on to something great.
Stepping INTO Your Comfort Zone
That old email was about stepping outside of your comfort zone. I smiled and shook my head when I saw the subject line because that was all I ever did.
Stepping outside of my comfort zone granted me a ton of opportunities. I worked for great companies. I traveled, lived in great cities, and met a lot of people. I also discovered my love for yoga, among other things.
And yet, I was unhappy.
Stepping outside of my comfort zone also created an insatiable need for constant improvement. This resulted in a lack of appreciation and dissatisfaction for all I currently had in my life.
For example: I was already working towards my next promotion before I received the first. I often planned the longer and more adventurous vacation of the future in the middle of my current vacation. I also moved every 1 to 2 years because each home I once loved became “too small” after a few months.
Jake, on the other hand, stepped into his comfort zone.
He opened his door because he was a social guy that welcomed the company of his neighbors. He traveled to the same place in the Texas Hill Country because he really enjoyed being there. Jake bought his tiny apartment because he really likes where he lives and did not desire anything else.
Jake was happy!
I reflected on the different outcomes. Here is what I realized and learned:
1. Be Present
Plug in to the life you are living right NOW. Relax your shoulders and notice everything around you. Acknowledge what you like and dislike. Pause and take a breath. It’s okay to stop and smell the roses while you are seeking growth.
2. You Work Hard To Be Comfortable
Comfort, familiarity, and routines are obtained by stepping outside of your comfort zone.
Think about it.
You decorate your home a certain way because it brings you comfort. You eat certain foods because you enjoy the way those foods taste. You hang around your friends and family because they lift you up and indirectly give you strength and confidence.
The decorations, food, friends, and more are the rewards of your hard work. Embrace them without guilt or the need to seek more! You deserve them!
3. Know Yourself and Own It
Stepping outside of your comfort zone should NOT mean abandoning your principles and becoming something or someone you are not. For example: if you do not like seafood, don’t go to a seafood restaurant or buy fish from the grocery store for the purpose of personal growth.
Or if you are a person that prefers small group networking, avoid the large, crowded, 300-person event. Instead, go to small group networking events more often.
There is no need to intentionally make yourself miserable. Doing so actually prevents growth. Instead, step into the comfort of being YOU.
4. Express Gratitude
Show appreciation for having the ability to put gas in your car, walk, or put food on the table. Give your friends and family a hug the next time you see them, even if they have upset you.
Smile at the fact that you got out of bed today. That means you have another opportunity to live your life and create the life you want.
The grass is NOT always greener on the other side. Therefore, express gratitude for the life you have – warts and all.
Stepping outside of your comfort zone often leads to personal growth.
However, accepting yourself – the routines, and the comforts around you – is also a form of personal growth. Rather than look at these comforts and routines in a negative way, embrace and enjoy all you have created and step into your comfort zone.