Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

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Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

A study recently showed that most people around the world who have the ability to control the temperature in their homes set their thermostats to roughly the same temperature as that found in the natural environment in eastern Africa, where all human life is believed to have originated. It’s that temperature (around 20 degrees) where both our bodies and our social selves feel most comfortable.

But think of all the incredible things humans can do, and have done, outside of that comfort zone. A few have walked across Antarctica, traveled to the moon. Thousands have run 156 miles across the Sahara in the Marathon des sables. Even more have climbed to the highest peaks or crawled to the greatest depths of the earth.

Outside of our comfort zone is where we discover what we’re truly capable of.

Fortunately, you don’t have to brave sub-zero or over-35 degree temperatures to step out of your comfort zone. In your day-to-day life, your comfort zone is simply the default you go back to, again and again, because it feels safe. In yoga, if you don’t like being seen while you practice, your comfort zone is the back of the room. At your job, if speaking in front of people makes your stomach do somersaults, your comfort zone is writing, not presenting, the reports.

Your comfort zone is what is familiar. But what is familiar is necessarily limited. Your comfort zone is what you tell yourself you can do. But it’s not what you can actually do.

So how do you get out? Funnily enough, the hardest part is realising you’re there in the first place. Start by slowly testing out the edges, asking yourself at every turn, why I am doing things this way? If the answer is that you’re afraid to try another way, because what would people think, or it doesn’t come naturally, or you’re probably not good enough, then pause. That’s the edge. And that’s when you need to take the next step.

In that moment, when you find yourself on the precipice—wondering whether to set your mat in the front of the room, raise your hand, or say hello to someone new—ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Almost invariably, the answer will be not doing it.

Last year, my 64-year-old father left the United States for the first time in his life, traveling to visit me in Paris. As we stood at the top of Montmartre, looking down over the city of light, he had tears in his eyes. He told me that the reason he’d never left home is that he was afraid it would make his own life in our small, rural town seem inadequate.

But what he found when he finally took that step was a whole new kind of beauty, and a new way to see and appreciate the beauty of his home. Letting go didn’t make him fall, it let him fly.

Ellie Norton is a 2018 Lumi 200-hour Teacher Training graduate and a passionate yogi and writer.  You can read more of her reflections on her blog, What I Learned This Week.