Sometimes, You Have to Stay Within Your Comfort Zone

There are a lot of things that scare me in life: spiders and heights are at the top of the list. I’m also hesitant to try new foods. And yet, I’ve travelled all over the world, and I haven’t let my fears hold me back. I’ve skydived in New Zealand, I’ve faced spiders as big as my head in Uganda and I’ve tried crocodile in South Africa. (Right now, I’m in Spain and I’ve been trying a few new things, like olive and black/inky rice, neither of which seemed very yummy to me.)

I’ve always felt that getting out of your comfort zone is important. We shouldn’t let our fears hold us back. And so it was with interest that I read, “When to Stay Inside Your Comfort Zone,” by Andy Molinsky. And while I’m a huge advocate for trying new things, Molinsky makes some good points. Sometimes, there are situations when it makes sense to stay right where you are – both professionally and personally.

  • Prepare well enough. I never could have made it to the summit of Kilimanjaro had I not trained for months ahead of time. Similarly, I could not have testified before the DC City Council many years ago had I not properly prepared my remarks (for every “curveball” that Marion Barry could throw my way).
  • Care about it. If you’re not passionate about what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s easy to get lazy about it. I was a member of a relay team for the Big Sur Marathon this past April. But because the team was ambivalent about meeting any specific goals (and I detest running!), I didn’t put a lot of effort into my training. Similarly, if I am writing a proposal for a potential client, and I’m not very excited about it, then I end up “dragging my feet.” And usually decide that perhaps I shouldn’t pursue that project.
  • The timing has to be right. I was planning a trip to Patagonia later this year, but ultimately, my friend and I decided that neither of us had the time (nor the money) to properly train for such a trip. So we are delaying our trip until next year. But earlier this year, I read, “Evicted,” by Matthew Desmond. It got me fired up about the challenges that disadvantaged people face when trying to secure housing. Soon thereafter, I was approached about supporting a program that helps youth find and secure housing (as well as provide other wrap-around services). The timing couldn’t have been more perfect!

Take all of these factors into consideration before stepping out of your comfort zone – and then, take the plunge!

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