To celebrate our 50th birthdays, my wife and I (along with our three adult children and daughter in-love) went skydiving. Mike, my skydiving instructor, gave me his philosophy on life when he said, “If you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much space.” I’ve pondered that line many times since.
Many of us gravitate toward playing it safe as we get older. We take less and less risk. We envy the young who seem to have little fear of danger. And if we do take a risk, we find ourselves carefully calculating the outcome before we jump.
But here’s what I’ve been learning. Taking on a fresh challenge, learning a new skill or traveling to a different cultural environment is when I grow the most and find the deepest fulfillment. In reality, the really important stuff happens when I’m outside my comfort zone.
If that’s true, what can you do to increase your travels outside the comfort zone? Let me suggest a few.
- Realize Risk is a Good Thing. The reality is—we move toward things we value. If we regularly proclaim that getting out of our comfort zone is a good thing, the more likely we are to actually takes risks.
- Face your Fears. If you feel anxiety when trying something new or different, you are normal. However, you don’t have to be controlled by anxiety and fear. Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Often, the ability to push through fear is the only thing that separates those who succeed from those who fail. That is true at every age.
- Take the First Step. When we were younger, we were more spontaneous and sometimes just crazy daring. With little experience, it was hard to predict every thing that might go wrong so we just pushed forward. The downside of having lots of experience is that we tend to overthink a new adventure and imagine all the possibilities for calamity. We want a detailed map to the destination. Maybe we just need to take the first step we can see clearly and then have the faith we will have the light to see the next step when we need to.
- Just Jump. I had anticipated skydiving for years. But when it came right down to it and the flight master opened the door at 13,500 feet, I was secretly hoping I could kind of just slide into the sky like getting into a cold swimming pool. But when we got to the open door, Mike counted “one, two, three” and I jumped outside of my comfort zone. It was amazingly freeing and exhilarating to free fall at 125 mph for 9,000 feet! I want to do it again when I turn 60!
William Trogdon said, “There are two kinds of adventurers: those who go truly hoping to find adventure and those who go secretly hoping they won’t.” Living on the edge inspires us, stretches us, grows us and moves us to greater accomplishments. If you are out to accomplish significant things in your life, you are going to be spending a lot of time outside your comfort zone.
QUESTION: When was the last time you moved outside your comfort zone but, in retrospect, were glad you did? Please leave a comment below!