In order to grow we must be comfortable with being, well, uncomfortable. Nothing new with that concept I realize, but pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones truly does has a host of benefits and not so many downsides (think the downsides are largely related to challenges that are dangerous like trying an extreme sport without preparation).
I'm personally a huge fan of challenges. It's how we grow and a great way to learn more about ourselves. But aside from moving to a place where you know just about no one (check) or traveling abroad on your own (soon to be check, stay tuned for these plans) it's not always totally clear just how we can push ourselves.
I've wondered what some ways to do this might be. Then a few weeks ago, I realized I was in the middle of doing it. So what was I in the middle of that was pushing me outside my comfort zone? I wore a pair of funky pants to work.
This sounds silly I'm sure but let me explain what exactly I did, what this taught me and how you can apply the concept.
What I did:
I wore a pair of slouchy, trendy pants to my office.
How does this fit the criteria of pushing me outside my comfort zone?
I'm glad you asked. See, these pants were a little different from my normal style. I thought they were great in the store. I thought they were great in the dressing room. I thought they were great in my apartment. I thought they were great in the morning when I put them on. Then as soon as I parked my car at my office I wondered, “Wait, are these pants weird?”
I work at a website so the dress is pretty causal. Additionally I spend my time with a lot of technology guys who will admit that they're not the most stylish. Basically I can wear whatever I want to work.
On top of this I'm also a pretty confident person, both in myself and my fashion choices.
But still, this almost sinking feeling of, “Is anyone going to say anything to me, or laugh at m?” crept over me. Being the self-confident person I am, I wasn't proud of it.
But I mentally explored it. And I realized that this was one small way to practice challenging myself. With that in mind, I waltzed into my office in my new pants.
But wait, really, how does this fit as ‘pushing' someone outside of her comfort zone?
I did something that was outside of my normal routine. I took a risk. I tried — in this case I wore — something new and different. The results don't necessarily matter (though for those who are interested in, I got some compliments) what matters is that I did something new that was a little nerve racking and I survived, and possibly became better from it.
Got it. Sort of. But what actually happened:
Again, I got a few compliments but largely no one noticed. I felt slightly uneasy the first few hours of the day and was aware of how many times I was walking to the bathroom, by the end of the day I forgot I was even wearing something “different.”
Okay, got it now. But what's the point?
Want to get better at pushing yourself outside your comfort zone? Try small, seemingly trivial things. Small things still count and trying something like this in a safe space (e.g., with friends or family, or in a relaxed work environment on a Friday with coworkers whose fashion opinions you care little about…) is a good, easy place to start.
Challenge yourself. Pick something that you're not super comfortable with, but won't devastate your life if things go wrong, and go for it.
If we don't push ourselves we won't get better and if we don't try something we'll never know how it might turn out!
Jane Scudder is a marketing manager and culture team lead at Hubzu.com currently living in Atlanta, GA. Passionate about career development, culture, and change management she blogs on these topics and more at janeonchange.blogspot.com.
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