If you’re always comfortable, you’re doing it wrong|Stepping outside the ‘zone’

Posted on April 16, 2011


We all want to be good at things. It feels good to use the natural skills you’ve been equipped with, those skills that come easy to you.  Somewhere along the way, we figured out certain things we were naturally good at, & thus, that we enjoyed doing. When you’re good at something, you expect to be good at related things – good at math? probably willing to try your hand at other logic-using projects…good at one sport? probably willing to try another to see how you good you are at that one. As a kid, you are likely more willing to try new things that test your ability – anyone else dive into seven sports as a kid & slowly weed them out as you saw your talents flourish in a few of them? 

It’s part of what helps a kid become well-rounded, allowing them to be exposed to many experiences where they can assess their strengths & talents. As we age, that willingness to explore new experiences drops off in some people. There’s only one culprit to be blamed for this. Fear.

Sure, you can say, you’re ‘too busy’ to try out new things. That’s an excuse. ‘I just don’t want to.’ Blah. If you aren’t at least willing to try it once, it comes back to one  thing – fear. Fear keeps most people from finding out if they are good at other things. Being uncoordinated, slow or weak feels terrible at first. So as humans with emotions & ego all wrapped in to the mix – if you know a situation could potentially bruise your ego & bring out real emotion in you about not being ‘good enough’, you’ll likely avoid that situation entirely.

But doing so may make you miss a truly breakthrough moment! Sticking to what you know is ‘safe.’ Staying safe means you know what you’re going to get, but you won’t get anything more than that. Think of it in the context of working out: You always do your basic weights & cardio routine, you see the TRX/track team workout/yoga booty ballet class, and its intriguing to you, but you’re hesitant about trying it. Why are you hesitant? If it’s boring to you & doesn’t light your fire, you can easily walk away. That’s not a big enough detractor to keep someone from trying something; you do that with food all the time – try a new food, either like it or loathe it and now you know either way. No, that’s not it – it’s fear – the fear of looking like an idiot…of being the ‘worst’ one there…of failing.

The opposite of failure is success. And in experiences, it’s rarely all one or the other. There’s a lot of grey when it comes to experiences. When you’re a kid, if you mis-pronounce words, I suppose you could define that as a ‘failure to speak properly.’ But no kid just says ‘forget it, I quit’ when they hear themselves mess up. Kids just take in the corrective coaching from their parents & store that info for the next time they start talking. You don’t see any kids taking a vow of silence because they said ‘basgetti” instead of “spaghetti” (one I’ve heard messed up a few times by kids I know). So back to failure or success – was it a failure when the kid tried to say one word, and an incorrect word came out? Or was it a stepping stone toward success?

If you can get over yourself long enough to try something new – you’ll be in the midst of trying out that new experience & maybe it comes surprisingly easily to you, and you’ll wonder what all the fuss you created was about. Or, it will be a challenge, just as you thought. And there will be a moment when you can choose to get angry & quit, because those feelings of fear & inadequacy bubble up in you as you realize your skill level is not what you want it to be. Quitting lets you come up with any list of excuses about why you ‘don’t need to do that.’ That’s option 1. Option 2 looks like this: You can get angry, want to quit, then decide to push harder than ever to learn the skill set, give it your all, & go back for more again and again until you dominate that skill set like you always hoped you could (but were too afraid to admit).

By the time you read this, I will have tried 3 new things this week that I have never done before. So far, I’m 1 and 1 – one new thing I tried, I was good at right off the bat and fell instantly in love with it, even though there is still plenty of room for me to improve. The second thing, I was not good at right off the bat, and it made me mad, but I pushed through trusting that if I keep going,  I will get better.

The 3rd thing, I’m leaving right now to go do – and whether I’m good or bad, I don’t care because I know I’ll have a blast…that reference to yoga booty ballet up there? yeah, my college roommate talked me into trying a class with her. Good or bad at it, it’s going to be a great experience and it’s experiences that fill up our lives with rich memories. So get over your fear & go try something new. If this endurance athlete can be willing to try something totally unrelated to endurance athletics, I know you can get out of your comfort zone too. So get over yourself, and go shake your booty at something new today.