Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

mindset personal growth Aug 03, 2020
Photo by Doran Erickson on Unsplash

A good friend of mine set an extremely ambitious goal for herself this year: to walk 100 kilometers in 24 hours or less. That’s a little over 62 miles, for our American friends. 

Why, you may wonder, would someone choose to do this? 

There are any number of reasons, but the most compelling to me, and likely the one that is motivating my friend, is simply to extend the boundaries of what is possible for her. To see what she’s made of; to see whether she can push through beyond whatever limitations she might have previously placed on herself.

Yesterday, my friend walked 80 kilometers over 16 hours. She set out at 5:30 am, and completed her trek at around 9:30 pm. I have no doubt that, come September, she will complete that 100K walk, as planned.

When was the last time you set a goal that seemed unattainable? Or perhaps one that seemed attainable for others, but not for you?

I’m going to argue that you should be doing this on the regular. And here’s why.

As Bill Gates famously said, most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten. If you set your sights too low for the long term, you will achieve less in life.

Think about any successful, visionary leader or famous person you know. It’s highly likely that they had very humble or disadvantaged beginnings, and if you were to step back in time, you would never imagine it possible that they could achieve anything approaching the successful lives they’ve built. Here are just a few examples:

Steve Jobs was a college drop-out who used LSD, and began his career as a lowly computer technician.

Oprah Winfrey was born to an unwed teenager, grew up in such dire poverty that she wore dresses made of potato sacks, and was sexually assaulted by two family members and a family friend.

Tom Cruise had an abusive father, grew up in poverty, and attended 15 schools in 14 years.

Did these people just get lucky? Were they simply in the right place at the right time, and their fortunes changed overnight?

Of course not.

They worked, harder than most, for what they achieved. But even that wouldn’t be enough to explain what they have been able to accomplish - plenty of people work hard their entire lives, and never seem able to get ahead.

The secret ingredient?

They had a crazy, unreasonably big vision of what they wanted their life to look like, and that vision required them to step out into the unknown and do things that were risky, or uncomfortable, or scary. Or just plain weird.

There's a well-worn saying:

If you want something you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.

Those who are unwilling to take risks (and I’m not necessarily talking about financial risks) will never know what they might have been able to accomplish in this life. To me, that is a giant waste. We were each given gifts, aptitudes and talents, and I believe the key to personal fulfillment and happiness lies in activating and using those to the fullest extent, for the betterment of others.

By the way, if you think I’m just talking about career aptitudes, think again.

In 2012, I registered to run a half-marathon. The most running I had done in the previous 27 years (since running track and cross-country in high-school) was trying to catch the bus as it was pulling away from the bus stop. 

By all external measures, this was an overly-ambitious goal. And it’s true that I didn’t actually run that particular half-marathon, due to various injuries I sustained from trying to do too much, too fast. But I started running. Forking over a chunk of money and circling that date on the calendar set me on the path. And two years later, I not only achieved that goal, but I ran a full marathon. 42.2 kilometers. 26.2 miles.

I tell you this, not to brag. I tell you this to inspire you. To remind you that you are capable of far more than you believe. And that you are very likely playing too small.

A few years ago, I started making BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals) an annual thing. I decided that I would do one thing each year that took me way out of my comfort zone.

Why would I do this?

For the same reason my friend signed up to walk 100K – because I knew it would increase my confidence, and show me what I was capable of. 

And it has.

In 2018, this girl, who’s terrified of heights, climbed up 67 meters (220 feet), let herself be strapped into a zipline harness, and soared 670 meters (2200 feet) over treetops and with a breathtaking view of Niagara Falls to her left.

Photo by Constante Ken Lim on Unsplash

In 2019, this girl, who’s always been terrified of open water due to two near-drowning incidents in her childhood, put on a wetsuit and swam 500 meters (about 1/3 of a mile) in Lake Ontario as a participant in the Subaru IronGirl Triathlon.

Photo by Jorge Romero on Unsplash

And this year? In 2020, The Year of COVID, this girl, whose longest athletic distance to date is a full marathon, (and that was 6 years ago) is going to walk 50 kilometers, right alongside her friend who’s doing 100. I’m up to 29K in my training program as of yesterday, and my hips complain after each weekly long walk. But I will keep training, and the limits of what’s possible for me will continue to expand.

These are all physical challenges. But don’t be fooled – each time I want to do something a bit risky in another dimension of my life, I draw on these experiences for a reminder that I have faced the pain or the fear, and done it anyway. And not only survived, but felt exhilarated from the experience. 

So…what about you? What will your seemingly unattainable goal look like? It could be anything – an athletic challenge, getting out of debt, changing jobs or careers, acquiring a new skill, making a big change in your relationships or living arrangements…

If your life could look any way you want, what would that vision be? Write it down, or find pictures that exemplify it, make multiple copies, and put them all over the place where you will see them on the daily. 

Don’t play small. You are capable of so much more than you think.

I believe in you!




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