Comfort zones. Several questions have come up lately about what holds people back in life, what prevents people from growing, and what causes people to have so many regrets in life, among many other questions. Without hesitation, my answer to all of those questions was “comfort zones”.
Take a look back at your life over the past year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years. Are you the same person you were at each of those points in your life? Sincerely, I hope all of you are a different person than you were back then. Hopefully you have grown and have improved yourself. Now, ask yourself what has changed and why. Most likely, the cause of the changes in your life have been a result of comfort zones, whether you have stepped outside of them, or have remained stuck inside of them afraid to break out.
A long time ago, I started to learn that if you get stuck inside your comfort zone for too long, the opportunities you have in front of you that will make your life better will pass you by. Opportunities tend to come with an expiration date. You have to go after something as quickly as possible when that opportunity becomes available to you, or else you will miss out. You may never get a second chance.
The most common comment I recall receiving from all of my teachers throughout my school career, from preschool all the way through college, was, “You seem very smart, but you’re holding yourself back. You’re too shy. You need to ask more questions.” It wasn’t until after I turned 30 years old that I started to bust out of my shell and start to overcome the shyness that had been a major part of my whole life to that point. It’s something that I am still working to fully overcome, but the difference between my shyness level now versus 3 years ago is like night and day. There is no comparison.
So, what changed? Why did I leave my comfort zone behind and start to become more outgoing? The answer is simple. If you keep doing the same things, then you will keep getting the same results. If you aren’t happy with the results in any situation, then you need to change your approach. Try something new, and see what happens as a result of that change. Start small. If you like the new results, then slowly make more small changes. I’m not suggesting that anyone completely change their whole life overnight and see what happens because of it. People still tell me on a regular basis that I am insane for packing up my belongings and moving across the country by myself with no plan and no clue what I was doing. They’re probably right, but it was necessary for me, in many ways. That was nearly three years ago, and I still don’t know if I have a clue what I’m doing. But, I feel like I’m closer to finding out.
People I was close friends with before I moved would probably be surprised about the way I now approach life if they could see how I live my life currently. The last time I was able to go back home and visit was well over two years ago. I had started making some positive changes in my life at that time, but the changes I have made since then have had the biggest impact and have allowed me to grow the most as a person.
Changes as simple as trying foods and beverages I never would have tried in the past are small steps I’ve made. Those are easy. Those are things everyone should do. If something makes you nervous, try it. You may or may not like it, but you can at least find out. Maybe you will discover one of your new favorite things that you never would have tried if you had stayed inside your comfort zone.
The biggest changes are the ones that have the biggest rewards. As I said, I am far less shy than I used to be. If you want to know something about me, just ask. Even if you don’t ask, I may tell you anyway, if I feel it is necessary to do so.
Three years ago, I never would have imagined myself going up to a complete stranger and starting a conversation for no reason other than just wanting to talk to them. I have now done this countless times. When the opportunity presents itself, I will randomly introduce myself to a complete stranger when I’m at Walt Disney World. Once again, you may be wondering why I would do that. I have met some really amazing people by doing that. I have even made some friends that I still keep in touch with regularly that way. You just never know who you might meet in any given situation.
I learned back when I was in high school that you should never miss an opportunity to tell someone how you feel about them. Sometimes, life happens and you end up losing people who are important to you before you could bring yourself to tell them what you wanted to tell them. Few things in the world compare to the feeling of someone being taken from your life before you could tell them how much they mean to you. I promised myself back then that I would never allow myself to miss that opportunity again with anyone I would meet for the rest of my life. I’m proud to say that I have kept that promise to myself. Those people haven’t always felt the same way about me as I have felt about them, but I am still satisfied knowing that I told them how I felt. I tried.
The people I consider to be most important in my life aren’t major parts of my life by accident. I have made the choice to focus on those people. They are the people who have proven repeatedly that they deserve to be a part of my life. I try my best as often as possible to let people know what I think of them and how much they mean to me. Some people seem genuinely surprised. Some people blow it off and tell me I’m being too kind. I don’t tell people things like that to try to impress them or to make them think I care more than I do. The truth is, I probably care more than I am able to find the words to express. I have a lot less friends than I did a couple of years ago. I allow a lot less people to influence my life and my decisions than I did in the past. I have carefully chosen the best people possible to be a part of my life. Others were given a chance to remain a bigger part of my life, but they didn’t seem to care, so they were eventually phased out. I tried.
The things I enjoy most in my daily life are the results of the life I now choose to live. Life constantly changes and evolves. You have to keep trying and keep evolving. Try new things. Try discovering new places, new cultures, new beliefs, new methods, new ideas. Just keep trying. When you stop trying, you stop growing. When you stop growing, you start to question a lot of things. You start to question your life. Never stop growing. Never stop evolving and improving. Don’t get stuck within the self-imposed boundaries of your comfort zone. You can only accomplish great things in life if you try to accomplish them. Be a trier.