mindset and wellness - getting out of your comfort zone

Lessons Learned by Escaping the Boundaries of Comfort

I truly believe that 2019 was the first year of my life. Not to say that the years prior were meaningless, but the lines are hazy, and moments blur together, if they’re even remembered at all. Each year before was the same: school, the occasional family trip, going through the motions day after day.

But 2019 was something different. I can’t describe what happened other than this, I woke up. It was a year of growth, questioning who I was, what I lived for, and what I could handle. It was a year of realizations and striving to be mindful; in other words, running from the act of going through the motions. As humans, we innately fall into routine, and without us even realizing, routines become ritualistic. We’re not conscious of it because going through the motions is comfortable, and if we’re not careful, we can find ourselves going through the motions for years without ever experiencing a single awakening moment.

I didn’t want to walk into 2020 and forget the awakening I’d experienced in the past year, so I asked myself, how can I continue to challenge my boundaries of comfort? What scares me, and at the same time, creates a swelling of excitement within? It occurred to me that most of my travels had been with other people. I love being surrounded and travelling with good company, but even in that I found comfort. Difficult situations didn’t fall on me alone, foreign surroundings didn’t seem so intimidating with familiar company, and questionable circumstances weren’t solely mine to solve.

adventure travel

With these realizations exposed before me, answers came to light and the final conclusion to test my boundaries of comfort became this: to travel alone, in the winter, in completely foreign surroundings, and I couldn’t plan every detail. Oh, and I would make no reservations at hotels, Airbnb, or hostels. In other words, I would sleep in my car. Yes, this was it. Immediately, my mind raced with excitement at the thought of being so uncomfortable. I knew I would grow from such an experience, whether it be good or bad. I wanted to see the ways in which I would adapt; would I acclimate to and hopefully overcome my circumstances, or would I succumb retreat back into comfort?

For eight days I drove aimlessly through the Colorado mountains, hiked through foreign snow-covered forests, slept in a car in below freezing temperatures, found company in the stories and advice of strangers, and many more experiences I’ll save to cherish for myself. It’s nearly impossible to not get lost deep in thought while hiking beneath snow-flecked Ponderosa Pines towering above a narrow winding trail. Eight days is a lot of time to spend deep in thought. I further added on to old theories, postulated new ones, discovered new capabilities, and uncovered the light in each and every temporary frustration.

To explain every theory and learned lesson would take far too long and would likely require more pages than you would be interested in reading. But because this is a story about learned lessons from escaping the boundaries of comfort, I will share with you the most profound. Thoughts that had been sporadically arriving and departing with no time for contemplation on the trail were suddenly flowing clearly one night while bundled up in my sleeping bag. I whipped out my phone and began typing:

     "This trip has given me a theory to good adversity. In our lives we cannot control the things that happen to us, only the way in which we choose to view them: things happen to us, or they happen for us. From our obstacles, hardships, struggles, we can choose to view them as happening for us. From good adversity we grow. As we subject ourselves to continued exposure of the things that make us uncomfortable or are unfamiliar, our standards for what constitutes as adversity are heightened. Thus, that which was uncomfortable before has become familiar. The meaning of adversity is dropped, and all that is left is good. My first day of hiking in the snow I wanted to turn and run. My fingers hated it, my toes screamed frozen curses at me, and the altitude overwhelmed my lungs. But I kept at it, day after day. Just four days later and I would find myself lunging out of the car, excited to hike into temperatures below 16°F. I marveled at the downpour of snow throughout the entire hike and not for one second did I feel uncomfortable. My fingers were cold, yes, but I was no longer experiencing adversity, only good. My standard for adversity had risen, or at least through continued exposure my body acclimated and no longer felt the discomfort of the cold. I had persevered.
And from the good adversity came only good. 
There is no better way to grow than from your own experiences. Sure, growth can come from the books we read or advice from friends, but true growth happens when you displace yourself from comfort. I don't want to learn from somebody else's learned lessons or read about someone else's experiences of growth. Growth is unique unto each person and that which flows through you from others is merely inspiration. I cannot experience true self-growth just by listening to or reading another's story. I must find myself in the uncomfortable, in the unfamiliar. To displace myself is to remove myself from the things I know to be safe, know to be true. Because if I have no understanding, all that's left is to open myself up to understand that which I do not know. And what is that? Growth."

I encourage you to remove yourself from the comfort of your daily routine. I hope you take these words to heart. I hope they draw up inspiration within you. But most importantly, I hope you don’t merely read my story and continue to walk in a slumber. This is your awakening. We’re aware this life we live is short and time moves too quickly, as we seem to be reminded constantly. Even still, very few live accordingly. Stop living in a world of “what-ifs” and unknowns. That which is unknown is only so until you walk beyond the boundary of comfort keeping you complacent and openly embrace the experience as it comes.