Many of us often get stuck in a rut of doing the same things and activities day after day, week after week, year after year. We go to the same gym, talk to the same people at work, read the same types of books, and go to the same restaurants and bars every weekend. Routine is great – it creates stability and reduces stress – but novelty and forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone is also a really important part of life.
First of all, moving outside of your comfort zone can be fun.
You never know where you might meet a new friend, or you might discover that you love ballroom dancing. That hip new Ethiopian restaurant may turn out to be your new go-to, and even if you never go there again, you’ll at least be able to give an opinion when other people talk about it! Plus, doing new things can help spark new ideas and increase creativity. Learning something new, whether that’s a new skill, reading a different type of book, or even just talking to someone new and hearing about their life and their experiences can all jump-start our own creative process, often at the most unexpected times.
Moving outside our comfort zone is also good for our us.
A little less exciting, but still important are some of the “soft” benefits of moving outside your comfort zone. Since moving outside of your comfort zone creates a little anxiety and unease about a new situation, you’ll be able to handle unexpected new situations much more easily if you’re used to feeling a little uncomfortable (and knowing that you can handle it!).
It’s important at work, but even more important in your personal life.
I think that a lot of people understand moving outside of their comfort zones is important for work – big presentations, cold calls, client meetings – at some point in your career, in order to move ahead, you will need to do something new, something that scares you. While it doesn’t make it any less stressful, the work environment at least practically forces us to do something new.
Your personal life, however, isn’t like that. And I think that it’s almost more important in your personal life. After all, major crises and life-changing events usually happen in personal life (moves, marriages, divorces, deaths, births), and these all require being good at change. Plus, relationships thrive on novelty. Studies show that married couples that do new, exciting activities rather than simply pleasurable ones (like going to the movies) have higher levels of satisfaction in their marriage. I couldn’t find anything on this about relationships with friends, but I bet it holds true!
Also, most people’s jobs, even though you may learn new things and try new things, all happen within a relative sphere of similarity. For example, if you’re in finance at a US-only retail company, you’re likely not learning about other cultures while at work. Our personal lives allow us to expand to anything and everything, broadening our minds and helping harness that inner creativity.
I personally love trying new things, although that doesn’t mean I’m always great about making it a part of my life. When life gets tough and stressful, it’s so much easier to default to the comfortable and familiar. After all, it makes sense. Moving outside of your comfort zone involves a little stress and anxiety. When you’re already experiencing that, it’s only natural to default to the easy whenever you can. However, I think that trying new things, especially fun new things, can actually help us feel better about any other stress in our lives. Nailing a presentation that you were stressed about can boost your confidence and your feelings about being able to succeed and overcome stress. Going for a hike on the weekend can calm and inspire you. Learning a new technical skill can take your mind off of the other stressors while you’re working on it. Doing a new fun workout class or other hobby can simply be fun, which we all know reduces stress.
I’ve been in this boat lately. In the past year I moved, started a new job, and got engaged all within three months of each other (and the wedding is now in five weeks!). With all of this stress, I’ve been doing much fewer new activities. So lately I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to try new things.
The first is this blog. I’d always thought about having a blog, but never had pursued it. Fears about no one caring (still there!), fear of failing (more of failing myself by not writing as much as I wanted to or not promoting well), and fear of self-promotion (although I have yet to tell any of my friends about this blog, so haven’t conquered that one yet). This blog has pushed me out of my comfort zone and also forced me to learn new skills (here’s looking at you WordPress). It’s been great to give me something else to focus on, and something else to enjoy.
Another thing I did lately that I wanted to share with you all is an event called Inspire the City. Inspire the City is a fitness and wellness event hosted by Seven Studios, a fitness studio local to Columbus, Ohio. It was a half-day event with four half-hour sessions covering everything from kickboxing to nutrition to public speaking. I dragged my fiance along (Side note, bringing a friend to an event, networking or social, has pros and cons. Pros are an added level of comfort and security. Cons are that it gives you an “out” to not talk to or engage with other people there.), and we ended up having a great time. Two of my favorites were acro yoga – that’s the title picture for this post, SO MUCH FUN – and ballroom dancing. Not only did we have a great time together trying something new, we also ended up loving the ballroom dance instructor and are going to use him for our lessons for the first-dance at our wedding. We found new studios and classes we want to try, and we met new people there as well, including a potential new couple friend (for any of you younger ladies out there getting married or in serious relationships, the struggle for good couple friends is REAL). All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday and really helped me reset my perspective on the importance of trying new things! If any of you are near Columbus, I highly recommend going to the next one – I think they are going to hold them twice a year.
So here are my four ideas for trying something new – all in four different areas!
- At Work: Find someone to network with, either internally or externally, and ask them to grab a coffee with you so you can learn more about what they do
- Relationships: Go on a day trip with your S.O. (or best friend!) to somewhere new (antiquing in Amish country, hiking?)
- Hobbies: Read a book in a genre you don’t usually read (the recommendations on bookclubofthemonth.com are great)
- Fitness: Go to a fitness class that you haven’t tried before – an actual new class – not just a new gym or instructor
What new things have you tried lately? When was the last time you did something for the first time? I’d love to hear about it!