“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” John Maxwell
I’ve done a lot of stepping outside my comfort zone in the last year, and especially the last month. I’m reaching and expanding myself again, and it feels good. I went to Africa on an amazing and life changing trip with my best friend from college, I learned how to snowboard on the slopes in Montana, and today I took a partner yoga class. (Click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMMlzQsQPk4&feature=related to see some of the awesome shit they can do.. I’m definitely going back!) I had every intention of writing a responsible blog about the evils of disordered eating and living an unbalanced life, but here I am and all I want to share with you guys is how good it feels to push outside your comfort zone.
Backtracking a bit, I first learned this lesson when I came home from spending a semester abroad at 18 and showed up at my dance teacher’s door with a half assed plan to take a year off and hone my musical theater skills before re-auditioning for colleges around the country.
“Hey Sean… I think I need to learn how to dance. Like, REALLY dance.”
He, being the wonderfully understanding person that he was and is, never even questioned my plan. “Of course you do.” And that was that… I spent 6-8 hours a day in his studio, slowly learning that my body, my mind, and my spirit were capable of things I had never imagined. I learned an enormous that year, but the thing that has stayed with me the most is my unwavering belief that we have to stretch ourselves.. metaphorically.. in order to be happy. If we’re not pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone, then we are missing out on the incredibly empowering knowledge of the things we’re capable of. It makes me feel brave, and strong, and powerful, to take control of my fears and anxieties and resistances, and force myself to do something I’m not comfortable doing.
Which brings me to recently. I recently re-discovered this feeling by facing some social anxieties that were holding me back from being the person I wanted to be and from having the career I wanted to have. It will probably be a never-ending battle, but I made some huge changes that led to a surge in my business at the end of 2011, and I continue on a daily basis to try to interact with people directly, no matter how uncomfortable that makes me. (I fully realize, by the way, how weird it is that being directly addressed by people makes me cringe, but alas I’ve finally just accepted it and I’m moving on.)
But it’s been a long time since I’ve taken myself physically outside of my comfort zone. I’ve gotten comfortable working out by myself, pushing myself through programs I either like or am curious about, and working hard. I tell myself someday I’ll take a yoga or a dance class, but it’s been a LONG time since I’ve done either, because when it comes down to it, I’m more comfortable at my fabulous anxiety-free gym. I don’t like to work out with other people, I don’t like to go into something without knowing exactly what it entails, and I don’t like being told what to do. I like lifting weights, and I like being in control, and it works for me. But it doesn’t push my limits.
Being in Africa was eye opening… for a lot of reasons, obviously. I’d never been there before, and Tanzania is an amazing country. I could write pages about how great it was, but the thing that I was most struck with was how amazing I felt doing things I’d never done before. We did things that were scary and crazy, like getting into a hot air balloon that was laying on it’s side in the middle of the Serengeti, and we did things that were perfect, like when I learned to scuba dive and when we snorkeled with a school of dolphins. The result was the same though.. it was always pushing my boundaries of comfort and experience, always rewarding me more than I could have imagined, and always reminding me that I need more adventure in my life. Working out is great, but its no longer an adventure.
The next weekend I had the opportunity to go skiing, which I hadn’t done in years, and I spent 3 days learning to snowboard for the first time. Talk about discomfort. It was scary, exhilarating, empowering and exhausting. It was wonderful. I felt alive and grounded and sexy, like I could conquer the world. This is the same feeling I want my clients to feel every time they break down some boundary of “I can never do that”-ness in a session. Yeah that’s right, you CAN run a mile, or do a perfect deadlift, or see your triceps. Yeah you CAN be strong and hot and take pride in yourself. That’s what training should be about I think… pushing your boundaries both physically and mentally, and it should feel like an adventure.
So I’m going to try to include more physically adventurous explorations (like today’s partner yoga.. terrifying and amazing!) for myself, and I encourage you guys to do the same. Go up to that bored-looking trainer in your gym and ask them to teach you to squat properly. Drive somewhere beautiful and hike some weekend. Get a friend to go cross-country skiing, or play tennis with you. Keep an open mind, and try to conquer something new… the rewards go way beyond a great physique.
I look forward to hearing about your adventures, and I hope to be able to share more of my own very soon!