I like to push myself outside my comfort zone. Well, “like” is a strong word. I don’t actually like it, in the moment at least. But, afterwards I appreciate the experience – and find it addictive.

Case in point, I’m fresh out of the mountains. I took a “vacation” and backpacked 55 miles through the southern Sierras. This was my longest trip to date, both duration and mileage.

The first time I went to the backcounty I absolutely hated it. I was scared the entire three days I was out there, deer in headlights, no idea what I was doing. I willed the day we hiked out to come as soon as possible. Then I got home and wanted to go back. I needed to go back.

Subsequent trips have followed a similar pattern. I’m at ease in my expanded comfort zone. I’m happy to do something I’ve accomplished before and know I can accomplish again. But, when something new crosses my path I balk like a scared animal. I get through it, with the support and/or gentle ribbing from my friend and travel partner, while chanting under my breath “I think I can, I think I can” from The Little Engine That Could.

Then I look back on that moment, that mountain I just climbed, or that tricky part of the trail and feel exultant.

Judy once told me there’s a big “OW” in the middle of the word “growth.” A funny little coincidence, but so very true. During my trip there was the physical pain of the mileage tearing up my feet and the bruising weight of my pack, but the heaviest factor is what I imagine myself capable of doing.
There’s something addictive about learning where you limits are, then stepping back and realizing you can go so much further than you originally thought possible.

How do you limit yourself? What conversations, relationships, or events do you hesitate to participate in? How much of that reluctance stems from your unconscious preference for the status quo and your “in-group?” What’s one thing you can do this week to challenge your comfort zone? Let me know how you feel afterwards!