Do you remember being in treatment and being told about the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone? Were you extremely nervous about going on CIA, trying out the sweat lodge, or participating in a yoga class because it was something new? Did you feel a sense of accomplishment and pride after engaging in different activities that were outside your comfort zone?
There is a great video by rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski in which he discusses sitting in a waiting room and reading the magazine article, “How do Lobsters Grow?” I know what you’re thinking ⎼ why should I care about how lobsters grow? Well, because you are the lobster in this story.
Lobsters are soft, mushy creatures, but their shells are hard and rigid. When the lobsters grow, they become uncomfortable in their shells. Lobsters then undergo a process in which they shed their shells and produce a new one. This process happens multiple times throughout their lives. Being uncomfortable is what makes them grow, and the same concept applies to us as humans. We need to challenge ourselves, make changes, and step outside our comfort zones to experience growth.
Now, don’t worry. I’m not suggesting you completely shed your shell, but you should always make an active effort to try new experiences. Do something different, make changes, and take healthy risks. It’s OK to be nervous or experience a bit of anxiety. The unknown can be scary, but it can also push you to discover wonderful things about yourself.
I’m terrified of heights. Don’t ask me to climb a ladder. And flying in a plane ⎼ forget about it! But when I first started working at Mountainside, my clients would constantly ask me to participate in ABC with them. I went up to the ropes course a few times with my group, but time after time, I chickened out and just watched from the ground. After multiple times of watching everyone else have fun, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and participate. The first few steps up the ladder I was thinking of every excuse possible to back out, but step after step, and obstacle after obstacle, I began having fun, and my anxiety quickly subsided. After completing the high ropes course, I was not only proud of myself, but I had this sense of accomplishment that I can still remember to this day.
I ended up having a lot of fun, and the therapeutic relationships and bonds I had with my clients only grew stronger. Since then, I have completed the ropes course multiple times, and every time I get that same sense of pride and overall feeling of happiness.
To step outside our comfort zone, sometimes changes need to be made. Here ‘s a couple of tips on how you, too, can shed your shell:
– Set smaller attainable goals that will help you in getting closer and eventually achieving that “bigger picture.” So often, we immediately attempt that big picture change, and when we’re not successful, we give up. Setting smaller goals that allow us to have accomplishments on a more regular basis will help us to stay driven and motivated towards achieving that bigger change.
– Make lists. I’m a huge fan of lists – I make one for almost everything. This helps me to clearly define the steps I need to take in order to achieve a goal, make a change, and step outside my comfort zone. There is this sense of relief I get from crossing something off my list after I’ve accomplished it. This tool can also help to reduce anxiety we might have about making the change because each step is clearly defined.
There are so many benefits to be gained by stepping outside your comfort zone. Yes, it might be uncomfortable for a little while, but those feelings will pass. Remember being uncomfortable is an opportunity to grow. In this large world of fish, be a lobster!