One of the biggest lessons I've had to learn is to let go of the familiar and embrace the uncomfortable. What I've gained was well worth the journey.
Our comfort zone is a mental state that stifles personal growth. Our real life exists outside the bubble of familiarity. Psychiatrist Abigail Brenner describes our real life as the sum of all our experiences, not just those experiences we're comfortable with. This includes all those things we find scary. But when we leave our security blankets to tackle real life, we experience real change and growth through vulnerability.
Vulnerability, by definition, is leaving oneself open to physical or emotional intrusion or damage.
But others describe vulnerability as being yourself or living wholeheartedly. Vulnerability is the journey towards growth …
… but it doesn't have to feel like an attack.
A two-minute internet search yields countless articles on the reasons why you should leave your comfort zone to induce personal growth. But do so with compassion, curiosity, and creativity. Here's how.
1- Practice self-compassion.
The way we talk to ourselves plays a vital role in wellbeing. When we venture away from the known to explore personal growth, the little voice inside our head wakes up, "you can't do that," "you're going to fail and have to start all over," and "why are you rocking the boat?" Our inner critic excels at sabotage!
Forgive yourself. We're human and we will make mistakes. Some things won't go as we planned. We will fail, maybe A LOT, before we succeed. Stop continuing to punish yourself for mistakes of your past. Learn from those and march on. Let them go through acknowledgment and acceptance.
Say "thank you." In modern culture we simply do not appreciate the gifts we have as much as we need to. Use a gratitude journal and begin to write down everything you're thankful for … I'm thankful for _____, because _____. Rhonda Byrne writes in The Magic that acknowledging the because, or the why you're thankful creates meaning behind your gratitude. For example, I am grateful for the extra two hours in my week because it was just the time I needed to finish writing this blog post. The use "to finish writing this blog post" gives meaning and support to the extra two hours in my workweek. It is essentially saying, hey I'm so grateful for the extra time and I was able to use that gift to get something done I needed to do.
2- Grow through curiosity. Curiosity is the precursor to personal growth. If we were never curious, we would be content to stay exactly where we are.
Be child-like in exploration. Have you ever watched a small child go through life? Or a kitten (even an older kitty)? They approach their world with immense curiosity. They learn through experience.
Develop a growth mindset. Carol Dweck, psychologist, and author of Mindset, implores that success is driven by mindset, not intelligence, talent, or education. When you experience a setback, reach deep to turn that into an accomplishment or lesson. Learn from what you encounter along the journey.
Employ creativity. Instead of being envious of creativity, use creativity to explore the what ifs. Creativity is at the seat of innovation. Creativity is …"a central source of meaning in our lives … most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the results of creativity … when we are involved in it, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life." ~ Mihaly Scikszentmihalyi.
Ask "what if?" Give your creative juices a chance. When we do the same thing the same way every day, we stifle creativity. Begin by asking yourself, what if I tried to do that this way? Or what if I drove to work on side streets instead of the highway, or took the train? Let yourself explore to enhance your creativity.
Sign your masterpiece. Creativity has been associated with artistic ability, the canvas, music, or a photograph. But creativity invokes both the artistic and the analytical. Imagine the sound of a piano without an actual piano. The sound would not exist – someone had to design and build the piano.
Stepping out of my comfort zone has been so rewarding. By following my own advice, I've been able to celebrate the successes as well as the journey with compassion and openness. Most importantly, when walking through this journey, practice mindfulness. Anchoring yourself to the present moment, without judgment, refutes the impact of fear of the unknown.
Mindfulness gives us the chance to take a breath and to know we're OK.
Jessica Crow helps people harness the power of meditation and mindfulness to change their lives and the lives of others for the better through practical courses and personalized mentorship.
Find out more about the new 100- Hour CNTRD Meditation Teacher Training and its new 12 week to 12 month, study-at-your-own-pace format, and check out her book 'The Power of Guided Meditation', published by Fairwinds Press.