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Stepping out of the comfort zone – it’s a good thing!

Stepping out of our comfort zone helps keep our brains fresh and active

When my pal Jocelyn and I visited Duncan recently, I convinced her to buy a fabulous and funky pair of grey shoes. She’d been looking for a black pair and frankly, with her conservative sartorial inclinations, there was no way she would have bought these shoes without my encouragement.

I posted a photo of her with the shoes on Twitter and was surprised to get a comment from Melaina Haas, tweeting as @Courtnall_CC,  saying “great shoes!  You’re a good friend!”

I was surprised because mostly I thought I’d been indulging in vicarious shopping fun – not helping a friend. But as I thought about it I realized Melaina was right. I was being a good friend by encouraging my good friend to step outside her comfort zone.

I’m a firm believer that all of us need to do this throughout our lives to keep our brains fresh and to continue to develop personally.

No comfort in the learning zone. No learning in the comfort zone

When I was 45 I entered a full-time MBA program while I was still working full-time. It was terrifying but I took heart from something our team coach Lane Sherman said: “There’s no comfort in the learning zone and there’s no learning in the comfort zone.”

That phrase has been my personal development mantra ever since.  I use it to prod myself to try new things: new recreation activities (I’ve taken up outrigger paddling in the last two years and recently enrolled in an outdoor education class), new hobbies (I’ve taken three art classes in the past year – me, the writer who’s uncomfortable drawing stick people!) and even meeting new people.

About nine years ago I heard a speaker whose name I don’t remember although one of his comments has stuck with me ever since.

“Most of you are in your thirties or forties,” he said, surveying the audience. “That means you have already made pretty much all the friends you are going to have throughout your life.”

My friend Jocelyn stepped out of her comfort zone when she bought these great shoes from the wonderful store Cardino's in Duncan, B.C.

That statement really made an impression on me.  It rang true and it made me feel sad – the idea seemed so limiting somehow.

Small steps can nudge us out of our comfort zone

Ever since I’ve made an effort to connect with new people. I go to lunch or coffee with colleagues, I’ve joined a professional association and participate in its networking activities, and in the past few years I’ve connected with new people on social media channels such as Twitter.

These aren’t big efforts but the point is we don’t need to take big steps to nudge ourselves out of our comfort zone.

Even taking a different route to work or brushing our teeth with the opposite hand to what we normally use can help us change up our patterns.

Staying open is a step in the right direction

One of my Feldenkrais instructors, Jamie Van Dam, says that’s because any new action helps forge new pathways in our brains “and it keeps us open to new and positive things.”

So take a friend shopping and take her advice about buying something you wouldn’t normally buy for yourself. And if your husband asks why you’ve bought yet another pair of shoes, just tell him it’s part of your personal development efforts! If that pushes him out of his comfort zone, assure him that’s a good thing!


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  1. deb says:

    Good blog! xxxx

    1. Stephanie Slater says:

      Thanks! What do you do to step out of the comfort zone?

  2. Jamie van Dam says:

    Wonderful to read about you and Jocelyn and your exploration! A good friend seems to be one whom can give such guidance that opens another to new experiences. But how does one know what is a wholesome and positive experience to open a friend’s mind to? I have some ideas from study and my own life experience and would like to know what others may think about this?
    ciao, Jamie

    1. Stephanie Slater says:

      I don’t know if we can always know, Jamie, so sometimes the question, is: “what’s the worst that can happen?”

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