I was told that once we say "I know", we seize the opportunity to learn.
Our brain almost instantly shuts down if we give it the command that we are entering the known grounds. Yet quite often a lot of what we hear after that is new to us, but it's our unwillingness to widen our comfort zone that screams "no" or "I know" before we even consider trying.
I used to say no to yoga and running because I knew those activities weren't for me. I'd listen to people explaining how it works, how it makes them feel, discuss the benefits, but I didn't hear what they were saying.
I used to say I don't eat eggplants, which was a bit weird because I've never even tried them. I just knew I didn’t like them.
I declined many good things in life without even checking them out because I knew they weren't my thing. And some probably indeed weren't. But while it was hard to change many of my blocks, (and it is still always a work in progress), once I switched my "no" to a "yes" and tried (especially with yoga), pretty soon I realized how much joy and use it could be.
I learned later than I'd want to that unless we step out of our comfort zone or widen it, we are doomed for decaying. Life is endless movement, and our comfort zone is the exact opposite state. We are built to move, and even if we find ourselves in the happiest places, once we stop, we soon start feeling uneasy.
The comfort zone is the state when life becomes predictable and organized, we have the same things and people filling our days and our spaces, we use the same knowledge and skills, we go through the same experiences. And even though it's called a comfort zone, quite often there is not much literal comfort in it. It's more of a known zone, which makes up our life.
The comfort zone is also a stage. When we just enter a particular period, everything is still new and full of excitement and challenges. But as we get more used to it and decide to extend it without any further improvements and changes, it turns into our own Groundhog Day prison, where the key to get out would cost us our hard-earned comfort.
That's where fear usually kicks in. Why gild the lily, right? Things outside the comfort zone are unknown and might be bad, so we start stressing out about them even before we try and protect our comfortable space with "nos" and "I knows". But fear is a part of our natural emotional palette. It helped our ancestors survive by making them react (quite often just move). And it still should make us move, we just need to let the "no"-break go.
It doesn't matter how much we know and have experienced by now, all of it is still a drop in an ocean, which can be represented as a circle. All I have is inside it, all I can learn and bring into my life is around it. The perimeter of the circle is the choices and options I have. If I widen my comfort zone even a hair, my perimeter will grow bigger.
So, I'll have more touchpoints with the outer world and more opportunities, as well as more knowledge, understanding, skills and experience within my circle.
How we step out of our comfort zone varies from person to person. I was covering the Energy Dash and Splash last weekend, where about 30 people went for a polar bear dip at Boundary Dam. (That's what inspired this column). I'm pretty sure that even those who've done it before were still stepping out of their comfort zone when hopping into close-to-freezing water on a -7 C day.
But people took different approaches to it. Some ran into the water, while others gradually walked. Some scooched down, and others went for a swim. Some were in and out, whereas others took their time. But they all knew they wanted the experience (for many different reasons). They had a goal and the willingness to overcome obstacles and fears probably motivated them even more.
We may have different approaches to widening our comfort zone, and sometimes life just makes us do it. But when we do, a lot of great things start happening.
And if you lack inspiration or need a bit of motivation to make that first step, look around – Estevan is filled with examples and role models to look up to.