Things I Discovered When I Stepped Out of my Comfort Zone

I’ve never been someone who adapted well to change. I’m a person who craves adventure and new challenges but I also like feeling comfortable and safe. I tend to keep one foot in my comfort zone and the other dangling over the cliff of the unknown. But something happened to me when I decided to change careers. I decided to jump with my eyes close and get uncomfortable. It was scary. Some days it was awful and I second-guessed my choice and myself constantly. But mostly, what I discovered was magic. That experience taught me that stepping out of your comfort zone can be as incredible as it is terrifying and here’s what I’ve discovered.

First, stepping out of that comfort zone teaches you so much about yourself. I was afraid and so anxious but when I tune in to those feelings rather than ignore them and make believe they weren’t there, I’m able to focus on my end goal and get to the place I want and need to be. If I can identify and anticipate that feeling, I realize I can remind myself that nothing terrible happened to me because I took a certain risk.  Being able to control those emotions makes those risks more manageable and I don’t have to spend time wondering “what if?”

Second, there is nothing wrong with failing. This one is especially hard for me but failure and disappointment are important experiences. Anyone who has tried something in the history of ever has, at some point, failed. Google it if you don’t believe me. Things haven’t always gone as planned and not only did I survive it (with a bruised ego, to be sure) but I learned from it because it taught me what not to do the next time.

Third, there is no better way to grow than to challenge yourself. I’ve come to realize that if I never take a risk I will always stay in the same place and that realization terrifies me. The only thing that scares me more than failure is staying in one place for too long. It’s not enough for me to feel comfortable. I’ve pushed myself, I’ve failed, I’ve tried again, I’ve made mistakes, I tried again, I’ve grown, and I feel great (the majority of the time).

Fourth, the more I challenge myself, the more resilient I become. The more open I am to change, the more opportunities I get, the wider the range of my experiences, and the more confident I become when I have to face new situations.

I still have my moments. I get butterflies or a full-fledged stomach ache when I am faced with a new situation. I still get uncomfortable and scared but I know how to force myself to power through because I have been there before and I am still here.

Late this past summer I got the opportunity to expand my studio by moving to a new space. I really loved my tiny space, my tiny rent, and the enormous growth I experienced there and I knew I was ready for my next challenge but I was so comfortable. I made some of my very best work in my first studio. I was more creative than I had ever been and I pushed myself to a place I never thought was possible. Still, new spaces became available in my building and I was curious so I went to look.

Needless to say, I fell in love with a new studio. Like, cannot sleep, stomach hurts, in love. I took my husband with me for moral support while I negotiated the terms of my new lease. I made a deal and we went home to celebrate. I told my parents and my sister and all my friends because I thought - if I tell people, then I can’t take it back (that’s a little mind game I play with myself sometimes). But then I really didn’t take my own advice or any of the lessons that I learned, and I let my anxiety take over. I second-guessed myself for two days and I even emailed my landlord and told him that I had changed my mind only to email again the next morning that I had made a mistake and that I was so excited about the new space and opportunity. So I’ve discovered a lot, most notably about myself and what I’m capable of, when I’ve forced myself out of my bubble comfort zone, but I am human after all and I slip up and it is HARD.

I’m in my new space now and I love it but I am thoroughly outside of my comfort zone. In fact, I am no where near my comfort zone and I know it’s exactly where I need to be because I’ve been here before.

Do you have any tips? Have you ever been faced with the choice to either stay comfortable or to leap out of your comfort zone?

 A tiny corner of my tiny first studio.

A tiny corner of my tiny first studio.

 The new Monica Shulman Studio. Great things are happening here.

The new Monica Shulman Studio. Great things are happening here.