At a recent meeting of the Marathon Club (ok, so it was really just an email exchange), I made the observation that a lot of people who know me make some variation of this comment when they find out that I’m running: “Why do you want to run a marathon when you’re already good at swimming?” I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently (particularly since pansy ass is saying the same thing inside of my head) and I don’t think their question is really about swimming vs. running. I think the question is really this: “Why do you want to step outside of your comfort zone?” So, this is the question that I answer with a question of my own: “Why should we always stick to what we know or what we’re good at when there’s no financial risk involved?” In my opinion, self-discovery is a great thing and anything that challenges you to doubt yourself is a great opportunity to work on your weaknesses. So today, I thought that I would talk a little bit about comfort zones.
You see, we all have them. Humans are creatures of habit and we typically find ourselves doing the same old same old on a regular basis. I have one small problem with that…I hate the same old same old! I hate that feeling of being in a rut. I get antsy and before I know it, change is on the horizon. Whether it’s my car or my hair color, I feel a compulsion to switch things up. I think this is related to my aversion of people “letting themselves go.” One of my 5,000 personal mottos is that there’s always room for improvement. It’s mind boggling to me that there comes a point where people sit back and say, “well, this is as good as it’s going to get.” I actually heard someone say recently that, “it’s all downhill after 30.” Um, as someone who is staring 30 in the eyes within the next couple of months, I must say that this is total bull. People get lazy and they give up, but this has less to do with age than it does with a flaw in their personality. But, I digress.
Comfort zones serve a purpose for us. They give us the feeling that we’re in control. They offer predictability and stability to our daily routine. Well, as the reigning President of Control Freaks of America, I can tell you that in reality, comfort zones are only giving us the illusion of control. They make us feel safe and secure when they’re actually just dulling our senses.
Ask yourself, when’s the last time you really did something outside of your comfort zone? I have to say that when I ask myself this, it’s a loaded question because it’s almost like a personal dare. As soon as I realize that I’m operating in my comfort zone, I have to challenge myself to step outside of that. I was always a sucker for dares as a kid. Remember when your mother would say, “well, if he told you to jump off a bridge, would you have?” Well, if it was a command, absolutely not, but if it was a double dare..um, yeah. So anyway, here are some of my comfort zone breakouts.
Running is the first obvious one for me. I literally feel like a fish out of water, particularly on the days that I do both a swimming and a running workout. Not too long ago, I would have been the first to tell you that I don’t bother engaging in activities that I’m not good at (mainly because I’m such a sore loser), but since running is a solitary sport, I’m allowed to totally suck since I’m really only racing against myself.
Going out to eat by myself is another one. It wasn’t the actual eating alone that I had an issue with, but more so the fact that I’m such an introvert and I hate talking to strangers. Well, going out to eat alone seemed like I would be wearing a “talk to me!” beacon on my forehead. I am proud to report that I go out to eat by myself at my favorite sushi place on a regular basis and the only people that bother speaking to me are my favorite sushi chef and my favorite waiter. Hmmm, I have a lot of favorites there.
The final one I can think of is going out in general. Any place that serves alcohol is a social gathering place by definition, but I’m proud to report that I’ve gone out for the last 5 week straight. I’m not sure if I feel more social as a result and granted, I do go out with friends that I’m comfortable with, but I still think it’s a step in the right direction. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll even go out by myself…but I’m not sure that I’m there yet.