The Extra Magic of Getting Out of your Comfort Zone
My comfort zone is like a little bubble around me, and I’ve pushed it in different directions and made it bigger and bigger until these objectives that seemed totally crazy eventually fall within the realm of the possible. ~ Alex Honnold
It’s been an interesting week or so in terms of writing the Ministry of Happiness. I was trying to decide whether or not I would keep writing the blog. I’ve been doing this for over ten years and it has been the most rewarding writing project I could have hoped for. But writing a blog, especially doing a weekly new post is hard. I’ve written over 1100 posts for this blog. What’s so hard about doing this is two things. First, coming up with new ideas. I mean there are only so many core aspects to happiness and how to achieve it. Which is why the blog has morphed over the years to be a bit more of a personal reflection of my own life and path to happiness as opposed to focusing on happiness as a more clinical or general thing.
Second, is the lack of feedback, you get so few comments, part of that is platform requirements, partly people just don’t. Then you look at your numbers and it can be depressing. One post about Kardashian butt size on most sites yields the equivalent of all of the views I get in a year on this blog. Same goes for conspiracy theory, horrid political positions and on and on, trash gets views. It’s hard not to feel like it’s all a waste of time or that hey, maybe what I’m doing just isn’t all that relevant or good.
But the universe works in funny ways. During the time that I was mulling over my options I heard from several people. These people all related how the blog had in some way inspired them to make positive changes in their life. One person talked about losing an amazing amount of weight and another about making a positive job change. They both thanked me for how the blog has helped them. It’s an amazing what just a couple of comments can do in terms of giving you fuel for the work.
In the end, the reason to continue, not much of a mystery as you’re reading a new post, is the thought of quality over quantity. While sure, I would love more feedback, yes, I would love to have a wider reach and bigger reader numbers. But I do want to thank all of you for reading. Honestly, in many ways the blog has been more successful than I could have imagined. The blog has over 200 subscribers, the idea that 200 people have signed up to receive every single new post is both flattering and amazing to me. Secondly, although my numbers aren’t huge, my average year is 15,000 post views it is still nice to know that 40 times a day, all over the world, people read what I have to say.
So my first point tonight is really focus on the positive. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the negatives, there’s something unfortunate in human nature or in our socialization that makes this all too easy. So instead of lamenting my lack of page views and feedback I need to keep my eye on the number of people who do read the blog and the impact it has had and hopefully will continue to have for people. So we keep moving forward and writing the blog.
In that conversation with one of the people about their career choices, we got talking about getting out of your comfort zone. Now I’ve written about this before, and if you’re a regular reader you know I’m a huge proponent of getting out of your comfort zone. The quote I used above really hits the nail on the head. Every time you get out of your comfort zone you grow in confidence and expand your comfort zone. Which then of course, makes doing something outside of that zone a bigger, more exciting thing to do. I’ve seen this very clearly in my life in a number of areas, but I’ll talk a little about hiking.
For most of my life I’ve been a day hiker, I’d done day hikes all over the world. But in 2010 I decided that I wanted to do a hike to base camp on Mount Everest in Nepal. The idea of hiking for nearly a month, much of the time at altitudes higher than any mountain in the continental United States was incredibly intimidating. So I started first with doing some altitude training. I spent time hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park above 8000 feet including some walks on Bryan Head at nearly 10,000 feet. I also started hiking multiple days in a row at altitude.
This lead to my second step which was doing a full week trek. So I headed to Scotland to hike the Great Glen Way for a week. It was my first week long supported hike. Having done that, along with my altitude work in Utah, gave me the confidence to do the Nepal Trek to Mount Everest. A thirty day supported hike in high passes of the Himalaya. It was this experience that then allowed me to have the confidence to take on a solo hike of the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail that I chronicled in the book, Appalachian Trail Happiness and was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
That’s the magic of getting out of your comfort zone, it allows you to continue you to do bigger and better things. But there’s a bit of extra magic in all of this as well. You see by getting out of your comfort zone you’re challenging yourself in new ways. Some times it’s physical like hiking longer distances, higher altitudes or solo hikes on your own. But almost always the biggest challenges, the ones that are most rewarding when taken on, are the mental challenges. You see the real extra magic in getting out of your comfort zone is what you learn about yourself.
I learned so much in my trek’s to Everest and even more so on my three months on the Appalachian Trail. I learned to appreciate the pace of life more, I learned acceptance, I learned a lot about my capacity to endure and overcome negative circumstances. The most amazing thing you learn though is that you can. That you can do more than you imagined, that you have capacity that you never realized or likely never believed in. This works with other things as well, taking on bigger challenges in your career allows you to see greater opportunities. Taking on bigger health improvement challenges like weight loss allow you to see even bigger changes are possible.
In the end, what getting out of your comfort zone and achieving these things does, is allow you not just to dream, but to believe those dreams are achievable. And that makes for many happy days my friends.~ Rev Kane