Make Yourself Uncomfortable

Once a week, I’ve decided to try something new that pushes me outside of my comfort zone, and then write about it. Why?

I’ve realised I spend way too much time being “comfortable.” Most of my time, in fact. This isn’t all that surprising - I don’t like feeling uncomfortable, or nervous, or awkward, which creates a pretty strong incentive not to do anything I think will make me feel any of these things! And yet it seems pretty unlikely that everything that makes me feel uncomfortable is something I should avoid. This means I’m probably missing out on a huge number of opportunities, and a million ways in which I could improve. This thought in itself makes me pretty uncomfortable, so it seems like time to do something about it. Problem is, this realisation in itself doesn’t change the fact I don’t like feeling uncomfortable. My natural incentives just aren’t aligned with doing new things that might be scary.

So I need to create new incentives. Committing myself to this project on the internet for anyone to see seems to provide me with a pretty strong incentive not to fail and embarrass myself.

But there’s more to it than this. I don’t just want to do things to expand my comfort zones, I want to really understand them. We all know there are certain things we can do with ease and others that make us flinch or recoil, but I’m not sure many of us have a good sense of where the boundaries lie, and why. There are a number of things I’m aware that I avoid doing, there are probably even more I’m not aware of yet, which I’d like to identify. By identifying, analysing and facing my feelings of discomfort, I hope that I’ll start to find patterns in what makes me uncomfortable and why, giving me broader insight into what’s holding me back, and how I can improve. (Admittedly I’m also the kind of geek who likes analysing things and understanding them deeply, so I just find this pretty fun too.)

By sharing my experiences and thoughts I’m also hopeful I might inspire other people to push their boundaries too. I think we could all benefit from spending a little less time doing things we’re comfortable with. If anything I write just motivates a few people to do something they’ve been wanting to do but held back from, then I’d be pretty damn happy :) I hope that some people will read this and share their own insights about their comfort zones and how they’ve overcome various barriers. If you fancy doing this with me on any given week then please do; drop me a message or comment!

One extra incentive for writing about this is that I’ve realised recently I spend a lot of time thinking about what I should do but very little actually doing. I think this is partly because I’m a perfectionist: I want to make sure I’m doing the very best thing, but often end up spending so much time trying to figure out what to do that I never actually do anything. One particularly relevant example of this is the fact that I’ve been thinking about starting a blog, or sharing writing in some way, for ages. I’ve failed to actually do this because each time I’ve considered it, this little voice pops up in my head and says “Hmm, you should probably spend more time thinking about what the best thing for you to write about is first, though.” Getting the right balance between thinking and doing seems difficult, but I’m pretty sure I’m erring on the side of too much think and too little do. So, somewhat poetically, part of the reason I’m writing about the things that make me uncomfortable is that writing and sharing it is, in itself, something that makes me feel pretty uncomfortable!

Whilst I’m aware of some of the things that are clearly outside of my comfort zone, I also think I’ve probably got some massive blind spots here! So I’d love suggestions of things I should be trying: anything that makes you personally uncomfortable or has done in the past. Every week I’ll try to pick the idea which gives me the strongest aversive reaction, whilst seeming plausibly beneficial. I’m happy to do things that are embarrassing, but the point of this isn’t embarrassment for its own sake, so I’ll err towards choosing to do things that actually seem useful. How “far out” of my comfort zone I decide to go each week might vary, but if it seems like I’m copping out by doing things that are too “easy”, then please comment and berate me!