“When was the last time you did something for the first time?” The famous lyrics of country music star and former Hootie and the Blowfish singer, Darius Rucker. How often have you thought about those words in relation to your own life? How open are you to new things? Are you adventurous, a risk taker, an explorer of new trails or are you living a safe, comfortable life? If you are not challenging yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time, you could be missing out on opportunities that can take you places you never imagined.
As human beings, we are naturally born as creatures of habit. For example, do you go grocery shopping on the same day of the week? Do you buy the same types of items you are used to? Do you prefer certain brands over others? Do you brush your teeth the same way every day? Do you drive the same roads back and forth to work? Most, if not all of us, would say yes to these questions to some extent. Why is that? We like routines, things that are familiar to us, that make us feel safe, secure, and content. Part of it goes back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs), which is made up of the following five fundamental human needs:
- Physiological (air, food, water, clothing, shelter, sleep, sex)
- Safety (personal security, employment, resources, health, property)
- Love/Belonging (family, friendship, intimacy, sense of connection)
- Esteem (respect, self-esteem, status, recognition, strength, freedom)
- Self-Actualization (desire to be the most one can be)
After years of study, Maslow organized these in a sequential manner based on the results of human desires and motivational factors. Maslow concluded that everything starts with physiological aspects of life and that one could not move to the next level without the previous level being realized. Meaning, you could never achieve self-actualization without overcoming physiological, safety, love/belonging, and esteem first. While some people can reach self-actualization and remain at that level, others may never fulfill their true potential. Why? As life happens around us, people go through different types of experiences that leave a lasting impact, which could be good or bad. Our ability to overcome those perceived obstacles determines how far you can go.
In 1954, a young girl was born in rural Mississippi. She grew up in a poor farming community and was initially raised by her single mother. She grew up neglected, physically abused, molested by members of her family, and by the age of 14, had a child of her own that ended up passing away shortly after birth. She ran away from home, struggled with school, and dealt with weight, image, and self-esteem issues all her life. However, those challenges created resiliency, determination, and a passion for education. Most importantly, she always had a vision for herself and knew she had a bigger purpose in life. She would later go on to become a self-made billionaire, television talk show host, actor, producer, author, activist, businesswoman, and philanthropist. She went on to become one of the most popular women in the world and has helped thousands of people along the way. Today, we know her as Oprah Winfrey. Oprah is a perfect example of never giving up and how getting out of your comfort zone can change your life forever.
Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and it affects on human behavior is certainly important, but there are other factors that contribute to why people cling to their comfort zones. Another primary reason is fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Fear of what others may think. Fear of exposing your insecurities. Fear of not being accepted. Fear of failure. Have you experienced any of these fears? You’d be lying if you said no. We all have. But what is fear really about? The root of fear is about control. Everyone likes to be in control or feel they are in control.
I recently went through an experience in life where I had to face my fears, release control, and get out of my comfort zone. This is something every parent dreads, but must go through. This major life milestone occurs when your child turns 16 years old. Once the sweet sixteen birthday party and related activities are over, you are faced with the agonizing sounds of, “When am I going to get my drivers permit … the office is open today? When can I drive? I need to start driving … all of my friends are driving.” This is the point of no return. This is the point where my daughter wasn’t my little girl anymore. This was the realization that she’d rather be away and with other people more than her family. Obviously, there is more to this dynamic than driving a car. This is about letting go and trusting that we did a good job of teaching her for the past 16 years and hoping she makes the right decisions. After the first few months of white-knuckle driving lessons, hitting every pothole in town, running through a few stop signs, and numerous close calls, I’m proud to say my daughter has turned out to be a good driver. In fact, the whole experience has brought us closer together, which puts a smile on my face.
What is your story? Is something holding you back from enjoying the most out of life? Getting out of your comfort zone is one of the hardest things you may ever do, but when you do, it can be the most exhilarating thing you ever felt. You are either in control or being controlled. Which one are you? Take control of your life today. Wake up today saying, “Today is a new day. This is the day I’m going to give myself permission to be me and reach for the stars.” I encourage you to find one thing in your life that you’ve always wanted to do and dedicate the time to do it. The first step is to tell someone about. Next, surround yourself with positive and encouraging people. Lastly, pick a date/time, execute, and don’t look back. YOU GOT THIS!
Still uncertain, reach out to me. I’ll be happy to help you get out of your comfort zone and accelerate you to new heights. Engage. Execute. SOAR.