How comfortable are you going outside your comfort zone?  Psychologists say that’s where the learning takes place. But who wants to walk into the unknown, into uncharted territory, with people you may not know?  Aren’t we getting fed the mantra to “be you”and “do you”.  So if “you” doesn’t like the idea of doing something, why would you venture into that unknown?

I moved to the Pacific Northwest, specifically to Skagit County, about an hour north of Seattle where I knew no one to do a year of service as an Americorps VISTA. After three weeks there, I heard about their Tulip Festival.  I also heard about The Tulip Festival Gala.  I bought myself a ticket to the Gala because I was curious what a Pacific Northwest Gala was like in comparison to the few on the East Coast I had attended.

The night of the gala I got to the parking lot of the event venue and found myself paralyzed.  The demons in my head had taken over, “What are you doing here? What if no one talks to you? What if you are in a room of doctors and lawyers and corporate CEOs and they ask you what you do? What are you going to say to them? Go back and cuddle up in your bed and watch some TV. You don’t belong here. What if you’re over or under dressed?” The words were blaring loudly and relentlessly. 

I stopped the demons by listening to the words my “Fairy Godmother”, like the one who visited Cinderella just before the Ball  was saying, “Hilda, put on your big girl panties.  Hold your head up high.  Walk in with confidence and a smile and see where the night takes you.”  Underneath that bravado, my insides were shaking.  But the Fairy Godmother’s words resonated louder than the demon and I got out of the car and walked into the event!.

At the end of the night, which was an absolute blast, I called my daughter and said, “I think everyone in their 50’s should do something that pushes them outside their comfort zone.”  I literally felt like I had opened a whole new chapter in my life.  It felt liberating and empowering.  It wasn’t easy but it was fully worth it.  I made a promise to myself that I would continue to push myself outside my comfort zone for the rest of my life.  The researchers were right, that’s where a lot of the learning takes place. 

The anxiety and nervousness I experienced was far outweighed by the confidence, fun and learning that came from it.  I challenge you to go outside your comfort zone this week.  Do one thing your “inner demon” is saying you shouldn’t do.  Shut down that demon using the voice of your Fairy Godmother. 

In the end you’ll learn that you are dressed right, because clothes really don’t matter, that even if you’re the only single person in the room without a real job someone will be intrigued with what you are currently doing, couples are always willing to talk to someone other than their mates and there’s always someone interested in telling you about themselves. Get comfortable with going outside your comfort zone.