This is never going to happen to me, I thought. I don’t want to look back on my life with regret, wishing that I had taken the chance while I could. Thinking that it is too late now. Luckily I didn’t let it happen.
During my life I’ve had a lot of jobs. Stupid jobs, less stupid jobs. Many of them were at an office. I was often the Benjamin of the department and I learned that older people have the habit of asking younger people about their dreams.
I want to go backpacking in a faraway country, I told them. After I gave them my answer, I often watched them staring in the distance. That used to be a dream of mine too, they said after a while. But life took a different turn and eventually I never did.
When I proposed that it was not too late, they often started to laugh. I wish I could, they said. But I have kids now, a house and many other excuses. It was too late for them.
But it is never too late. If you really want something, you can always find ways to make it happen. In the end, I think they were too afraid. Too afraid to take the first step and too afraid to leave their comfort zone. They chose to live by the motto: life is like it is and I can’t change anything about it.
The funny things is that these people were an extra motivation for me to go on my first backpack journey. I did not want to make the same mistake. I didn’t want to let fear stand in the way of my dreams. With all the respect, I didn’t want to end up like them.
In 2009 I arrived in Bangkok. It was my first big journey. I was afraid, alone and didn’t know what to expect. Thailand was a whole different world than the one I was used to. But I took the step. I left my comfort zone and followed my dream. I’m glad that I did because if I had never done it, I wouldn’t be sitting here, writing this story about life. I wouldn’t have experienced such personal growth and I wouldn’t have felt so intensely happy and alive.
Taking that step out of my comfort zone changed everything for me. It caused a domino effect. One journey led to the other and right now, I have been on every continent and I have a mind full of cool memories. It literally made my world a bigger place and it still does. Physically and mentally. I am not afraid for the unknown anymore. I am curious.
I know that leaving your comfort zone can be a big step but is essential for personal growth, experiencing a high level of happiness and creating freedom. When you never challenge yourself to do something new or to break your routines, you’re slowly building the walls of your own mental prison.
Your world of possibilities will never grow bigger without stepping out of your comfort zone. Without challenging yourself, life will be boring and dreams will always stay dreams — if you are lucky enough to remember them. Therefore it is so important to push yourself out of your circle on a regular base.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to fly to the other side of the world to leave your comfort zone. Challenging yourself is not about size but about action. You can do small things. It is ok to take little steps. Every step in the right direction is one step, and eventually small steps also make a journey.
Let’s say you have a big dream. You want to make it reality but somehow you never managed to do this. Maybe you are afraid to take the first step. Maybe you tried to make your dream reality, but gave up because the step seemed too big. I can totally imagine that. But therefore you have to practice to get out of your comfort zone. Because what feels unnatural first, becomes natural after repetition.
Also, you have to stretch your boundaries. With every victory comes growth but first you need to give yourself the chance to be victorious.
Throw a stone into the water and you will create a ripple effect. A small circle will become a bigger one and so on and so on. The smaller circle will push the next circle into a bigger one. The boundries of the circle will be streched because of imput and repetition.
If you want to reach a dream which seems far away, you want to create this ripple effect. You want the smaller circle to push the next one into a bigger one, so eventually the dream becomes in reach of the circle. Your circle. It might take long but it’s more natural and effective. If you look at the picture above, you can imagine that it is much easier to hop from one goal to the other, than to cross the distance all at once.
It’s less scary to explore the unknown when the familiar is still within reach. Maybe you don’t need to run back to the safety that you know, but you know that you can. It makes it easier to take the next step. And everytime you have made it to the next point, your circle will grow bigger. Your safety zone will grow bigger.
If you continue doing this, going from one point to the other, more and more things will come within reach. Your inner landscape will grow huge and your dreams are suddenly not that far away anymore.
Now leaving your comfort zone is not something you just do. It takes guts, willpower and persistence. It is likely that a part of you will put on resistance and makes you want to run back. That is why you have to wrap it up and present it to yourself in a nice way. You need to add a fun factor and seal it with a guideline.
That is why I came up with the ‘Do One New Thing Project’. It is very simple. Just make a list with things you have always wanted to do. Fun things. It has to be a positive project. Promise yourself to do everything on the list . Now hang the list on a place where you can see it every day as a reminder.
What you need now is a guideline. For example, you can promise yourself to do one new thing per week. Create time for it and just do it. Make yourself proud. It shoudn’t be hard because you wrote fun things on your list. You will do yourself a favour. If you want, you can even choose to do one new thing per day. Or per two weeks. It doesn’t matter as long as you choose consiously to step out of your comfort zone.
Make it yourself easy and set realistic goals. Repetition is the key so you don’t want to give yourself reasons to give up. It is very important that you enjoy what you’re doing. Try to make your circle bigger and bigger. If you feel like it, set yourself a more difficult goal. Make your world bigger and improve your quality of life. Good luck and have fun!
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