Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

One way to avoid falling into the “boredom trap” in retirement is to try something new. New experiences facilitate learning, social engagement and having fun! All of which contribute to physical and mental well-being. Many new experiences require you to take a risk – physical and/or emotional. Therefore it is essential that you know yourself and what you’re getting into to ensure that when you step out of your comfort zone you don’t find yourself in the twilight zone.

Risks and Expectations

In May my wife’s cousin from Southern California paid us a visit. One of the things she wanted to try was tubing the Salt River (even though she’s not a swimmer).

step out of your comfort zoneI had never been tubing but my sense is that it’s reasonably safe. However, there are factors to consider: the rate of water flow can transform a calm river into a fast one with rapids, whirlpools and other hazards; there will be other people on the river (we can’t control what they do); and the river is deep in places (over 30 feet and people have drowned).

In preparation for our new experience, we took several steps to mitigate our risk: we wore life jackets; we did not drink any alcohol; and we tied our inner tubes together so we wouldn’t lose anybody.

My other sense was that it would be an alcohol-fueled, obnoxious, floating frat party (aka the twilight zone). While I felt confident mitigating risks, I was worried because I can’t control a bunch of idiots. So for me to go tubing I had to step out of my emotional comfort zone.

Fortunately it turned out way better than I expected. The rate of water flow was on the low side so we didn’t encounter any river-related hazards. We always felt safe and secure. It took us a little over 3 hours to float 3 miles. We saw a bald eagle and wild horses. Much to my relief, we weren’t subjected to a steady stream of obnoxious people. In fact we had the river to ourselves for long, relaxing stretches.

We had so much fun that my wife bought two inner tubes for us and we went tubing again in June (and had another great time).

My lesson learned is that I need to manage my expectations as well as I manage risk.

Risks and kNOw Limits

step out of your comfort zoneRecently a friend invited me on a once-in-a-lifetime trek to Machu Picchu. My initial reaction was “Wow this would be amazing”!

But before saying yes, I looked into the trek and found that it requires camping out for 4 nights at high elevations, long daily hikes, peak elevation of over 15,000 feet, cold conditions and the start of the rainy season. Suddenly my initial enthusiasm turned to concern.

First and foremost, I do not like camping. Even a little. Second, I have sleep apnea and use a CPAP machine which obviously I would not have with me. Third, there is no doubt that I would be sleep deprived and therefore generally miserable. And fourth, that combination might actually pose a risk to my health.

As much as I wanted to follow my heart (let’s do it) and not disappoint a friend, I knew that the right answer was no, i.e. risk avoidance by not going. While it’s difficult to accept my limitations, I know it was the right thing to do for me and for my friend.

Being Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

This was said to me by a manager many years ago. I think what he was saying was that life is filled with things you can’t control which can make you feel uncomfortable. Instead of trying to change the things you can’t, focus instead on what you can control (this includes your attitude).

When it comes to new experiences you do have some control: you can identify risks, decide how to manage them, identify your fears, decide how to control them and as a result set realistic expectations. It may turn out that no is the right answer just so long as it isn’t your default, i.e. you’re looking for reasons not to do something.

Taking a risk by stepping out of your comfort zone is a good thing. It helps you to continue to grow and to avoid having your world shrink which I think is the kiss of death. And who knows? You might have some fun along the way!

Do you have an experience where you had to step out of your comfort zone? I’d love to hear about it!

Check out how our hot air balloon adventure nearly ended in disaster – The Ups and Downs of Our Hot Air Balloon Ride

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