by Dale Rider
“I’m continually trying to make choices that put me against my own comfort zone. As long as you’re uncomfortable, it means you’re growing.” –Ashton Kutcher
Everyone has a comfort zone, from the new guy at the gym to the girl taking a higher-level college course, everyone has some line in the sand. A line where when they stay on the near side, they feel comfortable, and when they cross it, they must push themselves and deal with a little discomfort. What I want to do in this article is to go over what it takes, what it means, and what can come out of crossing the line and leaving your comfort zone.
Crossing that line.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu
And that one step can be the most difficult step of the whole journey. A perfect example is joining the military. For some people it’s an easy decision, “Fighting for your country? Shoot and blow stuff up (if you pick the right MOS)? And get paid for all that?! Hell yeah, why not?!”
But, for others, there’s some doubt. “Can I handle it? Will I go through the horrors I’ve heard of? Will I regret this?” For some out there, there is a serious debate in their head when making decisions that take them out of their comfort zone. When these people are met with debate or a rough spot in their journey, they need to make that first step count.
If someone is planning on joining the military the first major step (besides MEPS and all the paperwork) is “boot camp.” Every branch has one, some tougher than others, but no matter the branch it’s advised to prepare yourself. Go on some runs, do extra push-ups, simply talk to others that have been through what you’re entering yourself into. If you can gain as much of an advantage on that first step, it’ll motivate you through the rest of your journey.
What it means to cross your comfort line.
“True nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Tiger in the Lotus (Check it out: oafnation.com/the-tiger-in-the-lotus )
Crossing your comfort line means pushing yourself physically, mentally, or both through something you may struggle with, or simply didn’t believe you could accomplish. If you struggle with learning new topics and decide to tackle learning a new language you’ve now pushed yourself out of your comfort zone. As I’ll highlight later, leaving your comfort zone does nothing but improve yourself in some way. Even when things go ‘wrong’ you can still dig deep and find a way about how that event made you better.
This is what I believe is so important and fulfilling about leaving your comfort zone, you become a better version of yourself anytime you step across the line. Even if you come running back to your comfort zone, that little bit of time spent out can prove to be valuable in the future. A great example is for people at the gym. Anyone at the gym is trying to become a better version of themselves. No one is there to get worse, that would just be stupid. They are taking the time out of their day and pushing themselves, so they can accomplish things they haven’t been able to in the past. To me, and many I’ve talked to, this is what it means to escape your comfort zone, to push yourself beyond what you thought you could do.
What comes out of leaving your comfort zone.
“Another day in life, another opportunity to improve.” –Tim Kennedy
Every day that you breathe you have the chance to improve yourself by leaving your comfort zone. With this, I want to use a personal example. On my first deployment, I was on a small detachment and I got put into the role of being the commo NCO, even though I was nowhere near that MOS. So, I got to play with all the radios, deal with the crypto in them, and all the other events that came with that. It was one of the biggest pains I’ve ever had to deal with, and at first, I was displeased with my role and debating to try and pass it off, or at least get a second person to share the load with. Then, I remembered I had promised myself that I would step out of my comfort zone on this deployment, so I pushed through and tackled it as best as I could.
Two months later I was setting up SATCOM and getting all our trucks to communicate with handheld radios, I was even filling them with crypto on my own. There were many times I would go through my day and get asked how long I had been in commo or mistaken for someone who worked in a commo shop. Moments like those filled me with so much pride and helped me build relationships that helped my DET that I was beginning to realize how important it was that I had stepped out of my comfort zone. What I also want to highlight, however, are the times crossing the line isn’t immediately beneficial, for instance, I’ve seen soldiers try and step out of their comfort zone and take on a leadership role when they weren’t ready for it yet, and end up getting taken out of that role when their inability to perform gets noticed.
Nothing against those people, but they simply didn’t have it at the time. But, even for those soldiers who pushed themselves and failed, they still got to experience it and now know where they can improve to get themselves to a level ready to handle the leadership role in the future. So, whether your comfort zone experience goes well or not, you will always benefit from pushing yourself and seeing what you’re capable of.
This article first appeared in The Havok Journal on July 27, 2018.