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Locals get outside their comfort zones

“There is no passion in playing small — settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”  — Nelson Mandela, South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary.

As the above quote reminds us, living outside our comfort zone is a part of a wonderful life. If you have been following this column for the past 10 months, I hope you have some stories to tell about the gifts you’ve enjoyed outside your comfort zone.

From time to time, a complete stranger will stop me in the store and say something like this, “Are you the nut?”

This brings a genuine smile to my heart and, I hope, to my face.

“Yes,” I reply.

The stranger tells me he/she reads this column and is making attempts to step outside their comfort zone. Often a story follows. This news gives me tremendous satisfaction, because my intention is to help anyone who is willing to experience a depth and breadth of life they have never before known.

One person said that, in doing the exercises and becoming more aware on a daily basis about her comfort zone, she realized something she had not previously thought about: brief moments throughout the day she is outside her comfort zone. Once this became evident to her, she saw getting outside her CZ as not the huge, scary she had once thought.

“We all have moments in our days when, even for a second, we are in the no-comfort zone,” she said. “Realizing this has changed my attitude about getting outside my comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be something big like going backpacking to Italy,” she added.

This week, make note of each time you feel outside your comfort zone, even if it’s just for a minute or a second. You, too, will see your comfort zone from a new perspective. When talking with people about their comfort zones, each of them has related their stories with a smile. They have all experienced the gifts of courage, surprise and confidence that getting outside the zone promises.

“I have been an avid hiker for most of my life, but had experienced a knee injury that kept me off the trails for six months. Although my knee bothered me very little, I continued telling friends I couldn’t go hiking with them. I thought I would never hike again. Each week, I read your column and you kept saying that getting outside my comfort zone would give me more than I ever imagined. The next time a friend asked me to go hiking, I said to myself, ‘You’ll never know till you try.’ I agreed to go even though I was apprehensive. While hiking, I had no trouble with my knee. In fact, that day, I realized the fear was all in my head. Getting beyond my comfort zone and taking that hike released the mental block I had. Even though I still had a physiological impairment, this one step outside my comfort zone allowed me to break the mental impairment I had to being cripple. In fact my knee got much better after the hike because I no longer had the mental attachment of being impaired. Thank you for your encouragement.” — M.K.

Donna Twiggs related her story about going cross-country skiing for the first time. “Some friends asked me to go skiing with them on the golf course. While I wanted to go, fear reared its head and I felt a knot form in the pit of my stomach just thinking about it. I had enjoyed your articles but had not made an effort to go this far outside my comfort zone. I never liked ice skating because I didn’t like the sliding, out-of-control feeling which I imagined would be happening with skis as well. ‘I’m an artist not an athlete’ I told one of the girls in this group, but they all kept saying it would be okay and so I decided to rent the gear and take the leap outside my comfort zone. The veteran skiers helped the novices into our gear and we were told to take a few steps to get in the perfectly groomed tracks (thanks to the Pagosa Springs Nordic Club). The next thing I knew I was on the ground and my left shoulder was shooting pains down my arm. My skis had hit a patch of ice hidden by the snow. Instantly my mind took over telling me how stupid I was for not listening to the fear that had dominated me when I first thought about trying this. The group came to my aid and when they realized nothing was broken encouraged me to keep going. My shoulder throbbed as I had to make a decision. Do I take these sticks off my feet and get them back to the store or do I push myself and stay a little longer? I stayed and cautiously slid one foot in front of the other. While I did stay upright the remainder of the outing, a battle was taking place within me. Every minute I wanted to turn around and go back. My stomach was churning and at times I felt weak. I was terrified that I would fall again on the injured shoulder. I admit I was proud of myself for being a distance outside my comfort zone and continuing. The experience showed me that getting outside my comfort zone is more than just blindly going out and taking on a new challenge. My shoulder continued to be a reminder for months that maybe I needed to take lessons first. The time spent outside my comfort zone expanded me in more ways than one. Thank you for your encouragement.”

As you can see, comfort zone challenges take many different forms. The following is an example of someone who has grown comfortable outside her CZ.

A single friend of mine moved here from the tropics and was not accustomed to the wild animals in the woods around Pagosa Springs. She had been advised not to go hiking alone lest she encounter a bear or an irate elk. As she said, “I have been outside my comfort zone for many years. Just going from being married to being single, and then moving across the world to a completely different environment and then going into business alone all challenged my comfort zone, so taking the dog for a hike in the mountains is not a comfort zone stretcher for me. Everyday people tell me I’m crazy to take the dog and go anywhere alone. My dog and I are both curious about the trails we’ve never been on and often try new places. If we did encounter a bear, well, we would definitely be outside the zone but what a thrill. I can’t think of a better way to end the day.”

I leave you with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, 19th century American essayist, lecturer and poet: “Do not be too timid and squeamish … All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”

This story was posted on October 9, 2013.