Step outside your comfort zone


By Sue Ellen Haning

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All who want to be successful nuts, please stand up!

Need help sneaking outside your comfort zone? Are there things you dream of doing but simply cannot tiptoe in that direction? You’ll find help here in weekly segments, suggestions, wise words, and tiny tasks all aimed at you becoming a successful nut.

If you decide to give the “nut” thing a try and get outside your comfort zone to see what might happen, please review the definition of “nut” … doing the opposite of what everyone else does.

As I said in last week’s article, the experience that dragged me outside my comfort zone was a backpacking trip with my daughter. You can read about this extraordinary odyssey in my book, “Two Nuts in Italy,” available in many libraries throughout the country including Ruby Sisson Library,, Barnes and Noble and downloadable on Kindle and Nook.

Since moving to Pagosa Springs, I have experienced ethereal energy. Ethereal is the best way I can express it. It is rare, subtle, light, yet always there. I have found Pagosa’s citizens to be friendly, helpful, creative, genuine and supportive in many ways, and I’ve wondered if it is the energy that permeates this air that is partially responsible. I hope after living here a time, and the new wears off, I, too, will continue to be filled with good energy. Pagosa Springs is a singular place indeed, and for me every day proves irresistible.

Relocating to Pagosa Springs was an unexpected detour in my life, and my friends back home reminded me I was a nut for taking chances at my age. (You mean 63-year-olds don’t suddenly change states?)

“What chances?” I wanted to know. (I feel sure you can fill in the list.)

It is the unexpected by-passes in life that teach us more than we bargained for and bestow blessings too numerous to record.  It’s just that many of us, yours truly included, often do all we can to control life, and in so doing, we miss opportunities both great and small that can literally change our lives, ineffably. That desire to control resides in our comfort zones, and control is birthed from fear.

So, what exactly does getting outside your zone of comfort look like?

Possibly speaking before a group, going somewhere new, piano recitals, taking a test, starting a project, persevering through the project, finishing the project, driving alone at night, flying, being in or around water, heights, and my personal favorite, going to the dentist. The list is endless, for everyone has his/her own unique catalog of scaries.

I posed the question, “What takes you outside your comfort zone?” to a group of women during a speaking engagement.

The first answer was, “Anything that takes me out of my pajamas.”

Hmm, was she just kidding, or dead serious?

Do you know anyone who is stretched outside their comfort zone by leaving their house? See, you’re not in such bad shape after all. Maybe your comfort zone is larger and it takes an invitation to speak to a group of your peers to beckon the butterfly troupe to your stomach.

If you can view your comfort zone as a dot surrounded by widening rings, so with each step out you can still see and feel the comfort, it will help. I know it is man’s nature to distrust, but I’m asking you to trust this process. Really now, you can’t know what a tomato or orange tastes like from my description … as sweet and tangy as that description might be. You have to sink your teeth into one of the delectable beauties to really know what the juicy experience has to offer. So come on, let’s begin charting your course to successful nuthood today.

Stepping outside that tiny zone of comfort will require some change. Change appears non-threatening until seemingly out of nowhere it grows horns and squirts fire from all possible orifices sending its candidates fleeing, but change is nothing more than an attitude of openness and passion, and everyone is passionate about something.

See, it’s getting easier already.

What is it that sinks your gut? For some people, it’s simply a glance from someone that takes them outside their comfort zone. If you’ve ever walked the streets of NYC, you know what I am talking about. The important thing is what takes you outside your zone? Take a moment with pen and paper and number from 1-10. Make a list of the first things that come to mind that would take you outside your comfort zone. It doesn’t matter what they are. It can even be thoughts; it does not have to be actions. I guarantee there are more than 10, but 10 is a good start.

Post the list where you can see it every day, or if you are a closet nut, carry it with you and sneak a peek throughout the day. All you need to do is give some time daily to thinking about the 10 items.

If anything comes to mind, jot it down. If nothing comes to mind, that’s okay, too; just think about the challenges on your list this week.

See you next week and, remember, life needs to be a little nuts or it’s just a bunch of days looped together.

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” — Oscar Wilde