A few years ago, I was crewing for the Hardrock Hundred, a 100 mile endurance race that runs through Telluride, Ouray and Silverton, Colorado. It’s an extremely challenging race, run through remote and wild terrain. Additionally, it has almost 34,000 feet of climb and 34,000 feet of descent with an average elevation of 11,186 feet. It is one tough race. As I was helping my ultrarunning friend, Beth Simpson-Hall at the Telluride Aid Station, she looked at me and said, “This is so out of my comfort zone.” I didn’t pause with my reply, “This may be out of your comfort zone, but it is not out of your capability zone.” She told me later how meaningful that exchange was to her as she continued on in her role as a pacer for another runner.
Can you define your comfort zone? Probably. Can you define your capability zone? Most of us cannot because we haven’t explored it. Why? Because it’s out of our comfort zone. I think we miss a lot of growth opportunities life has to offer because of that.
While I favor adrenaline-related challenges, other challenges take you out of your comfort zone. Caring for my mother as she aged was a major departure from my comfort zone. It was emotionally, intellectually and physically challenging. There was no easy day. Yet, I grew from that experience and found capabilities I didn’t know I had.
Your comfort zone is not a good or bad place. It’s just a natural state we gravitate toward. But by pushing your boundaries, you’ll find it easier to explore and try new things. Even small steps outside of your routine will help you gain new perspectives. Don’t eat the same thing at your favorite restaurant, take that class you always wished you had time for, make a bucket list and start working on it. Dream it, plan it, do it. Then come back to your comfort zone for a brief rest. It’s a great place to rest, not to reside.
So, when is the next time you are going to do something for the first time?