Spring is here, which means cleaning out those closets, sorting through paperwork, and throwing out what’s no longer serving you. This time of year, we’re heeding organizing guru Marie Kondo’s advice: if it doesn’t spark joy, why are you holding on to it?
Of course, Kondo was talking about your possessions – clothing, books, and mementos that you no longer use. But this question could also be applied to your personal life. How can you move forward and take risks when you are holding on to habits that no longer serve you? How can you experience more joy if you cling to behaviors that don’t inspire happiness?
We all like to stay put in our comfort zone to some degree. Maybe you like going to the same coffee shop every morning, or staying put at your job, or hanging with your friends that you’ve known for years instead of venturing out to make new friends. This is all understandable – we are more comfortable with what we know. Even if we realize it no longer serves us.
Which is why it’s important to ask yourself: Are you continuing to do these same things because they make you happy, or because you are scared to try something new?
The real challenge is learning how to take risks despite your fears – to be vulnerable, and to accept that you won’t know what’s going to happen next. If you are tired of doing the same things – going to the same places with the same people and experiencing the same results – then it’s up to you to take those steps to let go of what’s no longer serving you.
As author and University of Houston Professor Brene Brown says: “What most of us fail to understand…is that vulnerability is also the cradle of the emotions and experiences that we crave. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy courage, empathy, and creativity.” In other words, what you fear most is probably the thing you should be doing.
With that in mind, here are five things you can do to break out of that comfort zone and bring on new experiences:
Change Your Routine a Step at a Time
Instead of going to your same coffee place in the morning, try a new one. Take the subway to work instead of your car. Join co-workers for Wednesday happy hours instead of going home. Walk through a new neighborhood. These are small changes we can make to help shake us out of autopilot and make us more aware of our surroundings – and they are the first step to taking bigger risks.
Learn Something New
Join a class to learn a new skill or hobby, whether it’s surfing, woodworking, piano – whatever. And then don’t pay attention to how you do, just try to do it. When you give yourself room to try something new, mess up, and see if you still like it – you are on the path to facing your fears and stretching your limits. The main point is, you’ll be happier and healthier if you try new things without considering how skilled or hopeless you might be, instead of just sticking to what you already know.
Don’t Think About Timing
Many of us get caught in the trap of procrastination. We look for excuses, claiming that when the time is right we’ll make changes. For example, when you get that promotion, you’ll have time and money to date. Or when you lose the weight you’ll go to more parties. Don’t wait for the perfect time – we aren’t guaranteed anything in life but the present moment. Instead of making excuses, just do it.
Face Your Fears
Courageous people don’t lack fear; they just go for what they want despite their fears. Are you afraid of looking foolish, or what people will say about you? Instead of making choices based in fear, start to challenge those fears in baby steps.
If you are afraid of looking silly – give yourself permission to fumble. Go up to a stranger and ask for her number. If she doesn’t give it to you, so what? Ask someone else. If you’re afraid of what people will say about you, ask yourself: how much time will they actually spend thinking about me as opposed to themselves? Probably not much, so why concern yourself? Challenge your fears, and you can take those next steps out of your comfort zone.
Journal Your Progress
This might sound simple, but it’s a good way to keep the forward momentum going when it comes to ditching those old habits no longer serving you. When you are able to see what you’ve changed, let go of, or incorporated into your life, you have more confidence to keep taking risks outside your comfort zone. You might not have reached your goal just yet – whether it’s in your love life, career, relationships, or any ambition. But you will be able to acknowledge your progress and see how far you’ve come.