The magic outside the comfort zone

Let’s face it, nobody exits his comfort zone for fun. Every single person is somehow attached to things that are familiar, set, easy. We tend to be conservative, we love to know exactly what’s going on around us and how to handle situations. Our house, our friends, our work, our routine.

But what happens when you get bored? Sometimes you don’t even realize it until one day comes and you can’t stand it anymore.

Suddenly, your life feels too small, too limited, wrong. You wait, maybe it’s a temporary situation. You try to change things from the inside, hoping that soon it will get better. And it doesn’t, until you make a choice.

Changing is not easy, but for some people it’s the only way to shine. I call these people “nomads”. Not everybody is the same, of course. There are some humans that are perfectly fine in the comfort zone, or that choose to stay there because they need a cushion of certainty. I call them “settlers”.

The problem is when nomads and settlers want to live together. It took me a lot to understand that we can’t change our nature. If a nomad tries to live as a settler, he won’t be happy. Similarly, a settler would freak out when pushed to live in a completely new environment. No matter if the nomad puts all his enthusiasm and good will in describing all the beauties that are outside the comfort zone.

This is why it’s better to understand the inner you and make decisions for yourself. If you are a nomad, don’t try to fight against windmills. Go deep into yourself, follow your instinct and find your path. If you feel bored, unsatisfied, meaningless, then leave. It takes courage, self confidence, a bit of selfishness, but it’s what you need to live a life without regrets and create your own happiness. It’s the most precious thing that you can do.

This doesn’t mean that you will be alone. Someone told me “If you want to be something, surround yourself with people that have your same interests”. You can’t change the mind of whoever is around you, but you can build your life with people that share your same values.

Like trees, we have roots that make us stable and give us nutrients, strength and balance. We have branches that grow to reach the sun and the sky, branches that work constantly to produce shiny leaves, beautiful flowers and juicy fruits. But also, we can move. When the terrain is not fertile for us anymore, we can look for one that will suit us better. In that case, our body will work even better if we walk away from our physical roots. As long as we stay true to ourselves, we’ll be fine. We’ll create new roots and our flowers will be nicer than we’ve ever imagined.

Outside the comfort zone, you will see the magic happening. Instead of being more vulnerable, you become stronger and more able to run towards your goal. You will meet amazing people ready to share experiences, ideas, solutions, smiles. You will feel that the universe is helping you, all doors are open, your way is full of brightness, energy, possibilities, and it’s just awesome.

“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” Roy T. Bennett

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The mirror proof

One day I had a cold shower. I looked at myself in the mirror and I couldn’t recognize the person I saw. I was grey, empty, blocked. One year in a new city and I had created nothing meaningful. A work that wasn’t enough, relationships that didn’t go much further than the surface, habits that were already boring. Love was leaving space to routine and call of duty. Life was easy, too easy, and the plans that everybody expected from me felt wrong. That was not me, not the life I wanted.

Where was that happy extrovert that could speak to anyone in the street and was able to become friend with young, old, animals, walls? Where was that restless human always striving to be the best version of herself? Where were my joy, my drive, my dreams?

My personality was hidden somewhere, I knew it, but I couldn’t find it. I immediately started to plan a way out. I was itching, I wanted to be myself again, that was my challenge.

Days passed and my brain never stopped to scan my last years. Eventually, I understood. Expectations shaped my behavior and transformed me into that quiet and passive being. Or, better, my calm and compliant side let others to determine how I should be, and changed. But you can’t change your nature.

Day by day, I let go every weight that came from the outside, every thought, belief or habit that wasn’t mine. I started to attend yoga classes, work on my spirituality and body. I started to explore the city by myself as a tourist. I let my thoughts and creativity free to wonder. I stopped looking for the perfect job and apples for a low level part-time that would challenge me to go back to my origins. Speak with strangers, in the streets, with a purpose. And this is how I ended up fundraising. And it worked.

Alive again and excited by this journey towards the real me, I left for Australia and I haven’t stopped removing layers. My life changed completely and unexpectedly, and I’m still on the way.

Expectations can come under different forms. They can be evident like plans for the future, but also subtle like little shifts in behavior, that eventually lead to big changes. Getting rid of all this heavy stuff is a long process, full of discoveries and little moments of personal glory.

So, if you don’t want cold showers like mine, do a simple thing. Stand in front of a mirror, look closely and intensely at yourself and answer this question: would you like this person if you could meet him/her in the street or at a party?. I call it “The mirror proof”. It sounds stupid, but it can lead to epiphanies. Be true to yourself and give the world the chance to meet the best version of you, every single day.

“Live the Life of Your Dreams: Be brave enough to live the life of your dreams according to your vision and purpose instead of the expectations and opinions of others.” Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

Dealing with perfectionism

Practice makes perfect. But what exactly is “perfect”? Talking about obscure things, like the foggy ideas that swim in our minds, this is the best example I found in my everyday life. Trying to do your best is what I’ve been taught to do and what I’ve always considered the strongest skill. Besides being an abstract and subjective concept, setting high standards can move mountains and people with the sole power of self control and determination.

Certainly, striving for excellence is a very powerful way to get things done and motivate yourself. You visualize the destination of your journey, you keep coaching yourself and your chances to give up are as low as you can imagine. See for examples athletes, that undergo very long trainings to meet their expectations, but also scientists and artists. Pictured like this, the ride towards “perfect” seems the ultimate trick to success, but being a perfectionist can be very hard. Nothing is never ok until you’ve checked it enough. And “enough” always means a lot. If you don’t put a limit to this attitude, you might end up paralyzed in a broken mechanism, repeating the same things millions of times and never going any further. And we don’t really want to stay still and waste our energies, right?

Michelangelo Buonarroti, one of the best artists of all times, used to destroy the artworks that he didn’t consider flawless. Imagine how much beauty the world would be filled of if people was less severe. Moreover, psychologists say that perfectionism is a self-defeating behavior and in its pathological form makes us vulnerable and can drive to unipolar depression, anorexia and suicide. As always in life, the key is balance. Yes, but how do you understand when is the moment to turn the page and switch to the next step? Here are a few hints on how to limit your perfectionism:

  • face it

Do you set yourself always higher and sometimes unachievable standards? Have you ever stopped before you even started? Do you feel anxious because you could possibly make mistakes? Are you so critical that you’d rather do things yourself, because you are the only person you can trust? Do you check and re-check what you are doing millions of times? Do you get nervous if nobody sees your commitment and achievements? Are your friends and colleagues under pressure when you are around?

If you answered YES to at least one of these questions, then read forward. Don’t pretend, face the problem, notice your attitude and try to make sure you don’t lie to yourself. Being conscious is your first step.

  • be realistic

Perfect doesn’t exist. You know it, just tell your hellish self that the world is beautiful because it’s not perfect. There’s no right way to be, there is your way, my way and so on. Everyone deserves the chance to express himself, and you need to give your creativity this opportunity. Don’t try to appear at your best and to please others. People won’t judge you by what you are doing: there is nobody outside looking at you with the same critical mind that you imagine. Really, they have other things to do.

  • stop talking, do it

Now that you understood that you can try, then stop procrastinating and do it. You have plans, dreams, ideas and so many wonderful interests that you don’t know where to start? Just pick one and go for it. What if you fail? Failure is a risk, but also an opportunity to learn. It’s not a tragedy. Remember, the best ideas come from failures.

  • meditate

Take some time for yourself to set your goals, talk to your inner self and make peace with it. Love yourself, love your body, love your mind, embrace your fears, recognize your achievements. See every step that you are taking, be in the present moment and be aware of what you feel every day. Only by listening to yourself you can grow, overcome fears and get better. Not perfect, just better.

“Perfect is enemy of good” Voltaire