My life isn’t always a quest for balance. There are times when, selfishly, I’m simply looking for happiness. I want to laugh, be engaged with others around me, and most of all be released from the stresses that occur in daily life. Maybe this is balance, but it feels different. It feels selfish.
My most selfish endeavor comes from surfing, a nearly weekly ritual that satisfies an inner primal need physically, mentally and spiritually. Though I must be honest, my soul is forever struggling with my love affair for both the ocean and the mountains. Alas, Mother Nature is my mistress. But I digress.
It is easy for me to escape to the hills or the sea to find that happiness. But it isn’t alway convenient. I can’t always dedicate a full day to being outdoors. Sometimes I need happiness as if served espresso style in a tiny cup, piping hot yet ready to savor. A quick over-the-counter remedy that doesn’t take up my time but satisfies me to the core. A hit of happiness, as it were.
But let me first clarify, my life isn’t without happiness on a daily basis. Quite the contrary. My life is blessed. It’s great. I’m lucky to share my life with a wonderful woman who gives me moments each day to laugh, to love and to think.
These moments, my life, are a baseline happiness. They are my foundation. My relationship with my wife and my kids and those around me are part of my quest for a balanced life, a balanced life that gives me joy. That joy, that balance, gives me energy to approach each day with a desire to make a difference. But let’s face it, our daily lives, no matter how great, are dominated by routine.
Eat, sleep, work, repeat.
In between the routine, we seek a different kind of happiness. A hit of happiness, to break the monotony of routine, to provide a moment memorable enough to share with loved ones, to inspire, to refresh, to rejuvenate. That’s the happiness I’m selfishly seeking.
Recently I read two different articles, coincidentally both on Outside Online magazine, that deal in their own way with our search for happiness. One, titled “Six Quick Happiness Fixes”, discussed areas of our lives that may be points of frustration, and offered advice on ways to counter those frustrations. The second, titled “An Ode to the Falling, Often Failing, Novice Athlete”, illustrated how failure and mentally challenging ourselves helps improve athletic performance.
The common theme through both articles was the effectiveness of getting out of our comfort zones. And really, people, this advice is nothing new. You’ve heard from others, you’ve heard it from me. You’re probably sick of hearing it. Newsflash…There is a reason you’re always hearing about it.
Think of it this way. I’ve long discussed the value of learning. In my book Lifting a Foot Forward, I go into detail about it. One of the examples I give about the power of learning is the dynamic nature of our childhood. When we are young, our lives full of wonder and magic. We fantasize, we imagine, we ask questions. What parent hasn’t heard their child ask them “Why” about a million times at dinner that one night?
As children, our lives are dynamic because we are in a constant state of learning. And for the most part, we’re happy, healthy little monsters because of it. Forget about the rigors of a formal, disciplined education in the classroom (although I’m all for that as well). I’m talking about your childhood when you discovered something new that you just HAD to know more about.
That constant state of learning comes from exploring life beyond our comfort zones. But our comfort zones are comfortable for a reason, and asking people to go beyond that can be a frightening thing, I know. I’ve spoken with countless people on this subject, many of whom suffer from self-confidence issues. Self-confidence was one of the biggest obstacles I had to face during my 20 year management career.
During that time, my specialty was employee engagement and leadership development. They were areas I excelled, and everywhere I went I was successful in motivating the masses. But it wasn’t easy. Hell, it was downright hard. It’s easy to see the potential in someone else, but I’ve found it nearly impossible to get that particular individual to see if for themselves. I say nearly impossible, but I managed to do it more often than not (though failure was all too common). The improbable nature of the task is what drove me to excel at it, it was a challenge I couldn’t pass up. And the end result of success was seeing the eyes of a person light up when they discovered their own potential.
My trick? Getting people out of their comfort zone. When you’re a front line manager of people on a job site, it is sometimes easy to get people out of their comfort zone because they work for you. Ask them to do something, they oblige out of responsibility to the job. Communication is always, always, always the key to success however. It is important for me to communicate with others that my sole intention is to improve performance.
It’s a hit and miss game, at times. People can easily resent you for forcing them to do something new. Again, communication is key. Building a relationship is key. Having a clear expectation is key. For you and for me, here are three tips we can use in our personal lives to help make getting out of our comfort zone a little bit easier to accept.
1. Partner Up – Everyone has a partner, be it a spouse or a relative or a friend. Everyone has that one person who they can truly be themselves around. For those of us with self-confidence issues, having a partner is a great way to help us survive our attempts at new things. The partner is there for moral support, but they are also there to help us ease into the whole getting out of our comfort zone thing. Look, you’re new at trying new things, why make it difficult and thus, not fun to try? Start new things slowly. But start. Take your partner. After you’re a pro at starting new things, you may not need the partner.
2. The Seven Billion Rule – One of my essential rules in life. We suffer self-confidence issues in large part because we’re afraid someone is going to look at us and laugh. The truth is, someone probably will. There are seven billion people on this planet, and some of them are jerks. Some of them don’t care what we do, and some of them are exactly like us. For me, I’m not going to stop trying to improve my life and find happiness and joy because one or two in seven billion will laugh at me. Let them laugh, because the other truth is that someone is laughing at them, too.
3. The Rule of Three – Tell me if you’ve heard this one before…”If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” With regard to getting out of our comfort zone, success is defined as discovering something new and intriguing and fun. Success is not defined as trying snowboarding for the first time or the second time or the third time and suddenly becoming Shaun White. Shaun White didn’t become the Flying Tomato his third time out…neither will you. My point is, the old adage is telling us about the Rule of Three. Try something new once, twice, three times. If after the third time you haven’t found a reason, any reason, to go back, then quit. We’re trying to get out of our comfort zones to challenge us mentally and to be better people and, ultimately, find a hit of happiness. We’re not trying to introduce more stress or frustration into our lives. With your new endeavor, abide by the Rule of Three, and if you aren’t feeling it…quit.
BONUS TIP: Pay it Forward – We need a little bit of encouragement to get ourselves out of our comfort zones, right? But what about the things we do because they ARE our comfort zones? Recognize there is someone out there that has no idea what you do or how you do it and would like to try, but suffer the same emotions we suffer from. Teach a free class on knitting or surfing or photography or gardening or painting or computers or fixing cars or photo albums or cooking or whatever strength and passion you have that you can pay it forward. Tell a friend, invite a stranger, search online and join a club. Pay it forward. Reach out to that person who is slowly walking up to the door and say to them “Welcome, I know you might be a little scared, but we’re going to have fun. I promise.”
Find FREE things to do in your area by using Google Search. In case you haven’t heard, Google is kind of a big deal. It’s everywhere, and chances are Google will know about a free event going on in your town. In preparing for this post, I searched “Free Things to Do in Los Angeles” and got this link as one of the results. In the article, I discovered #27 – Shooting Arrows at the Rancho Park Archery Range. FREE ARCHERY!!! I’ve actually done this. Good stuff. Now it’s your turn, do a Google Search and see what you come up with. I’ll even get you started…Click here.
YOU…Step away from the comfort zone!