Rafting down the Amazon would undoubtedly be a character-building experience, but most of us are not actually going to do it, for all the obvious reasons. Some people gravitate toward the unknown and shape their lives around that drive, but there are a lot of barriers to breaking out of a normal routine—time, money, commitments and fears of getting hurt, wasting time, failing, getting disappointed or desperately uncomfortable.
Having traveled to a lot of places that made me nervous and done a lot of things that made me nervous, I know that one approach to reasonable anxieties is to just “Go for it!” Most people will agree that stepping outside your comfort zone is something we all should do, and most people think it’s kind of like ripping off a band aid—just shut your eyes, grit your teeth and and do it real quick and then you’ll be happy you did it.
But I’ve come to learn that having wild experiences doesn’t have to mean ditching my comfort zone at the edge of the cliff as I leap off it. My best and most life changing experiences have been done in a more considered way—a way that simply expands my comfort zone to include the new thing I want to do, and in the end, expands me along with it. Stretching your comfort zone is a process, one that’s initiated by the desire to do something out of your ordinary.
What is it you want to do? Why do you want to do it? How will you get there? The first step is desire, and the next step is learning. Find out everything you can about your intimidating dream—whether it’s learning to rodeo ride or rock climb, jumping out of a plane, starting your own business, speaking in front of strangers, eating vegan. Do research on the Internet, talk to people who have experience in this activity or lifestyle, and create your own apprenticeship. You can do this by directing your attention toward an activity that is similar, but more approachable.
As you become more knowledgeable about your dream, start identifying the steps you’ll need to take to reach it, and then start taking the steps. By the time you are actually standing in front of that room speaking, leaving the edge of the cliff or introducing your new business, you’ll be truly ready to launch off into the previously unknown with your eyes wide open and the confidence to fully live the experience.