It was in 2001 when I studied in Australia. I spent several months in Sydney and then moved for a couple of months west to Perth. The focus of my stay was on improving my language skills. However, that didn’t prevent me from using the opportunity to try some new things and expand my comfort zone.
I’m originally from the Czech Republic, and when I finished university, I needed to figure out what to do next. I’m an introvert who studied technical cybernetics, informatics, and a bit of economics with the idea of having a career as a software developer. The dream job for a technical, introverted guy.
However, since I worked the last two years of my studies as a freelance software developer, I also recognized that while the school prepared me well from the technical side, it is not enough. To be successful you not only need to know things, but you also need to be able to communicate them and even sell your services to others.
The whole idea to move for half a year to Australia seemed a bit scary to my introvert’s heart, but my brain knew that it has to be done and that the short-term stress will have long-term benefits.
I packed my bag and left in the direction of Sydney. It was scary in the beginning, but it quickly turned into one of the best experiences of my life. I learned English. Since there were students from about thirty nations, I realized that I could communicate with people all around the world. I also realized that cultures might differ in some ways, but people are at their core the same everywhere. I made lots of friends. I got more confident in speaking up.
I left home as a somewhat pessimistic introvert and came back as an optimist who sees the world as his playground and who learned to enjoy everything I do and see the good in people and in life.
When I was in Perth, I used the opportunity of being in Australia and decided to try SCUBA diving and get an open water diver license. It meant going through some medical examination, study the theory, pass the exam in a language I still had a somewhat limited grasp of, and do a couple of dives in the ocean.
I’m a quick study, so the theory and the exam were rather easy to do, but the first dive indeed pushed me to get out of my comfort zone. Literary. Your whole life you are being taught that you can’t breathe underwater. Your whole biology has evolved, so you survive on land. Your brain screams at you that you can’t breathe underwater. And yet, that’s what you have to do.
I don’t think I ever held my breath for so long as the first time I submerged with my SCUBA gear and needed to take my first breath. Eventually, I did it, and it was an exhilarating experience. It was still stressful, but it felt great.
The next dive was in the ocean. Again, a bit push of my comfort zone but this was the time I fell in love with diving. On my very first dive close to Rottnest Island a curious yellow fish spent about ten minutes swimming around me, playing with the escaping bubbles and I didn’t want it to end. Over the next couple of dives and exploration of the coral reefs, I realized that there is a whole new world out there and how lucky I’m to have the opportunity to experience it.
So what does it mean for you, your career and your life?
Dream big and take action to make a dream come true. There is no point in daydreaming while half-heartily doing a work you hate. If you truly want something then act like you mean it. If you have a dream to live on a remote island, then take action now. Focus and get a clear idea of what you must do to get you there.
Be willing to make sacrifices. Most of the dreams are not fulfilled because people don’t want them bad enough, so they are not ready to make the necessary sacrifices. People are not willing to prioritize appropriately and spread their focus and effort on the way too many things that are not aligned with their dream.
Don’t let your fears inhibit your potential. It is natural for human beings to fear the unknown, but once you tackle the problem, you will see the fear disappear. When you take action, you no longer have time to ruminate and worry what will happen. Just remember when you learned to ride a bike. It was scary, you were clumsy, you probably fell a couple of times, and it hurt. But you saw other kids riding around enjoying it, and you wanted to be like them. You had a dream to ride a bike, so you overcame your fears and persevered.
Don’t say “no” only because you don’t feel you are ready. Most of the truly significant opportunities are scary and require you to do more than you have done before. That is what makes them true opportunities. It also means that you can’t say that you have done these things in the past and therefore you are a hundred percent ready. You are not. You will need to learn a lot. And that is fine. Adopt the mindset of, “I’ve never done it, but it sounds like a good opportunity, so I’m going to do it, and I will succeed.”
To wrap it up, growth doesn’t happen in your comfort zone. We tend to stay in our comfort zone as much as possible. There is a reason why it is called a comfort zone. It is comfortable, it feels safe, and it doesn’t require us to try new things or make tough decisions.
Having a dream most likely means you need to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. You need to get back to the five years old yourself and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You need to learn to overcome your fears, have a plan, and persevere. You may already know how to ride a bike, but there are other things you will need to learn and do to reach your dreams.
What is your “getting out of your comfort zone” story? Do you believe that one should push themselves to grow at any cost? Or do you believe that if someone is comfortable in their little comfort zone it is just fine?
Photo: SarahRichterArt / Pixabay.com