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  • Writer's pictureLeah Ross

Blossoming Beyond Boundaries: Embracing Growth Outside Your Comfort Zone

I'm a homebody who cherishes my own space and comfort, rarely venturing outside. I go out occasionally, but when I do, it is so uncomfortable. Although I love being home, I am aware that venturing out is beneficial for my growth and well-being.

I feel secure in my comfort zone, yet the longer I stay in my house, the more I feel stagnant. It’s almost as if I’m a seed with no water or sunlight, and as a result, no growth. To grow, I must step outside my place of comfort, into the wilderness with sunlight, rain, and wind. The wind will blow me to a land of opportunities and allow me to blossom into the flower I was born to be.

Psychologically, the comfort zone is the behavioral and mental environment; habits and actions follow a predictable pattern that reduces danger and upholds a sense of imagined safety. People who are in their comfort zones stick to routines to avoid uncomfortable, unsettling, or uncertain circumstances.

However, the comfort zone is more than just a psychological construct; it's a sanctuary we construct for ourselves. While comfort is a natural human desire, residing exclusively within this environment can cause reluctance to explore uncharted territories.

You may ask, “Why should we care about the boundaries of our comfort zone?

Because, as paradoxical as it may seem, our most significant opportunities for growth and personal development lie just beyond its borders. Recognizing the constraints of the comfort zone is the first step towards unlocking our full potential and cultivating a life rich in experiences, achievements, and fulfillment.

The Seed

For 20 years, I struggled to step out of my comfort zone because I was always afraid of risk and failure. This hindered active participation on my campus, applying for positions of leadership, public speaking, and trying new things. I was in fear of putting myself out there. A lot of this fear stemmed from my anxious thoughts and doubts, "What if I embarrass myself?," "What if I sound stupid?," "What if I fail?" These thoughts instilled inside of me the fear of even the thought of venturing outside of it.

Negative self-talk is one of the many barriers that hinder us from stepping into our highest self. It is the voice in our head that deters us from reaching our full potential and doing the actions that we know will set us up for true success and opportunities.

Where I wanted to be in life, this was not the path. I realized that putting myself out in the limelight was my only way to experience, learn, and of course, grow.

The Sunlight

After my trip to Milwaukee and Chicago with the National Millennial Gen Z Community, I realized that taking the steps that you’re not normally accustomed to are the steps that are essential for your growth. On this trip, we were allowed to meet with several top leaders of different innovative brands such as Northwestern Mutual, NBC Chicago, and BMO Harris Bank.

I was very intimidated before attending the trip since I was not very comfortable asking questions and sharing my thoughts openly. Though I knew the trip required a change in attitude, so I did my due diligence and prepared accordingly. I conducted thorough research on each company, such as finding their core values, their purpose, and what their mission statement was. I also researched the speakers and their relevant success stories that I could use to help build a conversation. Although this took a lot of time, it helped me become more confident when in a room with executives.

Throughout the trip, I made sure to raise my hand to speak at least once in each company. This may be the bare minimum to some, but it was a big deal for me. In doing this, I felt a major shift in my mindset. Creating a specific goal for myself and achieving it silenced the doubts inside of my head that hindered me.

I finally felt free, feeling like a seed touched by sunlight and alleviated with water. Everyone is like a seed, looking to blossom into the flower they intend to be. But sunlight is only available if you step out into it.

The Blossom

Having a growth mindset can be a huge aid in keeping the momentum of your self-confidence. A growth mindset is an umbrella term in psychology, a belief that one can improve their skills, intellect, and abilities through commitment, effort, learning, and persistence. People with a growth mindset perceive their attributes as flexible and able to be improved over time. This is in contrast to those with a fixed mentality, which holds that qualities are inherent and immutable.

Having a growth mindset fosters a positive and adaptive approach to difficulties and uncertainties when stepping outside your comfort zone. There are several different ways that a growth mindset can assist you in your journey as you navigate discomfort and embrace new experiences. Viewing discomfort as a learning opportunity is essential to having a growth mindset. When faced with challenges, see this as an ideal opportunity to test your skills and learn from the experience. When facing the unknown, this mindset can lead to new capabilities, new skills, and fresh insights. The next time you're faced with an unprecedented challenge, don’t fret.

Another essential benefit of the growth mindset is that it can help you take constructive criticism more openly. Try visualizing constructive criticism as valuable information that can help improve and refine your skills. Constructive criticism is used to benefit, rather than to burden. View feedback as an opportunity for growth rather than a critique of your abilities.

Adapting to change is also a feature of the growth mindset. Change is part of the learning process, and having the ability to accept change and be resilient in the face of new and unexpected situations is an essential characteristic of an individual with a growth mindset.

Like sunlight does to seed, your growth mindset acts as a contributor to your blossoming into the possibilities and wonders that exist outside the boundaries you have limited yourself to.

The Flower

As we have blossomed into a flower, we can now celebrate! Though, this is not where it all ends. Personal development isn't a destination; it's a lifelong journey. While many strive for a "complete" version of themselves, the reality is that constant learning and growth define our evolution. There is no endpoint and the journey is perpetual. Recognizing and celebrating our development as we navigate through life is a crucial aspect of this continuous, lifelong journey.

Celebrating our daily achievements, big or small, can help us embrace our growth. Growth can consist of various small victories, no matter how seemingly insignificant, that overall contribute to our progress.

The ‘Flower’ stage is all about embracing and celebrating the fact that you have bloomed into a being who understands the benefits of stepping outside the boundaries you set up against yourself and knowing that your growth is a lifelong journey that never ends. So, let us revel in the awareness that the flower we become, having embraced the challenges and opportunities beyond our comfort, symbolizes not just growth but a continuous evolution.


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