So I was training with a new team last week. I got to practice and had that familiar “new person” feeling of everyone glancing over your way wondering who you are, why you’re there, and if you’re going to be a threat to their spot. The coach forgot to introduce me, until a good friend jumped in and told everyone who I was. And as I warmed up, the inevitable getting out of your comfort zone question came over me, which is “why the f*&^ do I put myself into these situations.”

But I know the answer…cause I don’t feel like I’m living without doing so.

The first time I remember getting out of my comfort zone, was in eighth grade and my first soccer trip with my U14 Provincial Team to a remote town called Terrace. It was a 24-hour bus ride with a bunch of girls who were in the peak of the bitchiness and insecurity known as being 13, and I was petrified to go and cried tears of joy when I finally got home (Our bus broke down as I was counting down the hours on the ride home, adding another night to our trip). It wasn’t pretty, but I didn’t call for an emergency pick-up and somehow I endured.

And the next trip away wasn’t so bad. And in fact after a few of them, travelling with teams became something I looked forward to. This highlights one positive of getting out of your comfort zone: once you do it a few times, although the feeling is the same, you have a body of experiences to fall back and a confidence of knowing the truth of Abraham Lincoln’s great quote: “This too shall pass.”

Since that traumatizing bus trip to Terrace when I was 13, moments that I can remember clearly feeling out of my comfort zone were

  1. Changing from my small catholic high school to a big public high school in grade 9, and spending a year crying behind bathroom stall doors (see a number of previous blog postings detailing the joy that was my life at this time)
  2. My first night when I stayed at one of my teammates houses at Yale before my first pre-season in college started.
  3. Rolling solo to Eastern Europe my junior year of college (figured the game plan out in terms of countries on the plane over, with my newly purchased “Let’s Go Europe” book outlining the countries that it was financially possible to sustain on $800 on for 2 weeks). At midnight one night in Krakow, Poland in minus 1 degree temperatures, knowing my friends were at the beach in Florida, wondering why I felt the need to not just spend a normal Spring Break at the beach with my friends.
  4. Going to a recruiting trip at UConn for my fifth year, and going from a good social life at Yale where I was comfortable and knew everyone, to making many unnecessary trips to the bathroom to try and make the time pass quicker since I didn’t know anyone, and felt more awkward than I had in a really long time.
  5. Going to Denmark and crying my eyes out every night for the first month I was there, wondering who had taken over my body.
  6. Going to Norway to play with my new team and sitting in my furniture-less apartment feeling like I didn’t have a friend in the world and drawing on the Denmark experience (and how much I loved it there after that trying first month) to know that things were going to get better.
  7. My first camp with Ireland, and going into the lunch area, seeing everyone knew everyone, worried I was going to be a huge loser sitting alone, and one of my teammates Alisha offering me a place next to her at lunch, which still ranks as one of the most random and appreciated acts of kindness I have ever received (shout out to Alisha Moran wherever in the world you are).
  8. Going to Nigeria to visit my friend Maureen and work at her soccer school, lying awake the first night in a mild state of panic since it was like something I’d never experienced and worried I would survive.
  9. Walking into the lobby of my UEFA B coaching course in Dublin, as the only girl and feeling more out of place and self conscious than I had in a really long time
  10. Going to my first training session with a number of teams (extra points to the coaches who forgot to introduce me, so everyone was wondering who I was), and feeling completely uncomfortable.

The common ending point of all those stories is that they all ended with me experiencing and accomplishing some of the most memorable things in my life and meeting some of the most remarkable people.

What I’ve also learned is that after that initial phase that I liken to cliff jumping into an ice cold pool of water below, that although it takes a few moments to catch your breath, once you start treading in that pool of water you never regret jumping and the whole thing really doesn’t seem that bad. The fear you felt standing on the top of that cliff, willing yourself to jump, a few moments later, seems like a really distant thing. But the unfortunate thing is that many stand on the ledge looking down, too afraid to make that jump.

And this isn’t just specific to sports or crazy travels- it comes in the emotional form of telling people how you really feel about them, taking on motherhood, tackling a fear that’s holding you back from living your life the way you really want. Some of us are ballers in some area of getting out of our comfort zone, some of us struggle in others.

The common thing no matter which area of life, is that most great things only happen when we do get out of your comfort zone, and in doing so, when all your safety nets are stripped away, we really start to get a sense of who we are and the chance to find out the strength that we possess. And it allows us the compassion to recognize and encourage others down the road who too have the courage to get out of their comfort zone.

From much experience here is what I have learned about the stages of getting out of your comfort zone.

Stages of Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

  1. You get an idea, or realize you have a goal.
  2.  You make the conscious decision that you are going to go for it.
  3. Things come together and it’s all set up, and now you have to just 1-2-3 jump (the hardest part)
  4. You’ve gotten out of your comfort zone, and like a massive surge of water overcoming your safety raft you think to yourself, “what the hell have I just gotten myself into.” (insert other swear words as necessary/relevant/appropriate).
  5. You for a moment think about quitting, going back to your comfort zone, as many voices in your head scream at you that it’s not worth it, you can’t do it, you’d be better off somewhere else.
  6. You let the voices thrash around in your head for a while, and then you just accept this feeling of uncomfortable.
  7. This acceptance makes you start adapting to your new surroundings, since now the voice knows that no one is going to listen, and slowly things start falling into place around you as your positive mind allows you to find solutions.
  8. You get into a new rhythm of life, things are fine, you realize that there are good people everywhere, and you wonder what you were scared of.
  9. The next time the process seems a little bit easier since you know are alive, breathing, and maybe even now feel a little bit addicted to the exhiliration of overcoming something you were afraid of.

So as I speak now from that uncomfortable place that is outside my comfort zone, I just want to highly recommend to everyone out there that you think about the kinds of things you really want to do.

You live once, and the only thing that lies between finding out about all the greatness and capabilities that you possess, is by walking outside the door that leads outside of your comfort zone. Don’t waste another minute living any place else.

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