Do something every day that scares you.
You’ve heard that sentiment before, right? We all have—and for good reason. For all intents and purposes, it’s well-meaning and perhaps even a little inspiring. I won’t even try to refute that pushing yourself out of the safety of your comfort zone can be a great thing (and it’s definitely something I wish I could talk myself into more).
But, that doesn’t change the fact that I have a pretty big personal problem with this adage: It sounds absolutely exhausting to me.
I’ve said it before: I’m someone who thrives on predictability and routine. I like knowing what needs to get done, when it needs to be completed by, and exactly how I should do it. Call it boring, monotonous, restrictive—slap whatever label on it you want to. But, at least I’m self-aware enough to identify and take ownership of the things that make me tick.
So, let’s face it—this age-old adage that sounds like it’s straight out of a fortune cookie is likely targeted at people who are exactly like me. It’s those of us who tend to want to stick with the comfortable that need that extra kick in the pants to branch out and expand our horizons.
It’s those of us who tend to want to stick with the comfortable that need that extra kick in the pants to branch out and expand our horizons
But, as often as I’ve had this advice thrown in my face along with a hearty, encouraging pat on the back, I’ve never actually taken it to heart. Why? Well, there are a myriad of reasons.
I’ve already briefly touched on the first one, but it bears repeating. For me, this sounds like a completely exhausting and totally draining way to live. Now, that’s not to say that I’m never willing to stretch outside my box a little bit in order to try something new (I’m not that boring, I guess). In fact, there have been plenty of times when I've summoned all of my courage and pushed myself into the unknown—like when I quit my full-time job, for example.
But, needing to tie myself in knots and turn myself into a giant bundle of nervous energy day in and day out—all for the sake of abiding by some frequently-repeated proverb? Well, for me, it sounds like a recipe for disaster (and perhaps even an ulcer).
Personally, I crave a healthier balance between comfort and chaos, rather than just readily accepting the fact that I need to submit myself to torture every day. Believe it or not, there really is some middle ground between wrapping yourself in bubble wrap and jumping out of a plane with no parachute. It's all about finding what suits you best.
So, yes, frequently trying new things is admirable. But, that doesn’t change the fact that I still have projects to complete and a to-do list to check off. I don’t want to expend so much mental energy on trying to talk myself into something that I don’t really want to do just for the sake of it, that I never accomplish the things that actually matter to me (or worse, do a half-assed, unfocused job with them). That’s the very definition of counterproductive, after all.
But the biggest issue I take with this sentiment (and, really, any sort of blanket advice in general) is that it attempts to make things completely black and white. It’s as if all you need to do is heed these few words, and you’ll have stumbled upon the magic recipe for success and happiness. And, if you can’t manage to fulfill that mission? Well, you’re quickly made to feel inferior—even if it’s only you that’s beating yourself up.
It’s important that you know that there’s no paint-by-numbers approach that will instantly resolve all of your shortcomings and misgivings. With anything—whether that’s a productivity trick or even the entire way you address your work—it’s all about identifying and fine-tuning the methods and tactics that work best for you, and not necessarily everybody else on the face of the planet.
So, if repeating this adage to yourself in front of your bathroom mirror each morning is what inspires you to get out there and be your best? Then—by all means—have at it!
But, me? I’ll stick with the safe and predictable. And, I won’t feel bad about doing so.
Are you a fearless thrillseeker, or someone who tends to love your comfort zone? Let me know on Twitter!