Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

I’m pretty sure we know what the answer to the following question should be, “Are you merely satisfied with your life, or would you prefer to be flourishing?”

Many retirees we talk to say they are satisfied. And that’s great. It beats the alternative of being dissatisfied. But simply being satisfied is not nearly as good as being ecstatic, energized, and thriving.

So, how do we get from here to there? Part of the answer is highlighted in an article I recently read that has no obvious relationship to retirement, but it prompted me to write this post, nevertheless.

The November/December 2015 issue of Writer’s Digest includes an article entitled, “Make a New Commitment to Your Writing.” The author, Elizabeth Sims, offers a 10-step plan to keep your love (of writing) alive. Her first step is called, “Take leaps of faith.”

Sims contends that in order to excel and to feel the exhilaration of doing so, you need to take some risk. She writes, “You leap, and you don’t know if your hands are going to curl around that trapeze bar or just thin air…In writing you take a risk when you move out of your comfort zone…In our increasingly cautious world, ‘For the hell of it’ has been replaced by ‘Better not’…throw away caution and leap. You might obtain remarkable new heights.”

The trapeze bar leap is her metaphor for getting out of the writer’s comfort zone. I contend it applies to the retiree’s comfort zone as well.

My friend and retirement-book coauthor, Keith Lawrence, tells workshop attendees, “The only difference between a rut and a grave is the dimensions.” Morbid? Yes. Insightful? Definitely!

What are you doing to get out of your comfort zone? Out of your rut? Is there something you’ve considered doing “For the hell of it,” yet found yourself saying, “Better not?”

Since I’ve been writing, now working on books six and seven and having recently published my first novel, hundreds of people have said to me something like, “I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I don’t know how to get started.”

Well, neither did I. Maybe the difference was that I took a leap of faith toward the trapeze bar. Beginning to work on book one definitely got me out of my comfort zone. Each new subject did the same. Taking the leap toward my first novel was perhaps the biggest yet.

My writing experience is but one example. Getting out of your comfort zone can be for big things or little things. Have you gone skydiving? Have you volunteered to be a mentor for a troubled youth? Have you brushed your teeth with the opposite hand? Have you driven home from the grocery store using different routes? Have you hiked up to Delicate Arch in Utah’s Arches National Park? Have you learned how to edit your own videos? Have you decided you’re not going to watch television for a week to see how that changes your life?

Another way to think about creating activities outside your comfort zone is to write your bucket list. Why write it down? When you do, you will be five times more likely to actually do the items you put on your list. You are also more likely to do this if you take action right now. So, stop reading this blog post. You can come back later to finish it—in fact, please do. Go get a piece of paper and begin to write down your bucket list items.

Put things on your list that you would not only love to do but would look forward to planning for and then reminiscing about. Write without any critique about whether you believe you can really do the item. Think about it as a wish list. And again, write down both large things and small things. How about a trip to Eastern Europe? How about doing 25 pushups? How about going to that new restaurant everyone is raving about? How about seeing a live performance of Porgy and Bess?

I think you get the idea. Go ahead. Write it down. Do you have a list? Keep it visible, so when you think of another item, you can add it.

Regardless of how big your comfort zone is, getting out of it puts you in a learning mode. It keeps your brain sharp, increases the odds you’ll meet like-minded people with whom you can build relationships, improves your attitude and your overall well-being, and can lead to activities that are just plain fun to do.

We adivse that outside the comfort zone is where the magic happens. What’s on your bucket list? Are you striving to get out of your rut? Are you leaping for that trapeze bar? Are you getting out of your comfort zone? So, are you living where the magic happens?

I hope so, and I’ll see you there.


  1. Hey, Alan! Great post. Very glad my article helped prompt it. And I agree–leaving one’s soft and cushy place can be beneficial in many areas of life.

  2. What a great quote: “The only difference between a rut and a grave is the dimensions.” I was once in what a friend described as a “velvet rut” as it was comfy and cozy so hard to get out of it, but nevertheless it was a rut. The thing that got me out was asking myself if I were to die right then, what would I regret that I hadn’t yet done in my life? I knew the answer immediately and within months was on a plane to volunteer in the Middle East and Africa for a year. This article was such a great reminder for me because sadly I think I’ve slid into a rut again so time to get out!

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