When you step outside your comfort zone, you kickstart a process that usually looks like this:

DISCOMFORT → COMFORT

Sometimes, you decide you don’t like it out there at all and retreat. And other times, you find yourself loving the new experience and who you’ve become through it:

DISCOMFORT → COMFORT → JOY

It’s that flutter in your chest when you realize what was once uncomfortable is now home.

How do you speed up the process from discomfort to joy? Should that even be the goal?

While traveling solo, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone constantly. When I arrive in a new city, I usually spend the first couple days a bit uncomfortable. Wary of my surroundings, less trusting of strangers, cautious of the unfamiliar. After getting my bearings and having a few positive interactions, I start feeling settled.

I focus less on the logistics of survival (food, shelter, sleep, cash) and begin exploring with growing confidence. The excitement of the unknown fuels me.

Sometimes, this is as far as I get before it’s time to move to another city.

But other times, something flips. I let my guard down. The new place, the people, the lifestyle bring me energy and joy. I laugh more spontaneously, letting my true personality shine. I strike up conversations with others. I trust more freely.

Sometimes, I even fall in love with the city. It starts with overwhelming gratitude. Holding on to each moment, I try to drink it all in. I embrace what was once unfamiliar. What was it like to feel uncomfortable here? I barely remember.

I’ve finally arrived.

PLAYING OUTSIDE THE COMFORT ZONE

Stepping outside your comfort zone, while keeping your guard up, means you still have one foot in and one foot out. You’re not fully enjoying it yet. And you’re holding back the full potential of who you are, and who you can be, in this new space.

Of course, having caution is necessary. No matter how comfortable you are, even on home court, you should keep an eye out for safety. Use common sense. But, you’ll know where you can let your guard down.

Honor that sense of caution. And at the same time, embrace the unfamiliar. Embrace the change. Embrace the fact that you’ve chosen to be here now, and you’re not going to run away. And embrace your less comfortable self.

You’ll meet so many kind people you instinctively know you can trust. Still, you’ll be more reserved than usual. Give them the benefit of the doubt, and open your heart. Let them see who you really are. Dare to connect with them on a deeper level sooner, because time is ticking.

When you feel uncomfortable or afraid, reach for gratitude. Be grateful for your personal growth. See the beauty in the unfamiliar. And most of all, be grateful for the opportunity to discover yourself against the canvas of an unfamiliar place.

Be joyful from within, and you’ll find that joy begins to surround you. When your comfort zone expands, you fly freely. At that point, you’ll know it’s time to venture out again.

Stretch your comfort zone to envelop different cultures, ideas, and people. How far can you go? Can you make this entire world your home?

Find joy and beauty in the differences. When your open heart is as boundless as the universe, who will you become?

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