Unlock the Door and Let Yourself Out

Last Monday I posted a blog on “How to be a Fully Functioning Person.” One aspect of that was the recommendation to be open to new experiences. But what does that actually mean?

Art Markman, the Psychologist, defines openness to experience as the degree to which a person is willing to consider new ideas and opportunities.

For some people this will conjure up images of great adventures and, if that’s your thing, that is absolutely fine but it also includes being open to the small things. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone on a daily basis.

The comfort zone was not named by accident. It is the psychological space where we feel safe and warm and, well, comfortable. It is a place where we are not threatened or fearful. Everybody needs a comfortable place to retreat to sometimes but, if you are in your comfort zone, you are not learning. Growth happens when the boundaries of the comfort zone are stretched into the learning zone.

Personality plays a part in this. For some people the comfort zone represents safety, for others it represents boredom. The latter are likely to be life’s risk takers, people who are highly motivated by newness and challenge. The former may struggle more with the concept of new experiences. For them, fear of the unknown is often worse than fear of something they know to be bad.

Beyond the learning zone is the anxiety zone. The anxiety zone is a scary, uncomfortable place and a visit there will send many people scurrying back to their place of safety with their tails between their legs, never to leave again.

The key to personal growth is to understand your own boundaries and to keep pushing at them. Children do this all the time but as adults we sometimes behave as if we are in some way already the finished article. Fear often manifests itself in questions beginning “what if?” What if I don’t like it? What if I’m useless at it? What if nobody likes me? The good news is that adventure starts with the same words. What if it is wonderful? What if I really enjoy myself? What if this is something I am really good at?

Why not use today to try something new, to push at your own boundaries? Maybe you could eat something you haven’t tried before, visit a new place or try a new activity. Try reading a different newspaper – consider an alternative perspective to the one you already hold. Open your eyes a little wider and look for opportunities to try something new.

Go on, I dare you, scare yourself a little bit – you might just enjoy it.

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