I don’t want to admit this, but…I don’t take my dog, Bennie, for a walk very often. Why? It’s a big pain. And it makes me uncomfortable—it is way out of my comfort zone.
Bennie is a large boxer. He’s 75 pounds of muscle. He’s also very excited about life (understatement). He pulls. He spins. He barks at people…unless he’s pooping (he can’t multitask). He also slobbers all over my leg because I bring like 36 cookies to try to keep him from barking and pulling.
But, recently, we had sun here in the cloudy Pacific Northwest and I decided I wanted to take Bennie for a walk. Then, after I started thinking about it, I changed my mind because I just knew how uncomfortable it would be. I postponed my entire walk because of it. I did some more work instead.
Stephen Guise, author of “Mini Habits,” wrote about the importance of discomfort in a recent blog post. He stresses getting outside your comfort zone. But that’s easier said than done, right?
Hmmm. Maybe not. Sometimes, when we think about getting outside of our comfort zone, we think we have to go big or it’s not worth it. But should you sign up for an Ironman triathlon when you’ve never ridden a bike?
The key is to think small. Ridiculously small.
“The more discomfort you introduce into your life, the more your comfort zone will expand,” Guise writes. Walking for 5 extra minutes a day. Doing one pushup a day. Getting up 5 minutes earlier. These small steps lead to more comfort and then allow us to take new or bigger steps outside of our comfort zones—walking for 10 minutes a day, doing 5 pushups, getting up 10 minutes earlier, etc.
This is basically how Jamey lost more than 90 pounds. And it is how I ended up taking Bennie for that walk.
I decided I could just do 5 minutes. “I can stand it for 5 minutes,” I thought. After I got his leash out and he did about 52 spins in the living room, I had second thoughts. A 5-pound dog spinning like that is cute. A 75-pound dog doing that is asking for broken furniture.
As he was leaping in excitement—much like an agitated bull—I thought, “We’ll just go outside to the front yard, and I can reevaluate then. We can always come back inside.” That’s it. I made my first step ridiculously small.
Then Go a Little Farther…If You Can
Well, Bennie surprised me. Once we got outside, he was less crazy than I thought he’d be. I showed him my cookie stash and he paid closer attention to me and my commands than I thought he would. Plus, he was just so excited to be on a walk!
After 5 minutes, I thought, maybe we could go a little farther. I kept taking little steps outside of my comfort zone…even though he did bark at a young boy riding his bike, but we were far enough away not to be threatening looking, and then I reminded Bennie about the cookies.
We ended up going for 15 minutes! I finally made the decision to go back in because, for the most part, the walk had been successful. I wanted to end on a positive note and reward my brain for stepping outside of my comfort zone.
And Bennie thought it was the best day ever, so we both won.
Take a ridiculously small step toward discomfort. Then see if you can go a little farther. But don’t punish yourself if you can’t. That first small step is the most important part.
What is something you’ve wanted to do, but it feels too uncomfortable? What ridiculously small step outside of your comfort zone can you take?