In this guest post, Mr. Dutcher explains how stepping out of his comfort zone opened him up to amazing experiences.
You may have heard the old saying “Life is full of choices, so choose wisely.” This saying can be applied to every choice you make; every time a decision is made, it impacts your future in countless ways, both seen and unseen. This saying is never more evident than for students in middle school and high school. These years are a time in life where you are faced with important choice after important choice. Some of these choices seem to have incredible magnitude, and may take a while for you to figure out: Where will you go to college? What will you do after you graduate? Some choices, on the other hand, are less life-changing and have smaller consequences: Which club will you choose to join in school? What will you do on Friday night? What will you have for dinner? Which friends will you choose to spend time with?
When making decisions like these, it’s often easy for us to stay within our comfort zone and make the most “practical” decision. We all live within the comfort zone; it is what allows us to make reasonable decisions that we feel will have the most predictable outcome. While choosing to be rational and reside in the comfort zone is something we all do, there is value in stepping out of the comfort zone to embrace the uncomfortable. Renowned American author Neale Donald Walsh once said “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” What an interesting idea! Rather than being scared of new experiences and the challenges they bring, what if we were excited to know that trying something new is often when our most memorable and special experiences occur?
This summer I had the opportunity to drive from coast to coast on a trek of over 10,000 miles and over 20 states. Along the way I met up with old friends, camped in some beautiful national parks, and made countless memories. On a journey like this, you learn to live outside of your comfort zone, and I found the benefits of embracing new and unfamiliar situations that I’d normally avoid in the comfort and familiarity of everyday life. Being thousands of miles from home and the security that it brings can be stressful, but I learned that Walsh’s quote can ring true in the decisions we make. I was able to go white water kayaking in the rapids of Whitefish River, Montana, cliff dive into the freezing cold waters of Crater Lake, Oregon, and come face to face with a moose in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. While I was unsure about these experiences at the time—to be honest, I felt a real sense of fear and uncertainty in the moment—I look back on these moments as the highlights of my trip. I remember them fondly, often with goose bumps, as the times where I felt a real sense the beauty that was around me, and when I really felt the perspective of just how lucky I was to be on this amazing adventure.
Since I came back from my trip, I’ve receded back into my comfort zone and the daily routine that we all experience. However, I do occasionally think back to the experiences I felt this summer and how invigorating it was to have a leave my comfort zone behind for a summer. What I learned was that as you make decisions in your daily life—whether it is choosing a college or just how to spend your evening—remember that good things can happen when you embrace the uncomfortable and try new things. You never know what you’ll learn about yourself and the world around you.