The Art of Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone (a.k.a. I Tried Pilates)

I recently learned that I don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it.

I took a Pilates class for the first time while on vacation in beautiful Provincetown, MA, and the instructor — a charming Irishman — gave me extra support because he knew I was a beginner. 

While helping me with one move, he asked me to bend my knees. I thought I had, until he kept repeating, “Bend your knees. Bend your knees, honey … BEND YOUR EFFING KNEES!”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Sure, I wasn’t a natural at Pilates, but I had so much fun trying something completely new to me. Besides being fun, stepping out of my comfort zone turned out to be a pretty great stress reliever, too.

Here’s why:

Taking the Pressure Off

I approached my Pilates class with a true beginner’s mindset. I didn’t expect to excel at it, and I didn’t put any pressure on myself to do well. Instead, knowing that I’d be mediocre (at best!) I embraced the experience for what it was: a fun experiment that I wasn’t supposed to be good at.

There’s something about approaching a task from a beginner’s perspective that makes leaving your comfort zone much easier. Removing any self-imposed expectations allows you to let go and focus on doing your best. 

I think a lot of us who have attained a certain level of success can forget what it’s like to be in that situation. It can be very freeing and fun (bonus points if you get a hilarious instructor like I did).

Truly Disconnecting From Work

When I was trying Pilates for the first time, I had to concentrate so hard on paying attention to the instructor and trying to replicate his form and movements. Like, really, really hard.

I actually found the concentration on a new task to be a significant stress reliever. Why? Because I was genuinely incapable of thinking about anything else, like my nagging thoughts or that week’s to-do list.

It was an incredibly freeing feeling for a perfectionist like me.

Most Importantly, Having Fun

There’s something really energizing about not taking yourself too seriously. I can sometimes take myself very seriously (#understatement), and I’m getting better at letting go and allowing myself to have fun. 

We’ve all been through a very tough few years — and it can be easy to let the sobering situations we’ve come through color our attitude toward life. 

Instead, join me in trying to think differently, seizing the moment and pursuing something you’ve always want to try. Give yourself permission to prioritize the things that aren’t hugely important but that bring you joy.

Of course, I recognize that this can be really difficult to do, so here are a few suggestions:

  1. Lure someone else into your scheme. Think of a friend, colleague or family member who might enjoy the activity, too, and invite them to join you. That accountability goes a long way!
  2. Put it on your calendar. A big part of the fun of doing something is the anticipation. When you’re looking forward to something, you’re more likely to make time for it.
  3. Default to yes. Having trouble deciding on a fun new activity to try? Leave it up to fate and simply say yes to the next offer you get to try something new and different.

This week, put yourself first and have some fun and adventure. There’s no better time than now!

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hi, i'm lindsey!

Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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