May 09, 2013

Leaving the comfort zone

Düsseldorf TV tower, bridge seen from the side of a river bank.

It is very easy to get stuck in old patterns, do things because it's expected by you, do things in the same way as before "because it is how you always did them".

I have spent a few years in wonderful Düsseldorf, this pearl on the River Rhein, named not after Rhein, but after a small stream that flows into the bigger river: Düssel. And Dorf in German means "Village" - the village on the river Düssel. Düsseldorf is a great city, with a lot of things happening, and close to everything, easy to get to and from. It is also very easy to live in, not the least because of the very strong expat community that exists.

Furthermore there is always something going on - I have written about it before, in the post about What I will miss. I know I can always find people I know. Every Wednesday in the summer there will be people I know on Ratinger Strasse in Altstadt, having a beer, every third Thursday of the month the Düsseldorf Expat Meetup that was started via Meetup.com will meet up, in the summer there will be a number of official Expat Meetup BBQ:s, every Sunday when it is sunny I know that I can find friends grilling in the park, I know who has a birthday and tends to celebrate it. There are cultural events, there are happenings, there is just so much happening in Düsseldorf. 

The problem is that after a while you get comfortable. Not just with events that are going on, but with everything: I always go to Kaffereich for my coffee, I go to my special Turkish shop for my fruits and vegetables, and for meats, I often end up at Casita Mexicana in Pempelfort or Bilk for a tasty Mexican meal, I go to Bernstein & Inbar for a chocolate treat and maybe a macaroon, I get my treat of home made ice cream at Diele. I follow a routine. And while routines are good to some extent, you get to a certain point where too much in life becomes familiar - and to me, that is when it is important to get some sort of change.

Small blue rowing boat, tied up. Bird inside the boat.This time the change I need is bigger than before. It's not about cutting your hair short when you had it long for a long time, it is not about going to a totally new shop or a new restaurant, it is not about moving in the same city. It is not even about getting new tasks at work. I have tired them all, and they helped before, but every time you step out of your comfort zone your comfort zone eventually grows. My comfort zone has grown a lot. I am comfortable in most normal situations I end up in right now, because they are all familiar, I need to step out of that and into the unknown. I need to get into that boat, release the anchor, and see where the river takes me. I need to do something different. And what's even more important, I need to listen to that fire that burns in me, and follow my passions. I have to be true to myself. A desk job is not me being true to myself anymore.

Again and again we hear about the importance of leaving your comfort zone, and if nothing else is true in life, this is what I believe in. For me, leaving my comfort zone today means leaving friends and family and moving to a new place, start new, start fresh, but leaving the comfort zone may mean different things to different people. That is OK, that's even the way it should be.
Leaving the comfort zone can be finding a new shop, taking a class, trying a sport you never tried, cooking a meal you never cooked, maybe going to a café on your own, or to a bar, and actually sit down with a book, and feeling relaxed about it. It may be travelling on your own for the first time, but the only thing that is important is that it is you stepping out from where you feel comfortable and try something different. It is not a competition except for with yourself. I am the only one I am competing with, and I will never compete with someone else. If they compete with me: Well, that's up to them, but I am not going to get into that mess. You are supposed to challenge YOURSELF, that's what leaving the comfort zone is all about. It's not someone else's comfort zone you should leave. It is yours.

It's only YOU who can really do it. Challenge yourself. I am challenging me.

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