Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Holiday traditions: A live tree. Lights in front of the house. Peanut butter balls. Hosting Christmas at our house on Christmas Eve with extended family. These traditions have lived on for 21 years until this year when we decided to travel over Christmas.

Travel to see extended family? No, just travel for the sake of a vacation. We approached the holidays this year knowing we would have a very quiet, four day weekend with the possibility of one small gathering. Isn't this sufficient? Oh yes, but the chance for the entire family to take a vacation dangled in front of us.

Our vacation last summer was minus our daughter who found out at the last minute she couldn't go. We cut our plans short and promised a family trip in the fall with everyone; but that didn't happen. Hmm, could we travel over Christmas?

Many people travel to visit family for the holidays. This trip would be just for fun. It would break all tradition. It would be a first - not being home for Christmas. Are we that brave? Could we step outside our comfort zone and break with tradition? We decided to give it a try and flew to New Orleans for four days.
Coupled with breaking tradition, we planned the entire trip the weekend before Christmas due to our son's work schedule. We not only stepped outside our comfort zone, we blew it apart.

In all my years, I really never entertained the thought of being anywhere but home (or with family) for Christmas. We have also never planned such an extensive vacation less than a week before leaving. So what do I think now? Was it worth it?

Yes. Everything in New Orleans was an experience. We didn't plan what to do, instead found things to do that appealed to our interests. For a planner like me, that is pretty brave. We walked around the streets and popped in restaurants based on the menu posted by the door. We took our time visiting the cemeteries and exploring the French Quarter. We mostly got along for four days :) and enjoyed a new experience together.
Would I do it again? Some parts yes. The spontaneity, the going with the flow and not having everything planned out (OK, minus two days of airfare and hotel searching) actually worked out. I am really surprised how well I did deciding on a trip at the last minute and just doing it.

Some parts no, I'm not sure if I will do it again. I'm on the fence about vacationing like that over Christmas. It really didn't seem like Christmas, but like a regular vacation, probably because we did all our Christmas traditions before we left. Also, traveling last minute was very expensive and I'd have to weight the opportunities costs. This year might be our last chance to go as a whole family. However, I have learned to never say never, and it might happen again.

The journey to live a simple life requires you to step outside your comfort zone in many ways. Your choices will go against the grain. Deciding to get rid of excess material goods is difficult and requires some fortitude. Saying no to some commitments and activities is not easy. Learning to relax and appreciate people and time is going to take some habit building. How do you prepare yourself to try these new ideas? Here are some tips to help you start:

1. Start small. Try one small change and adjust to it. Once you feel comfortable with it, increase the change. For example, start by decluttering one drawer in your kitchen, or one corner of a room. Once you have adjusted to the mental task of getting rid of items, expand the area you declutter. Buy one less item a week and put that money in an envelope. Let your mind get used to the idea of not purchasing something and saying you have enough. Later, look for two items you can do without.

2. Try only one change at a time. If you try too many changes at once, you will feel overwhelmed. Additionally, you will probably quickly revert back to your old habits because you really haven't gotten used to the new ones. Plan out a whole year of changes: declutter one room one month, eat out one less time a week the next, say no to two additional activities the third month. Repeat this pattern and by the end of the year, you will see significant results.

3. Build support. If your spouse or family are not on board, find support through a friend, or extended family. Read online articles to help bolster your courage. Ask blog writers how they dealt with particular challenges. If you aren't comfortable with any of that, support yourself by keeping a journal of what you did and how it makes you feel. Note when things don't work out and understand that may happen. Try something new (and small) the next day. Finally, celebrate the small wins and pat yourself on the back!

It's comfortable to stay where you are at and it takes courage to go outside your comfort zone, especially when you are not sure how it will turn out. By setting up small steps,  trying only one change a time and building in support, you are much more likely to succeed, which will motivate you to continue. Even small steps will take you somewhere, you just have to be brave enough to start.


  1. Good for you! Being brave getting out of your comfort zone! I think that is where the magic happens.

    Yes I agree seeking a simpler life does require stepping out of your comfort zone and can be overwhelming. I definitely found that when I thought about how I wanted things to be I was overwhelmed because it seemed like I needed to change SO much. Sometimes I didn't have the necessary skills, energy or knowledge to actually make the change. Starting small, one change at a time and building support are brilliant tips. They are exactly what is required to make the changes we are all seeking in finding simplicity. I also found that I had to learn that everyone's simple life looks different and I couldn't measure myself against someone who was living the 'perfect' simple life. I just have to take my own baby steps and l'm so not perfect (learning not to be such a perfectionist).

    1. Hi Fran,

      You make a very good point - everyone's simple life looks different, as does their comfort zone. It is so hard not to compare ourselves to others. I find it helps when I look at the steps I am taking and be proud of them. It helps keep my focus off of comparing (which can sometimes be a competition).


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