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Say ‘Yes’ to the Things That Scare You and See What Happens

How often do you say ‘no’ to opportunities because they’re out of your comfort zone?


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Brooke Harrison

4 months ago | 6 min read
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Lessons learned from 3 times I said ‘yes’ (and am so glad I did!)

How often do you say ‘no’ to opportunities because they’re out of your comfort zone?

We call it a “comfort zone” for a reason. It’s a safe space where there’s no reason to fear any difficulty, frustration, or pain.

“Don’t avoid experiences that will shape and transform you. Your future self must be stronger, wiser, and more capable than your current self. That can only happen through rigorous, challenging, and new experiences.” ~ Benjamin Hardy

Easier said than done, right?

I fear the unknown. I like to know what to expect in all situations. I’m sure this is a side effect of my perfectionism, an irrational desire to be 100% prepared for everything.

Here’s the craziest part of all: sometimes, we’re afraid of good things.

Relationships, promotions, opportunities.

There’s a conversation in my head, between my rational self and the fearful naysayer that resembles a small child curled in the corner. The rational side says, “New opportunity; why not? What could go wrong?” And the naysayer responds, “Literally everything.”

But when I recall the times in my life that I wanted to say ‘no,’ but said ‘yes’ instead, I realize that these were periods of personal growth. And more often than not, periods of joy. Most of the time, the ‘unknown’ isn’t as scary as we make it out to be.

Incredible opportunity is waiting for you around the corner. And just because we can’t see it yet, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Here are 3 times I said ‘yes’ and learned valuable life lessons as a result:

That time I went cliff jumping in Wales.

Some people might think cliff jumping sounds like fun. Not me.

After graduation, I lived and worked in London as a “Program Assistant” for my university’s study abroad program. I worked in the administrative office to plan excursions, book theatre tickets, etc. and served as a resource for students and faculty. (Think late-night hospital runs and mediating roommate drama.)

I was asked to chaperone a group of students on a weekend trip to Wales. This was an excursion we offered in addition to our pre-planned program trips, an “adventure weekend” with Preseli Venture — an eco-lodge on the Pembrokeshire coast. This “adventure” included coasteering (cliff jumping), kayaking, and hiking.

I felt like the wrong person for this task. My idea of an “adventure” was browsing a museum or going for tea. Outdoor activities?! In mid-March?! The water would be freezing. Did cliff jumping not sound dangerous to anybody else?

Not to mention, only 3 students signed up for the trip. And the idea of being responsible for these students for the entire weekend terrified me.

Sometimes I say that I have an “overactive imagination.” Our minds are very creative when it comes to envisioning worst-case scenarios. I was dreading everything about this trip, and it hadn’t even happened yet.

Long story short — our weekend in Wales was one of the best experiences of my entire 6 months in London.

Image from the author.

Coasteering was so much fun. It was like a day at a waterpark, but everything was real. I wore a head-to-toe wetsuit (which was an experience in and of itself), and we swam through caves, “traversed” the rocks, and then jumped into the water.

Preseli’s website gives us this helpful definition of coasteering, an “amazing coastal exploration adventure involving scrambling, swimming, climbing and jumping your way along the rocky Welsh coastline.”

Our first jump was a 10-foot drop. And the final feat of the day was a 20-foot jump off a sheer cliff face. There was a lot of excitement and adrenaline, but I hesitated on the edge both times — and only jumped because my group cheered and chanted my name (and because I was embarrassed to hold up the line).

By the time we piled into the van, I was wiped out. And sore. And cold. But I felt exhilarated. I was proud that I’d done something I would never have thought I could do.

Lesson Learned

You won’t know what you’re capable of unless you push the boundaries.

How are we supposed to discover new hobbies and interests if we don’t try new things?

In Wales, I learned I could do things that scare me. And not the usual kind of scared, but the physical fear that convinces your body you’re in danger. It was all in my head. I mastered the fear, and I made the jump.

That time I took a minor in Entrepreneurship.

As an English major, this was a bit of a leap for me. I’d minored in Communications, but I was short a few credits for graduation. I chose Entrepreneurship because I hoped to expand my skill set.

I’ve always loved the idea of building something of my own, and working for myself. My dad is an entrepreneur. He’s a small business owner, and he’s worked as a web developer my whole life. Entrepreneurs are forward-thinking, creative people, their energy, and tenacity are admirable. But their lifestyle is not for everyone.

I registered for classes, and it all seemed really cool until I bought my textbooks. I had one of those “what have I done?” moments when I realized math and money would be involved because I’d signed up for “Franchising” and “Funding Solutions.” Yikes. I was way out of the realm of “Major Figures in American Literature” and “Issues in Publishing.”

One of my professors was a venture capitalist. He’d walk into class wearing a linen suit and carrying a cigar, and he’d say things like, “Sorry, I’m a little jet-lagged, I’ve just come back from China.” He would rip our presentations to shreds.

But I made it out the other side. I got the minor! And I enjoyed my classes. I explored a section of campus I’d never been before and met a different group of students.

What I learned in those classes — developing an idea, understanding the market, the accounting equation — has been more useful than anything I learned from my major.

Lesson Learned

We’re too quick to label ourselves. When we say things like, “I’m not a numbers person,” or, “I’m no good at math,” we’re putting ourselves in a box.

“We are all capable of infinitely more than we believe. We are stronger and more resourceful than we know, and we can endure much more than we think we can.” ~ David Blaine

That time I asked to interview a freelance editor for my blog.

In high school, I wrote a book blog about my love of books and writing. I interviewed several authors, and then I reached out to a local freelance editor and book coach. At the time, I was interested in working in publishing, so I was excited to learn more about her work as an editor.

We met for coffee. It was a great interview, and I published it on the blog. But as it turns out, the interview is a minor detail of the story.

When we met, she invited me to join one of her writing workshops. And for the next year, I was a member of a small writer’s group and received feedback on my creative writing from other authors.

This was a group of middle-aged adults, and I was in my senior year of high school at the time. I felt honored that they took me seriously.

I learned so much about plot structure and technique and honed my skill for critiquing others’ work. The group was my intro to the local writing community, and I attended several conferences and meetups.

It’s your classic example of one thing leading to another. There’s no way I could have anticipated her interview would open the doors to everything that came after.

Lesson Learned

Sometimes we think we can see around the bend, that we know what to expect — but there is no way to know where an opportunity may take us.

As I’ve said, the problem with being a perfectionist is that I don’t like it when things go “off script.” I want to know where things are going in advance.

When it comes to pursuing new opportunities and chasing my goals, I want a perfect roadmap to the finish line. But that’s unrealistic. And sometimes, the chart I’ve plotted for myself can’t compare to what’s waiting for me if I allow for a little flexibility.

In this case, the outcome was so much better than I’d expected. I thought, at best, that I’d make a professional connection. Instead, I made a friend.

Takeaway

Scrap your expectations. They’re all wrong anyhow.

If you feel fearful, it might be a sign that you’re heading in the right direction — your comfort zone is expanding.

Don’t give any credit to your false expectations or fears. You’ll only psych yourself out, and miss out on something awesome.

“Every now and then a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

There’s no going back. And why would you want to?

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