September 1, 2022

Why You Should Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Show Notes

On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Marissa Jarrett, onsite well-being coordinator for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Together, they discuss the importance of getting outside of our comfort zone.

In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:

    • The benefits of exploring new opportunities that might make us uncomfortable.
    • Ways we can overcome our fears of trying things unfamiliar to us.
    • How to shift our mindset to make new experiences a little less intimidating.

To get more well-being content from Marissa, check out the Blue Cross Virtual Well-Being webinars here.

Transcript

Chuck Gaidica:
This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, episode 113. Coming up, we discuss why getting out of our comfort zones can be beneficial to our overall wellbeing.
Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s dedicated to navigating how we can improve our health and wellbeing through small, healthy habits we can start right now. I’m your host Chuck Gaidica. Every other week, we sit down with a certified expert and discuss topics that cover nutrition, fitness, a lot more. And on this episode, we’re going to dive into the deep end of the pool on this idea of the benefits of getting out of our comfort zone. With me today is wellbeing coordinator for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Marissa Jarrett. Marissa, it’s good to see you.

Marissa Jarrett:
Good to see you, Chuck. How are you?

Chuck Gaidica:
I’m doing well, thank you. How’s the farm? You’ve got lions, tigers and bears, oh my. Or is it just yaks, turkeys and chickens? I forget exactly.

Marissa Jarrett:
Well, a little bit of everything. Everything’s going well over here. I had a little excitement yesterday when I went to leave and all of our sheep were out in the backyard, so I had to try and get them back in their pen, but all is good here.

Chuck Gaidica:
Wait, isn’t that part of their gig though? Aren’t they supposed to mow the lawn for you or do you not do that?

Marissa Jarrett:
They were happy to be out there.

Chuck Gaidica:
Do they?

Marissa Jarrett:
They do, yes. They’ve eaten everything in their pen, so they thought they’d come to greener pastures.

Chuck Gaidica:
Wow. Well, we talk about this idea, we use the phrase in or out of our comfort zone. So, it’s something we jibber-jabber about a lot, but this idea is really important for us to consider. How do we somehow stay in our comfort zone? We know it gives us some peace, but yet that can have us fall into a trap of just kind of the same old, same old. It’s familiar, it’s safe, leaves us free of anxiety, all those are good things.

Marissa Jarrett:
Yes.

Chuck Gaidica:
But then while that’s healthy, we want to establish something like a new habit, that means we may have to step out of our comfort zone and goodness knows the past couple of years maybe we’ve all done that, even communicating this way may not be comfortable for everybody. So, getting out of the comfort zone every once in a while I guess can be good for us, right?

Marissa Jarrett:
Oh, absolutely. Like you said, it’s comfortable. Think about it, our comfort zone is everything that we know. It’s our relationships, it’s our food that we eat, it’s our routes going to and from work, or just even our daily habits that we have here at home, our circle of friends. So, we get comfortable with that. We’re at peace, at ease like you said, Chuck, but getting out of it allows us to grow. If we stay here, we plateau and we don’t know what we’re missing. So, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, we offer ourselves the opportunity to grow, have a growth mindset, and to really figure out what we can become, to reach our full potential.

Chuck Gaidica:
That’s interesting because if you’re going to become something, if you’re going to start something, you have to begin it. So, somehow we’ve got to figure out a way to do some baby steps maybe to get us to the point where we feel comfortable about pushing ourselves to start something new. That can be just the part of it that’s hard.

Marissa Jarrett:
Right, and that’s what they say. They say to decide what it is that you want to do and break it down into smaller steps, smaller tasks, and that goes for just about anything. You’re not going to wake up one day and say, “I’m going to write a book,” and at the end of the day have a book written. So, you might just start by journaling. You’re going to start probably by journaling, and then maybe you’re going to, after a little while, you’ll start writing blogs, and it’s those baby steps that get you comfortable with the process.

Chuck Gaidica:
What about those people that we meet in our lives, maybe it’s me or you, but people we meet in our lives that seem to be in the zone and they are super comfortable? They have found everything, their house, the way it’s organized, everything is comfortable, and I think the question from them would be, well, why would I stir things up when everything is comfortable?

Marissa Jarrett:
That is a very good question. I think we get comfortable. We’re going to plateau, like I said, if we stay there and we’re not going to know what we’re missing. So, when we step out of that zone, it can be scary, but we have to face our fears. Here’s an example, life’s going to throw hurdles at you and you need to be prepared, you need to be able to… Well, I don’t know if you’re ever prepared, but you need to be able to adapt to that. Maybe you’re driving to work, and all of a sudden you come upon a road closure. Now for some people, it may not be a big deal, but to other people maybe they’re late for work. Maybe they’re not familiar with another route and they’re not sure how they’re going to make it to work or make it to work on time.
So, you need to be able to take a breath and just think things through step by step. If you’re worried about getting lost, if you continue to make all right turns or you make all left turns, you’re just going to end up where you started from, and then we learn from our failures. Each failure is a lesson that we can learn from. So if you’re going to fail, just think about what it was that you learned and then try and figure out what it is you need to do better to get where you have to go.

Chuck Gaidica:
There’s a word that I see bandied around and maybe I’ve only seen it more in corporate kind of settings or when people are hiring, but it’s the word resiliency. So, somehow we get pushed out of our comfort zone and we stretch a little bit and one of the benefits could be, and I want to get your take on other benefits, other upsides, one of them could be that you’re becoming a more resilient, adaptive human being. And again, goodness knows in the past couple of years we’ve all gone through various things, including working from home, getting Zoom calls, et cetera, that I think have pushed us. And then all of a sudden you get it and you think, “Wow, I’m okay. I did it.”

Marissa Jarrett:
And that’s it, and then the next time you’re presented with a similar situation or even another unfamiliar situation you can say to yourself, “You know what, this happened to me. I got through it, I did it, I can do this.” So, you start getting out of that can I attitude to an I can do this attitude. You just look at what you’ve already done, what you’ve already accomplished, figure out how you did it and just apply those same principles to get there. In addition to resilience, you’re building self-esteem, you’re building self-confidence.
And with all of that, we just continue to grow and grow and grow as a person. Every time we learn something new, we’re building new neurons in the brain. They’re building new connections, new pathways every time we learn something new. So, our brain is malleable. Our comfort zone is the same way. We can stretch it a little bit each time we learn something new, and yes, it’s safe. So, maybe we need to retreat back there every once in a while to process what we’ve just been through, and then we venture out again and stretch that comfort zone a little bit bigger.

Chuck Gaidica:
And I see articles all the time, and you probably do as well about this idea that regardless of what age you are, what stage of life you’re in, finding your purpose and your passion will give you a healthier and longer life. They literally can tell you that you’ll extend your lifespan. Well, I find that interesting because if I’m in search of a purpose or passion, if I don’t explore, if I don’t learn, to use the word you just used, how will I know? How will I discover that my new purpose is jumping out of airplanes? It doesn’t make sense to me as a pilot that I would jump out of a perfectly good one, but you know what I’m saying? For some people that’s the exhilaration and they go, “This is it, man. I’ve discovered it. This is it.”

Marissa Jarrett:
And, that’s the fun part. I’ll give you an example. My parents are in their mid-70s, and we wanted to take them out on our sailboat when we got it a couple years ago, and my mom is not very fond of the water at all. So, she very much stepped out of her comfort zone, and all we did, Chuck, was leave the little marina and go down this little calm river, and then we turned right back. We weren’t on the water 15 minutes. We just literally went through this little canal and came right back. Well, this year we took my mom and my dad, my brothers, and my sisters, we went out for an afternoon. We didn’t have a lot of wind, but my mom, that was another step for her to get comfortable. She was out on Lake Huron.
She was out on the big lake, we were out for three hours and she had a great time. Her and my dad walked out onto the bow of the boat, she was doing great. And then a couple weeks later, we took them out again. Well, we had wind that time, Chuck. The boat was heeled over, I looked at my mom, she was calm. Well, at least she appeared to be calm. She was helping us with the lines. I wasn’t worried about my dad, but he was having a great time with the lines, and they’re not going to go out and become sailors, but that was them and more my mom, stepping out of her comfort zone doing something that wasn’t comfortable for her, and that’s going to lead to other opportunities, other exciting things that she’ll explore. So, you need to go out there. You need to find some new opportunities, you need to talk to people, you need to try new things because you don’t know, meeting somebody might lead you to something else, trying something new may lead you to new experiences. So, it’s all part of the process.

Chuck Gaidica:
I relate so much to that, and yet I meet people in life that I know are not like me, and what I mean by that is I’m a learner. By testing my top strengths, my number one finder strength is I’m a learner. So, I love to learn about stuff. I want to know how this microphone is made. I want to know how we’re connecting through the ether somehow, but not everybody is like that. And so, sometimes I think I may be racing too fast to learn about stuff that really has no basis in importance. I’m just learning about stuff all the time, and I look at people that are sitting there and they have found a comfort zone, if you will, by just kind of calming down their life. There’s probably a huge upside to recognizing that too, to dial down the race of life and maybe find your comfort?

Marissa Jarrett:
Oh absolutely, it’s always a good thing to come back and have that. We’re not saying to get rid of it. When you’re out there and you’re jumping out of planes or you’ve got that thrill and that excitement, it’s okay to retreat back to that comfort zone and allow yourself some time to process what you’ve just been through, but you don’t want to stay there. You have to keep expanding it slowly, little by little.

Chuck Gaidica:
And, isn’t it funny how we’ve also come up with phrases in life? Comfort food for somebody could be grilled cheese and tomato soup, but it’s funny, our daughter-in-law and son-in-law and son were over last night for dinner and because all their spouses are traveling or working or doing something, so we invited everybody over, and it was funny because our daughter-in-law is expecting in November and she said out loud, “One of the things I’m so looking forward to is the comfort,” she used the word, “In February when it’s really cold of just laying there with my relative newborn and just taking a nap.” And I thought, “Wow, she’s already focusing on what’s going to bring her comfort down the road in February.” My gosh, I’m just trying to plan next Thursday.

Marissa Jarrett:
That’s exciting.

Chuck Gaidica:
But good for her, right?

Marissa Jarrett:
Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica:
Good for her that she’s actually able to start focusing on a goal that while it may seem slow and laid back, for her this is really an important thing that’s coming.

Marissa Jarrett:
It is, and we all need to have goals to look forward to. We all need to have goals to work towards and you just do it step by step. When you think of doing something that scares you, try and reframe that fear, try and reframe what’s happening into a positive light, so you can work gradually towards getting there, and she’ll have that opportunity because February’s going to be here sooner than we know.

Chuck Gaidica:
Are there other benefits that you see that we haven’t touched on about this idea of getting out of your comfort zone? Anything we haven’t really touched on?

Marissa Jarrett:
We’ve talked about adversity. We get to handle adversity when we get out of our comfort zone. We’ve talked about a sense of purpose. We also get to grow emotionally. I think we get to learn a little bit about ourselves and we also get to expand our skill set. The more things that we get to do, the more things that we’re out there learning, we learn new skills, we learn new things that will help us. So, we get to learn about other cultures. For example, let’s say travel, do things on your own. So you mentioned your daughter down in New Zealand, she’s out there experiencing her independence, something that she may… And, she’s learning things that she may not have known about herself had she stayed in that comfort zone, and we’ve got to move from our comfort zone where things are comfortable, we then go into this and face our fears, face things that are scary, but they challenge us.
We can take some risks. Then once that becomes comfortable, then we get to learn, so we’re moving into this learning stage, and learning is always good for us. We talked about every time you learn something new you’re creating new neurons in the brain, creating new pathways, and then you get to that growth mindset. And it might not be linear, you might not go through each of those things because I don’t think life works like that. Everything has ups and downs and things set us back from time to time, but that’s ultimately where you want to go. We want to face our fears, we want to learn from them. Failure is a great teacher. Nobody became great on their successes alone. They failed somewhere along the line and then they learned from it and was able to move on, but then when we get to that growth set, we’ve reached our full potential. Maybe once we’re there, we’ve found our sense of purpose. So, it’s a journey, it’s taking baby steps along the way.

Chuck Gaidica:
We’ve talked about in this podcast a couple of times the idea of using that acronym SMART for smart goals, S-M-A-R-T, where the A is the word achievable, and I’ve always appreciated the simplicity of that idea that if you’re going to go after a new goal, try one that’s achievable. I’m never going to have a Bentley, so why would I make that my goal? I can’t afford to drive that car, but here’s what I find interesting, and I’m listening to you and I hear the positive attitude wrapped up in this, I’ve never really related to A as achievable. I like to lead my life as something is almost achievable because that pushes me to then maybe I will someday jump out of an airplane or maybe I will do something. So, I really appreciate that idea that part of this getting out of the comfort zone is nudging ourselves or having someone else nudge us, like you with your mom and dad to get on the sailboat, and then you discover, wow, I love it.

Marissa Jarrett:
That’s what you have to do, whether you find an accountability partner, find somebody… Let’s say you want to run a marathon, but you’ve never run before. Well, maybe you’re going to start with something shorter like a 5K. So, find a friend who’s on a similar path and then you can push each other, nudge each other in that direction, and then once you hit that 5K, then you’re excited, you’re pumped, you’re motivated, then you move on to the next stage, and then eventually you’ll hit that marathon, and before you know it, you might be doing two or three, but it’s finding something that you want to do, and then finding that motivation to get there, but it’s not easy.

Chuck Gaidica:
No, it’s not easy all the time, but everything that we want to do, diet or meaning lifestyle change, everything has this notion that we’ve probably got to get out of our comfort zone, but I want to bring back to your area of expertise in wellbeing and health. So, you’ve talked about the neurons, the connectors and the brain may grow, and so there’s an upside there. Maybe we are going to get healthier physically or mentally, emotionally, but bring it into the realm of wellbeing, this idea of getting out of our comfort zone. What are the other positives and upsides for us to think about feeling, looking, maybe even acting better because we’ve pushed ourselves a little bit?

Marissa Jarrett:
When we achieve something like that, Chuck, we become more confident in ourselves. So, I think through expanding your comfort zone and learning new things, and once you get through that growth phase, you’re building your self-confidence, you’re building your self-esteem, you’re building your self-worth. You’re moving from that can I attitude to an I can do that attitude. We’ve talked about my body building before, so I’m just going to mention when I thought about doing that, I never thought I could go up on stage in a little bikini and perform in front of thousands of people. That was definitely something outside of my comfort zone. I embarked on that just to improve my own health, my own wellbeing, and people kept asking, “Why are you doing this? Are you doing a show? What are they talking about?” So, 12 weeks later there I am, standing up on stage. I’ve got all these bright lights in front of me, thousands of people in the crowd.
I walked out on that stage, and when it was all over with, I felt so confident. I felt like I could do anything that I signed up for the next one a couple months later because I had so much fun. I got out there and I forgot all of my fears. To me it was fun, I worked hard for something and I did it, and people would ask me later, “How did you do it?” Well, I didn’t want to just tell them how to do it. I wanted to show them, I wanted to teach them, so that led me to go on and get some additional education. I went through training, I ended up getting a certificate in personal training, but then that led to other things. I had my children early on and I didn’t finish school. So, I went back and I finished my bachelor’s of science, and then I finished my master’s degree. So, when you achieve something and you see what you’re capable of doing, it just makes you want to go out there and do even more.

Chuck Gaidica:
But you said something, it’s like the lead story got buried here as you started to talk about your journey in body building, you said you started and 12 weeks later you were in a competition? 12 weeks doesn’t seem like a long time to get the body to the point to go do a competition, that’s astounding. That’s awesome.

Marissa Jarrett:
It was hard work. Now, I did have three months training going into it, but when I realized what it was and I made the commitment to the additional training, to the little bit more restrictive eating plan, it was 12 weeks from the time I decided to do that and step on stage. It was a lot of hard work, but I was determined to do it. It was very uncomfortable. I had to have people paint me. I had to practice my routine in front of people I didn’t know for weeks on end, but that prepared me. All of those things prepared me for being out on stage in front of those few people to thousands of people.

Chuck Gaidica:
And, isn’t that interesting that for you pushing yourself out of your comfort zone of working out, walking out on stage, I’m not diminishing the whole process, but that’s the only part that I’m able to wrap my head around, leads you then to say, “I can take on just about anything now.” So, you go back to school, you get certified as a trainer, you get a master’s, those check marks are really on the upside. It’s looking for a stock market that’s going in the right direction. That was all leading you down a path that was really great as well.

Marissa Jarrett:
It led me here to my job that I have today that I love and I’m passionate about, and I never want to stop learning because you never know where… There’s still room for me to grow. My comfort zone can still expand.

Chuck Gaidica:
Well, any other wellbeing, healthy upsides that we should talk about as we start to wrap it up or takeaways that you want to give us for everybody? Because you’ve given us such great stuff today and a lot of encouragement.

Marissa Jarrett:
Well, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Pick one thing that scares you and do it.” So, I just love that quote. I think every day just pick something that makes you uncomfortable and do it. If you have to find a way to make it a little bit more manageable and do part of it and then work your way up to completing it, do that. You don’t want to miss out. You don’t want to go through life having any regrets. I am so thankful that my parents got out on that sailboat. I am so thankful that they got up in an airplane because especially at their age, that’s going to keep them healthy. That’s going to keep them vibrant. My three year old granddaughter was over last week, and one of the things that she likes to do is go into the chicken coop and get eggs. Well, I was in there a couple weeks ago and apparently on my way out, I got attacked by one of our roosters.
So, I did not want to take her in there, and when she was over the other day she said to me, “Can we go get some chicken eggs?” And I said, “Well, let’s wait for Grandpa Ken to come home because there’s a mean rooster in there and I don’t want him to bother us.” Well, she focused on the word mean rooster and I wish I could take it back because when Grandpa Ken did come home, I said, “Oh, Grandpa Ken’s here, we can go get chicken eggs.” And she says, “No, I don’t want to see the mean rooster. I think we still have eggs at home.” But, now she’s going to live with that and I’m like… So, now she’s going to think that she can’t go in there anymore and she’s going to want to stay outside of the chicken coop, and I wish I could take that back.
So, you got to be careful what you say to kids when they’re little because they’re impressionable and something as insignificant as that could really impact her as she goes through life because I watch her, she has no fear. The geese come up and she’s taking off right after them, she sees Pot Belly Pete coming through the yard and she goes off after him. She has no fear. We were at the zoo and she was going after all the wild Canadian geese. So, I think we have a lot to learn from kids. Kids, they don’t have fear. As we grow up and we become adults, we fall into that comfort zone. So, it’s important that we don’t get comfortable being comfortable, find things every day that scare you, do something about it. Don’t have any regrets and just go through life and enjoy it and be the best self you can be.

Chuck Gaidica:
Great stuff. Well, Marissa Jarrett, wellbeing coordinator for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Great to talk to you and see you again and thanks for all the encouragement today, wonderful stuff.

Marissa Jarrett:
Absolutely. Thank you, Chuck. Have a great day.

Chuck Gaidica:
You too, and you should also know it’s not just your three year old granddaughter. My brother has chickens up north and roosters and there was one who wouldn’t leave the hem of my jeans alone, so I understand the process.

Marissa Jarrett:
Nobody ever said farming was easy.

Chuck Gaidica:
Right, be well, thanks so much.

Marissa Jarrett:
You too, Chuck. Thank you.

Chuck Gaidica:
Thank you. Well, we’re glad you’ve been with us. You’ve been listening to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. If you like the show and you want to know more, you can check us out online, go online and type in ahealthiermichigan.org/podcast, and you can leave us a review, a rating on Apple Podcaster or Stitcher. We get new episodes to you all the time if you want them, on your smartphone, on your tablet, any way you need them. Be sure to subscribe to us though on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. We’re up to episode 113, so we’ve got a treasure trove of all kinds of information about health and wellness and wellbeing. I’m Chuck Gaidica, stay well.