Just for fun

My finishing time at the Warrior Dash this year increased quite a bit over last year. I added almost FIVE minutes per mile. Normally, that kind of performance decline would reduce me to a quivering mess; in fact, it’s pretty amazing that I’m even admitting to it here.

Today, I don’t care.

Why not? I could justify it by saying the course was harder (it was) and it had more mud obstacles that were difficult to navigate (it did) and that everyone posted slower times (they did), but those aren’t the real reasons.

I don’t care because it was FUN. As much as I enjoyed the muddy obstacle race last year, this year’s event stole my heart. Last year, I took on the Warrior Dash–billed by promoters as “the craziest frickin’ day of your life”–to prove I could. I tackled all kinds of tasks that would normally make my sometimes-prissy self balk, if not turn away in self-righteous disgust. When I crawled out of the mud pit to cross the finish line, all I could think was, I DID it!

My brother and I both agree that this year’s race felt completely different. We had already proved that we COULD do it; this time we actually WANTED to do it. When the starting horn blew fire to launch my 11:00 wave, I hit the woods grinning. I leapt roots and ruts, took the direct route through the stream instead of pussyfooting from rock to rock, embraced the mud, and army-crawled through trenches on the forest floor. I ran hard and felt great all the way through. I loved it. Last year’s race felt like an accomplishment. This year’s race was an out-and-out blast.

I’m pretty sure that’s one of the benefits of expanding your comfort zone. Once you master a task or conquer a fear, it leaves you free to enjoy the experience the next time. You can do it just for fun.

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Uncharted territory

Derek Sivers, you inspire me. You reminded me today to keep moving out the boundaries in order to make my world bigger, to expand my comfort zone. I read your post, Push, Push, Push, and I thought about all the things I’ve done lately to expand my horizons. It was a short session.

Yes, I dove through mud and scaled walls and leapt over fire last weekend in the Warrior Dash. But I’ve done it before.

Yes, I rode 190 miles on a bicycle over hill and dale through Massachusetts to raise money for cancer research. But I’ve done that before, too.

Those are all the recent highlights I can conjure, and they don’t amount to much because they no longer represent uncharted territory to me. After all, the whole point of pushing is to overcome the fear, to master the feat:

I love that when we push push push, we expand our comfort zone. Things that used to feel intimidating now are as comfortable as home. –Derek Sivers

The consequence of not pushing the boundaries, big or small, is not that my world stays the same. Actually, without continuing to push outward, the weight of the unexplored begins to pile up, and my world starts to collapse upon itself. It begins to shrink until I find myself confined in a tiny box.

Thankfully, that state is never permanent. ANYone can expand her world at ANY time. One of my grandmothers bought a computer and taught herself to use it when she was in her 70s. The other grandmother elected to undergo hip surgery and painful rehabilitation at age 98. An uncle elected to undergo a DNA test at age 65 and found his family, flying to meet them a continent and a language away.

Pushing limits doesn’t have to be grandiose. Granted, for someone who has a pretty small comfort zone, stretching it will look a lot different than it will for someone who regularly hurdles large obstacles, but continuing to expand the territory is all that really matters. Read a book that challenges your beliefs. Try a dish that would never make it to your table at home. Take a class. Learn a new skill. Make a new friend. Conquer a fear.

Over time, I believe that pushing your limits doesn’t get you out of your comfort zone. It actually expands it.

It’s time to get out of my rut.

P.S. PLEASE read Derek’s post. It’s one of his best. Here’s a bit of it to whet your appetite:

Push, push, push. Expanding your comfort zone.

2012-08-13

I’m 40 meters underwater. It’s getting cold and dark. It’s only the third dive in my life, but I’m taking the advanced training course, and the Caribbean teacher was a little reckless, dashing ahead, leaving me alone.

The next day I’m in a government office, answering an interview, raising my right hand, becoming a citizen of Dominica.

I’m in a Muslim Indian family’s house in Staten Island, washing my feet, with the Imam waiting for my conversion ceremony. Next week they will be my family in-law. The Muslim wedding will make her extended family happy. I’ve memorized the syllables I need to say. “Ash hadu alla ilaha illallah. Ash hadu anna muhammadar rasulullah.” READ THE REST HERE.