Cliches abound for grabbing life by the horns and stepping outside of one’s comfort zone.  But can one really take a one-sized fits all approach to pushing one’s limits?  Risk levels vary based on age, skill level and propensity to naturally run headfirst off a cliff.  As such, the following suggestions are grouped according to a natural state of risk aversion.  Find your starting point and do your best to challenge yourself accordingly.

Zone One. Zone One is for those gentlemen who find taking two steps off the beaten path enough to warrant a panic attack.  These guys follow the same path at the grocery story, always order the same thing on the menu and never lose their remote control.  You know who you are.  For you, stepping out of your zone will involve such things as taking a class on a subject you’ve never tried before but in which you have an interest.  Perhaps cooking,  drawing or yoga.  Start with a class as your venture itself will be new, yet still presented in an orderly fashion.  The key for your success will be to attend the class at least three times.  Odds are you will look to find fault with the teacher or the process.  Recognize this early on and do your best to soldier through the discomfort and focus rather on the subject that you are learning.  Go online in between classes if you must and supplement the lesson, just don’t quit.  The point is to stay the course, literally and figuratively.  Once you’ve pushed your limit in this manner, feel free to step it up a notch and take a class that requires more from you personally, such as a comedy or improv class.  Not only will you be learning something new, you’ll be required to demonstrate what you’ve learned in a new setting.

Zone Two. Zone Two is for those gentlemen whose friends would describe them as spontaneous.  Ex-wives or girlfriends may describe them as messy.  These gentlemen are more apt to go with the flow and are very likely to try new things at the last minute.  If you feel yourself nodding your head in knowing agreement, you are likely a member of Zone Two.  For you, stepping out of your zone will involve a study in opposites.  If a typical Friday night for you is chicken wings and beer at your favorite watering hole, get cleaned up and go out for a fancy dinner.  If you are a jazz fan, buy yourself a box seat at the opera.  If you find yourself behind a computer screen all day, sit down with a pen and paper and start writing.  A thank you card, a letter, a chapter of a book.  The key to your success will be to make the plan ahead of time and stick to it.  Make a reservation and keep it.  Buy the tickets and attend the event.  But a stamp and mail the letter.  Plan, execute and complete the thing you wouldn’t normally do.  Not only will you be attending something you normally wouldn’t, you will have planned ahead for it.

Zone Three. Zone Three is for those gentlemen who already live life on the edge.  These gentlemen are the adrenaline junkies who spend their summers running with the bulls, attending major world sporting events and jumping out of things.  The world is your playground and you find adventure and excitement no matter where you are.  You know who you are, you’re smiling like a cheshire cat as you read this.  For you, stepping outside of your zone involves finding adventure on a different scale.  For you, finding a way to thrill others is a noble challenge.  One that you will likely take on with the same zeal as your other epic activities.  If you find skydiving into a field of flowers in the middle of nowhere to be a walk in the park, consider bringing that sense of beauty and exhilaration to another human being that may not know what it’s like to feel that rush.  Take flowers to a nursing home.  Visit a cancer patient.  Be a big brother.  The key to your success will be to deliver the thrill to someone other than yourself.  Knowing you, it will be on a grand scale.

Regardless of which zone you identify with most, the single most important thing is that you find a way to push your own limits – whatever, wherever and whenever that may be.  Take these suggestions and use them as a spark for your own ideas, take action on something that inspires you and that scares you just enough to actually try it.  Who knows, you may have so much fun you’ll invent your own cliche.

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