At the end of every year, I try to take stock of the previous year and give myself a “grade.” I break it into categories like health, fitness, family, work, etc. I’m sure a lot of you do the same. I try to figure out where I did well the previous year, and where I could use some extra attention.
At the end of this last year, I had something of a revelation. Specifically, I had been avoiding hard things. I had become too comfortable, too soft. I wasn’t pushing myself the way I had in years past.
Rather than write out a list of New Year’s Resolutions, I decided to set 30-day challenges for every month of the year. (January 2020 seems like a lifetime ago!)
My January challenge was to meditate every day for at least 30 minutes a day. My February challenge was to take up martial arts. My March challenge was to jump in a really cold pool or take a cold shower every morning. My April challenge is to start my new podcast and YouTube show.
So far so good. I averaged 40 minutes of meditation in January, and it was awesome. I continue to regularly meditate for 30+ minutes.
In February I took up Brazilian JuJitsu. What an incredible sport. During my first class, I got my arm “broken” about 20 times by a guy in his 40s who I outweighed by 40 pounds. Totally addictive.
I hate the cold. But after jumping in a cold pool or taking a cold shower, I found myself actually looking forward to my morning cold plunge.
What do all of these challenges have in common?
For me, at least, the thing they all have in common is that they are hard. They push me out of my comfort zone. Sitting silently for 30+ minutes is not natural for most people, including me. Taking up martial arts and getting your butt kicked as a 47-year old father of 3 kids was scary, frankly, and I walked into the gym totally by myself. Being cold used to be one of the worst things I could imagine.
Interestingly, I’ve found myself far happier for doing hard things. I had gotten happiness confused with comfort. With relaxation. With doing easy things that I like and am good at already.
Turns out I’m a lot happier when I am getting out of my comfort zone. When I am pushing myself to do things that are scary, or hard, or potentially embarrassing. Turns out I have a much better sense of achievement and accomplishment when I do hard stuff instead of easy stuff.
Want to be happy? Do hard things.
We are all living through history right now. There are limits to what we can do because most of us have to stay home and practice social distancing.
You can still push yourself out of your comfort zone. Pick a topic you’ve always wanted to learn about and study it on YouTube (I’m studying calculus right now). Set yourself a goal to meditate for 10 minutes for 10 days. Walk an hour every day, rain or shine. Find a way to help people that need help during this pandemic.
Push yourself to get out of your comfort zone. You’ll be a lot happier if you do.