Being out of Your Comfort Zone: Opening up & Pushing Boundaries

“The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment.” -~Pema Chodron

These past few years, I’ve focused on education and passing the required exams to get into university. I had my mind set on where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I didn’t do well on my exams, so that didn’t quite pan out, but I’m happy.

I’m now studying for a bachelor’s degree in biology with the hope of later furthering it into research. I’m also located just around the corner from where I originally wanted to be. So all in all, I consider my current situation a good result.

But this experience is going to be about more than just obtaining a certificate and increasing employability. For me, this is a huge step. This truly is out of my comfort zone.

Moving Away

Initially, I experienced a mix of emotions, including gross absorption and wonderment. My new surroundings were gripping me, showing me something much bigger and brasher than myself. I stepped out of the car and unpacked my belongings; it was the culmination of a mentally pre-rehearsed experience.

The journey felt a lot like autopilot, but I was finally there. Moving away from home and onto university was something I had been anticipating for months, maybe even years; but when it came around, it all just happened.

The first lesson I learned from this move was not to go over things for months on end. That can drive you crazy.

It's better just to immerse yourself in the moment and let things come around. This doesn’t mean neglect import things; it just means not to consume yourself with worry.

A New Home

The great thing about a new environment and unfamiliar surroundings is the sense of a new beginning; but to move from somewhere as rural as my home, and to exchange it for an area as densely populated as the city, was another thing altogether.

The important thing to remember is that people present opportunity; it’s just whether or not you’re willing to take them up on it.

It’s easy to sit back and only take in the things that are comfortable to you, but to get to where you aspire to be requires a little discomfort.

Often, those things which present worry also bring out your better qualities.

They may even change you, give you a sense of clarity, a feeling of enlightenment, or maybe they just satisfy your thoughts and needs for that moment. My first few weeks at university were very much like this.

Escaping Loneliness

I’d said goodbye to family and I straight away began to feel alone. Normally if I had a bad day, I’d always come back to my family. These were the people who understood me; they didn’t have to hear me speak to know how I was feeling.

But now I knew nobody. There was just me.

Loneliness can make or break you. If you just collapse into an inner-sanctum and to-and-fro over the same pitied thoughts, you will become part of a downward spiral. If you can take it on the chin and seek company, you will escape whatever worries you thought you had.

In my first week I found that pushing myself outside, and walking until something interesting happened, was a great tool. Sometimes I found that escaping loneliness was mostly about state of mind.

If you put yourself into a mindset that deems its social barriers to be as wide as your room, you will find that reality will soon take the same shape. If you’re open to exploring and talking to new people, you will lose track of feeling lonely.

To put it simply, get out, do something, and speak to somebody.

Don’t procrastinate and wind yourself into pointless worry. Even if you don’t speak to someone, a small walk in the light of day will instantly perk up your mood.

Opening Up

I am quite a reserved person, but that doesn’t make me anti-social. I’m just a thinker rather than a shouter. This has its benefits and it has its downfalls. Yes, I can assess a situation quite effectively, but my reservation can mean I miss an opportunity because I’m too frightened to do anything about it.

Striking the balance between thought and voice is a powerful thing—something I have yet to really master.

I’ve found that like anywhere else, at university there are many people competing to establish social status, or rather re-establish their role in the social hierarchy. After just a few weeks you start to notice the formation of what I like to call cliques, or simply groups of friends.

If you can’t destroy that instinctual self-reservation and talk, you may just miss out on the chance to meet some really great and interesting people.

It helps to focus on starting conversation.

Next time you meet someone for the first time, say the first thing that comes into your mind. It will inherently cause a moment of social awkwardness, but you’re now talking to somebody you might not have dared tried talking to before. You have broken the ice. It’s now up to you to be able to hold a conversation and keep them interested.

Stop assessing yourself and understand that you are fantastic. Some people may choose to disagree, but that’s their own opinion. They just haven’t noticed the things that make you shine as a human being and have ultimately saved you from wasting your time with them. Destroying self-reservation is about confidence, if you are confident in mind, you are confident in body.

Pushing the Boundaries

I suspect I didn’t do as well as I could have on my exams because I wasn’t willing to go further than what I was told or expected. My mentality has since changed and I now find success from setting my own boundaries, or in my case, fewer boundaries.

I have found that meticulously defining goals and targets detracts from what you really set out to do.

If you don’t set any guidelines, but have a rough idea in mind, the results have the potential to be outstanding. There are no limits to your potential achievements.

So, to truly push the boundaries, start by not making any. Just put in your all and give it your best shot. Nobody can ever ask you of more than you’re capable. This will also help you to develop an inner sense of self satisfaction, which will intern boost your confidence and could help reduce self-reservation.

Secondly, mix with people who are better than you at what you’re trying to do, and don’t be intimidated by them. Learn from what they do and examine how you could enhance their methods to increase your chances of success.

What's Next?

These were just few ideas and tips I have picked up in my first few weeks at university. I wanted to share them so that other people could up their game and start living. It’s no fun sitting home alone. Go and do something out of your comfort zone. You won’t regret it.

Photo here

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  • Lyndamhcartmell

    Thanks benjamin, that was so uplifting and from one so young too! I am 53 and going through a difficult time in my life but reading your post really made me think – I am also reading ‘the Butterfly Experience’ by Karen W Smith as I attended one of her workshops a couple of weeks ago and her attitude to life is the same as yours. Thank you 🙂 Lynda Cartmell

  • scienceben

    Thanks for your comment Lynda, I’m really glad you enjoyed my post.

    I’ve not heard of this book before but I’ll certainly have a look for it; thanks for the recommendation!

    Thanks again


  • Valerie

    It’s so refreshing to hear from someone so close to my age and experiences! You articulated many things that took me my whole freshman year of college to figure out. Congrats on being so quick to absorb these important life lessons. It’s inspiring. Thanks for writing and sharing them with so many others.

  • Ben

    It’s my pleasure Valerie, thanks for your kind words.


  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this post! I’m in the process of applying to colleges and have been going a bit crazy – really trying not to, but I have some health problems and have been too sick to go to school and am not sure how I’ll feel a year from now in college…so trying to strike the balance between preparing without obsessing and just letting the future come as it will. So it’s nice to hear some tips and know it’s worth it to go out of your comfort zone! Love the quote, too, by the way! 🙂

  • Thank you for this. I needed it today. I recently took the plunge into something that I wanted. I moved overseas to a new country, knowing almost nobody, throwing myself into an entirely new career, being alone and scared. I am a little more confident now that I will be okay.

  • scienceben

    Thanks for your comment. I’m sure college will be great and all your worries will be met by a positive surprise. Just remember to think of the bigger picture and understand you will get to where you want to be, it just takes a little time and devotion.


  • scienceben

    Carry that confidence away with you and keep going.

    It already sounds like you have made the biggest step, it’s just a matter of persevering.

    Have a great day!


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  • Matt

    This is what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. Thank you for sharing this wonderful insight. It’s nice to know someone else out there is thinking like I do and taking action!

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  • Katherine Collmer

    Great post, Benjamin!  You have presented some excellent strategies for pushing past one’s boundaries – especially the advice about not establishing boundaries in the first place!  Lots of luck with your adventures:)

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  • Kas k bubbles

    Hey great post thank u for sharing I am kinda doing the same thing in the sense that I am going to college trying to get into the sciences and balance the whole thing, And pave the path one ity pebble at a time in hopes to have the tools to sustain myself but more importantly to create and understand something I can give to many.

    I enjoyed reading it

  • Hi Benjamin! I couldn’t have read your post at a better time! I agree it was very uplifting. You’ve just made my day a little better!

  • ben

    This is great ben. i just moved 12 hours away from home right out of high school and i have always been so close to my parents. i’m having a tough time right now. real anxious and worried about what i want to do with life and just confused.