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I am currently a sophomore in college, however, like many others this is my first year on campus. I’ve been itching to move away from home and have freedom at last, but actually leaving was a big step. At home I had a routine, people I saw regularly, and was very familiar with the area. Here at Michigan State (MSU), all of that changed and I had to start over. It was hard the first few days, but going outside of my comfort zone allowed me to thrive in my new environment.

Balancing On The Inner Tube

I was once told that your comfort zone is like an inner tube. The inside of the inner tube is your comfort zone. That’s where you have your routines, low stress, and is what you’re familiar with. The actual inner tube (imagine someone sitting on it with their feet dangling off the sides) is going outside your comfort zone. You are still in a safe place but you’re pushing yourself beyond your normal ways. Now imagine falling off the inner tube and into the water – this is the “panic zone.” While pushing yourself can be good, too much can set you back. Sitting on the inner tube is what will allow you to learn and grow outside your comfort zone. Sometimes a big push is needed, but most of the time taking smaller steps is what’s beneficial.

How Do You Balance?

A good balance is taking steps outside your comfort zone but also taking steps back when needed. Knowing your boundaries is important since pushing yourself too far can be overwhelming. When overwhelmed, your ability to function optimally could be effected. However, it is good to embrace new challenges and occasionally stray from your set ways.

Where Do You Start?

Taking small steps outside your comfort zone is a good place to start. My first day alone on campus, I took my first step by going outside my dorm room.  During the first few days I sat with people I didn’t know in the dining hall, joined sand volleyball games, and started conversations when standing in line. I even tried water skiing which I’d never done in my life! All these things were outside my comfort zone but not so extreme that I felt unsafe. Opening yourself up and exploring new activities are great first steps.

Why Is It Important?

Taking risks allows you to grow and live up to your full potential. Always staying within your comfort zone can hold you back. In life there are always changes and being able to go beyond your comfort zone allows you to deal with these changes. While big changes can seem debilitating, moving outside your comfort zone little by little can help you overcome those feelings. Only by dipping your feet in the water will you be able to adapt to new surroundings, have amazing opportunities, learn new things, and grow as a person.

Leah Lindemeyer is a sophomore at Michigan State University majoring in Communications and minoring in media photography and public relations.
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