comfort zone, Sarah Davidson, mama disrupt

[Guest Editor] Sarah Davidson: How and when to step outside your comfort zone

In Features, Guest Editors, Life, Stories by Nicole Fuge

Want to find out what sets your soul on fire, but don’t know how? Entrepreneur and co-founder of Aussie global brand Matcha Maiden, Sarah Davidson, on stepping outside your comfort zone.

By Sarah Davidson

When it comes to comfort zones and stepping outside of them, a quote I always find helpful is from Thomas Jefferson. ‘If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.’ 

Like many things, we often need regular and gentle reminding of this. It seems obvious in the abstract (but much harder to apply in practice) that nothing changes if nothing changes.

You can’t find out what things you like or don’t like until you’ve tried those things. And you won’t know your real limits until you attempt to push yourself to them.

This is why they say that comfort zones are great but nothing exciting ever really happens there. They generally involve the constant repetition of routines and behaviours that aren’t really going to grow you even if they maintain you.

So, if you’re not particularly enamoured with your current direction. And feel you’re not quite seizing your yay. It’s probably time to starting shaking shit up.


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Knowing when the time is right

Before we go any further, I’ve got a disclaimer: sometimes the comfort zone is exactly where you need to be and is where you should allow yourself to hang for a bit.

There are circumstances or things that happen in life that are challenging and consuming enough to make working on your direction or personal development a much lower priority.

Family illnesses. Unexpected trauma. Or anything similar can cause serious disruption and distress. And require your full emotional and physical attention. If you’re going through or recovering from something like this, you absolutely deserve time to just recoup and rejuvenate in the most comfortable way you can. 

Assuming you are in a good place for seizing your yay, the best thing you can do is actively explore your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, delights and fears.

It took me a very lengthy process of reverse engineering to work out the basic things that made me feel good. And distinguish those from the things that didn’t interest me at all.

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Getting to know myself

Since I didn’t intrinsically know what they were, I had to observe myself like a third party. I’d identify times when I was happy or excited and then work backwards to figure out what it was about those moments that made me enjoy them.

It makes me laugh so much now but I literally bought a journal and wrote down what I was doing every time I noticed I felt invigorated or positive or when I felt the opposite.

After a few months of gathering data. Yes, on myself. I then went back through those journals entries to work out who I was and what I liked most by the process of deduction.

If this sounds like you – unable to clearly identify what things you enjoy the most and what you don’t – it might take quite a lot of dedicated work and attention to discover what suits you best.

As weird as it sounds, at one point I felt like a total stranger to myself. And was unable to answer basic questions about what I liked, wanted or was interested in. A consistent exploration of yourself is always going to be useful and help reveal more parts of the puzzle. 

Through this process, I’ve gone from being a great lover of my comfort zone to a discomfort junkie. I’m always seeking out new things to test myself against because I now appreciate so much that I don’t know what I don’t know. 

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Get outside (and inside) help

The people around you can also be helpful in this exercise. By providing an objective, outsider’s insight into what they might think you enjoy the most or seem lit up by. What you can’t think through or observe yourself, your friends, family or even colleagues might be able to shed more practical light on. 

And know this. Transformative moments might not always come from the brand-new or drastic things you try. But from existing things you didn’t realise you enjoyed so much until you sat down to give it some thought.

Call out to your inner child. Hindsight often reveals how we often come back to the things we gravitated towards as unencumbered, open-minded children.

In many situations, that involves a big diversion down a ‘should’- driven path that leads further and further away from the things we loved in our purest state. Before something makes you realise it’s not actually suited to you. And you go back to what you started with before obligation, responsibility and adulthood intervened.

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Look around you for inspo

Another thing that sparks new ideas and next steps for many people is simply observing their surroundings. Not only to get an idea of what they’re passionate about, but also to show them what they could be passionate about applying themselves to.

So many business ideas are sparked when a small, personal, regular frustration arises. And the person seeks to address that gap in the market for themselves.

Triangl Swimwear, for example, was founded out of a simple frustration at the lack of appropriately affordable and appealing swimwear for a first date on the beach.

While this frustration-easing approach may not necessarily show you what you’re passionate about or invigorated by directly, it can change your focus and activity in a way that later reveals things about yourself you didn’t otherwise know.

For me, it was business that opened me up to a dynamic, fast-paced, constantly evolving environment.

Every day required me to pivot or adapt to new conditions. I didn’t know until I was thrown into it that my brain thrived on this type of work. Each stage of that first business, and the subsequent businesses, has opened up new dimensions and shown me different things that make me yay.

Finding my own yay has been, and will continue to be, an evolving, unfolding process.

But I don’t need to see the whole staircase to keep taking steps. I trust that each step is as important as the last one in making me who I am destined to become.

Extract from Seize the Yay by Sarah Davidson Murdoch Books RRP $32.99

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