Over the last few weeks, countless numbers of top LinkedIn Influencers have been releasing their own advice to the younger generation through a series of blogs titled "If I Were 22". And of course, as a young professional myself, I spent countless hours perusing through them seeking to soak up knowledge from some of the biggest and brightest minds out there.
One of the common messages I found was to constantly challenge and push yourself out of your comfort zone - because this is the only way you will be able to find your true passions and find out what you are truly capable of.
Great. So what does this actually mean - to get out of your comfort zone?
Do you book a trip to a country you have never been to? Do you finally move out of your parents' house and get a place on your own? Do you order a different meal at your favourite restaurant? How do you know when you are actually outside of your comfort zone?
The truth is that all of these things can help challenge you. The smallest choice to the biggest action can be something that can teach you something new.
"I say "sooner" because I'm certain that I wouldn't be where I am today if, in my 20s, I hadn't taken a giant leap and changed life as I thought it was supposed to be."Laura Desmond - CEO at Starcom Media Vest Group
Speaking as someone who has been constantly challenging myself since joining my non-profit organization during my third year at the University of Guelph, I can describe to you how you will feel when you have left that bubble of safety and security known as the "comfort zone".
1. You will feel uncertain.
The point of leaving your comfort zone is to challenge yourself to do things you have never done. You will need to accept that you might not know what will happen. This is known as taking a risk - it could have a good or bad outcome.
I felt this when I applied for a job with AIESEC in the United Kingdom. I had to buy a flight from Toronto to London and attend a selection process in front of 200 students I had never interacted with. I kept thinking, "Am I crazy? I am spending $600 flying across an ocean to a country I have never been to. What if I don't get selected? Am I wasting my money? Do I even have a chance?"
Generally, when you feel uncertain, you will start to question yourself. A lot. You will start to think of all the ways this could turn out. But you hold on to the hope that this could be the greatest decision of your life. The excitement is still there deep down.
2. Fear will start to take over.
"When I was on the plane to Thailand, I started realizing that I had no idea what the person looked like who was going to be picking me up." Mentioned Rachel Whitehead, an exchange participant of AIESEC who travelled from New Zealand to Bangkok for an internship. "What if I couldn't find him? I didn't even know how to get where I needed to go or how to speak the language. I started freaking out."
Uncertainty can quickly turn into fear if you start to focus on the bad things that could happen.
You may go through the normal responses to fear - trying to change your mind, sweating, calling home, maybe even having a panic attack or crying. At this point, you're at the peak of the roller coaster ride. You need to be strong and have the courage to dive and keep following through with your choice.
3. You will surprise yourself.
"You are capable of greater than you know" - E.O Wilson
In order to get through these big challenges, you are going to have to learn, try new things, and respond in different ways. Sometimes you have an adrenaline filled response as you try to get through a tough situation; sometimes you are drawing on skills you didn't even know you had.
"I had the worst stage fright," Nikita Singh, Vice President of Talent Management for AIESEC, "and I remember having to do this huge speech. I was terrified. I walked off stage and people told me how great I was, and I was shocked. I was freaking out on the inside so I was surprised that it sounded so good to the crowd!"
When you finally get through those situations, no matter how you respond, you are surprised with the fact you got through it. Think about when you are convinced to try a new type of food - something strange like escargot or chocolate covered crickets. It may sound like something crazy at first, but you may surprise yourself and end up liking it!
4. You will have the urge to do it again.
Getting through a challenge is almost like an adrenaline rush. It's addictive! When you look back on the situations or challenges you have made it through, you realise how much you have learned and what you are capable of. For many, this sense of growth is something irreplaceable. You all of a sudden will have a feeling of restlessness that doesn't seem to go away. Whether you learned something new, failed at something, traveled to a new place or met new people - it has given you a new perspective and has changed you as a person.
So I completely agree with all of these experts - just go. Get out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself.
But make sure you don't do it without thinking about it. Make sure you take these opportunities to notice how you respond to the world around you and what you learn from it. Reflect on how you have reacted to situations and what you would like to improve next time. Take these opportunities to become more self aware, so you can turn into the best version of yourself and live a more fulfilled life!