5779 was a weird year for me. Among other things, I went through a breakup around Passover and lost my footing. Some friends came to visit one weekend shortly thereafter to cheer me up. We went rock climbing, something I’ve wanted to try for awhile, despite my fear of heights. “Live life on the perimeter of your comfort zone,” one of them said to me. That’s an approachable way to push yourself, and I realized I hadn’t been doing that for awhile. There’s a complacency you feel when you’re in a long-term relationship, but breakups are the perfect time to look at your life as it is and think about what you want it to be.
In the spirit of my friend’s motto, I asked other young adults to reflect on their year and what they’ll be doing to foster a sense of courage in 5780.
What did you hold yourself back from in 5779?
“Applying to grad school.”
“Spiritual growth by paying too much attention to the physical. I focused too much on materialistic agendas.”
“Living a life of having it all—of booking that one-way ticket to Thailand, of enrolling in that course, or becoming that activist.”
“I don’t think I held myself back from anything last year. If anything, I was able to push myself to do new things and also put myself first. As hard as that is at times, I truly felt like I was my top priority.”
“Creating new art pieces. It has been extremely hard for me to work up the self-motivation to start new projects since I graduated from college. While my anxiety and depression have definitely played a part in the delay, I feel as though I’m blaming my lack of progress on my mental illnesses, rather than reminding myself that I can push past them. Although they will always be a part of me, I will not let them take control of my life.”
“I’ve been trying to not hold myself back in the last few years, and I think I’ve been sticking to it. Sometimes it does get me in trouble, but I’d rather just go for it than let myself wonder ‘what if.’”
“Taking time for myself; everything I did revolved around graduating with a 4.0, landing a job right after college and establishing my career.”
“5779 was a year of deep reflection and planning for me. Over the course of the year I’ve come up with many big ideas for my future, but I’ve put in little work to turn those dreams into a reality. My life has been pretty consistent and, quite frankly, easy in 5779, but it doesn’t feel like the life I want to live in 5780 and beyond.”
What do you want to push yourself to do in 5780?
“Evaluate what career to pursue based on my values and skills and passions, create a plan for how to get there and then actually start taking steps to get me there. I also want to get a new job this year where I feel I have more room for growth and am challenged.”
“Push myself to not think of what others will say, even if that would be words of praise.”
“Be more physically active. A small change in routine of more working out is important, so I really want to make sure I put emphasis on that.”
“Take better control over the negative thoughts, self-doubt and procrastination that come with anxiety and depression. When I’m able to think more positively and motivate myself, I will feel ready to make new artwork. I hope to also use my art as an outlet for coping with my mental illnesses. I would feel especially proud if I could push myself to post new work on my Instagram. That way, I can inspire others who deal with burdens similar to my own.”
“I’ve been traveling a lot in the last year, and I’d like to be doing more of that. Ideally international!”
“Make time for non-work-related activities, such as reading more leisure books, cooking new foods and hiking more mountains.”
“Follow through on my dreams. I think I’m starting to get a better sense of what makes me tick and what makes me happy, and I need to be bold enough to forgo caution and anxiety to pursue something that makes me happy even if other people in my life don’t understand the choices I make. I turn 30 in November, and it’s a bit of an intimidating birthday; I’d like to hit my third decade on this planet hard right off the bat.”
Why is it worth it to you to take risks and push yourself outside your comfort zone?
“The moments where I’ve been the most proud of myself/satisfied with my life usually occurred as a result of me doing something that scared me. I’m also pretty intent in creating for myself as many different life experiences as possible now so I have things to look back on if my health changes or my abilities to do things like that changes. I think for older me, the times where I pushed myself out of my comfort zone will be a lot more meaningful and satisfying to reflect back on than the times I followed the life prescribed to me and stayed in my status quo.”
“It feels very important to take risks and push myself outside of my comfort zone in order to gain a wider perspective in this globalized world. It’s important to put ourselves in unfamiliar situations so we can learn, grow and come closer to the realization of the ultimate purpose of life.”
“I don’t want to live a life filled with ‘what ifs.’ I want to leave it all on the playing field and not have to wonder what was left that I could have given.”
“There are many risks in pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. But you won’t grow if you don’t push yourself. I learned this phrase a year ago and keep using it as a mantra: There’s no growth in the comfort zone. I truly believe that you must take risks to push yourself and learn. Making mistakes is only human and a way for us to learn. It’s scary, but taking risks will only make us stronger.”
“First of all, let me say that I’m not a big risk-taker or very keen on going outside of my comfort zone in the first place, but even homebodies like me need little thrills! Risks are worth it to me because I gain experience from them. Whether it’s a good experience or a bad one, I know I will learn something from it. It’s important to take a leap now and then to avoid getting stuck in a rut, to discover more about myself and to try something new. It might take a little persuasion, but I tend to enjoy small adventures once I’m out there!”
“I’ve been really trying to push myself outside of my comfort zone and it’s been rewarding, both in my social life and in my work life. It definitely has opened a lot of new doors for me in the last year!”
“That’s the only time I ever see myself grow as a person. I’m not going to expand my mind or make change by doing what’s comfortable and safe.”
“You only get one shot at life. I think Jews are acutely, sometimes painfully, aware of that fact. You can spend it playing it safe and doing what is expected of you, or you can take risks and push yourself to accomplish things you didn’t know you could. I don’t want to look back in 20, 30, 50 years and wonder, ‘What if?’”
I just got back from a long trip abroad. There’s something about being in a new place that makes you confront yourself. Maybe it’s because in the unfamiliar, the only thing you know (even if it’s only a little) is yourself. Questions I had been pushing away for months resurfaced: What’s making me unhappy? Why? What do I think is missing? What am I doing to contribute to my unhappiness and this sense of being unfulfilled? What am I getting out of this artificial complacency? Is how I feel worth not being honest with myself?
I realized I hadn’t been holding myself back from answering these questions; I had been running away from them. In 5780, I’m going to make myself answer them, no matter how painful it will inevitably be.
In the words of one of my favorite college professors, “When you open yourself up to the world, the world opens up for you.” Go somewhere new, somewhere completely out of your element and you’ll find the difficult questions (and their answers) present themselves. New situations force us to think about our place in them. Dare yourself to say “yes” to new experiences. That’s the only way to grow.
What are you going to do this year to live life on the perimeter of your comfort zone?