Stretching Limits

My goal for this new year is to cook a full meal—and maybe even handle raw meat.

My goal for this new year is to cook a full meal—and maybe even handle raw meat. Photo by Courtesy Flickr/wfyurasko

At a party over the holidays, I noticed a friend's outfit. While it's not unusual for me to take note of what people wear, her ensemble caught my eye because, over the past year as my wardrobe expanded to include a fair number of leather pieces, she always commented on how much she, a more conservative dresser, likes to look but could never pull leather off. But that night, she sported a leather skirt and suede knee-high boots and looked great. Naturally, I complimented her, and she responded that I'd encouraged her to just give it a shot.

As we enter the new year, many of us contemplate goals (I don't really like the word "resolutions") to accomplish over the course of the next 365 days. As I considered what mine might be, I thought about that friend and how pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones—even just a little—helps us grow, or explore a new side of ourselves (and can be a lot of fun).

Prior to the new year, I went a little outside my comfort zone with my hair to channel my inner rock star. With a little gentle prodding, my stylist convinced me to add a few fuchsia-colored extensions that peek out from underneath my mane. It's not like I dyed my entire head pink or got a Christina Aguilera-esque dip dye, but it's a little edgy and not something I'd ordinarily do. So I worried a little: Was this even appropriate for someone over the age of 25 with a day job? Would my parents think I'd gone off the deep end? But the universal reaction has been positive. It's just something fun and funky that's not permanent. (If you're interested, a salon can help you achieve this effect for around $40. Clip-in extensions you can apply yourself at home are also available at beauty supply stores.)

Sometimes, though, pushing past your comfort zone involves more than a new outfit or some fake hair. A number of friends and acquaintances seem to be starting the new year contemplating bigger life decisions--changing careers, going back to school and the like.

I've read that members of my generation will have something like an average of seven careers over the course of our lives, so I suppose it shouldn't be a big deal. But making that change feels pretty monumental--and scary. I say this as one who's been there, done that and lived to tell the tale.

Especially for those considering a major change in direction or who aren't sure what they want to do, leaving a job where they've grown comfortable or thought was the one they'd always wanted but turned out not to be requires pushing past that comfort zone in a major way. It takes a leap of faith, but that's what makes it exciting (and scary). Overcoming that fear is part of what makes it worthwhile in the end.

To everyone making goals or considering changes this year, whether big or small, I say, "Go for it." So how will I push past my comfort zone in 2013?

Having made friends with leather and colorful hair, I'm turning my sights to accomplishing something that, to date, I have managed to always avoid: preparing an entire meal. This past year, I became a bit of a baker, but I still don't cook actual food.

I shared this goal with a friend at happy hour who replied, "You know what your downfall in this is going to be? Handling raw meat." Could be; I can't say that doing things with raw chicken is up there on my list of Things That Sound Awesome. But I'm willing to push through that and give it the old college try. After all, after changing careers and having pink hair, can a saute pan really be that scary?

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