21 Students Explain How Leaving Their Comfort Zones Changed Their Lives

by Alyssa Ashley

Over the last few months, I've been focusing on living in the moment and stepping out of my comfort zone. As I am about to enter my 20s (a time when independence is forced upon you), I've been focusing on personal growth. I am learning to own my decisions and regret nothing.

For the first time in a long time, I've been focusing on doing what makes me happy and feel alive, regardless of the reactions I'm scared I will get from my peers. This particular quote from musician Zola Jesus has always stuck with me:

You are born and then you die, but in between you can do anything you want. It's society that creates rules for us, but you can break out of that.

I decided to take a chance on all of the various resources in my surroundings and discover for myself the risks and benefits of stepping out of your comfort zone. For one month, my motto was "Why Not?"

I invited my friends to join me in figuring out for ourselves the benefits and risks of taking a chance without any regrets. For one week out of my month-long experiment, I had my friends do the following:

- Join Tinder and actively participate - Talk to a stranger every day and try to hold a genuine conversation - Eat something outside of your normal diet - Only say positive things for a full day  and avoid negative thoughts, words and actions - Eat a meal alone in public - Find a way to surprise yourself every day

Here is everything that they learned:

Challenge 1: Tinder

It's a 100 percent confidence booster.

— Justin, 21

I hooked up with a guy from Tinder, and I tell people we met at the library. Whoops!

— Drew, 19

In all honesty, I had no idea what I was expecting to gain from joining Tinder. I had always heard about the app, but I was always afraid to run into 'creepy' people. But I found that Tinder is an incredible way to connect with new people. I found myself being rather shy at first because of preconceived notions about Tinder in general, but the more people I came across, the more I opened up and felt comfortable in conversation.

— Jazmin, 19

Joining gave me a reminder that even after everything I've been through, I can still carry on a conversation with some who may be 'interested' in me without feeling hesitant or inferior.

— Sarah, 19

Challenge 2: Talk To A Stranger Every Day

No one would talk to me! People would kind of just stare back. I wasn't sure if it was me, or that society is not used to random strangers engaging in conversation. So, I smiled a lot to strangers and 99 percent of the time I received a smile back.

— Samantha, 18

My tactic was to smile and say hi! I struck up conversation about anything and I felt pretty comfortable.

— Jazmin, 19

The most exhilarating thing I've ever done was to make a habit of talking to strangers. I grew comfortable in exercising my social skills.

— Rose, 20

Challenge 3: Eat Something Outside Of Your Normal Diet

Never eating snails again.

— Dean, 19

I ordered something out of my usual, and it actually impressed the guy on my date.

— Chiarra, 20

I realized there's more to life then just having my 'usual.' I guess I got stuck in my normal routine.

— Danielle, 22

I realized I've been eating the same types of food since middle school.

— Alex, 19

Challenge 4: Only Say Positive Things

I realized happiness does not depend on how few negative thoughts I have, but instead on how I react to these thoughts. Of course, I would not have realized that if I did not try to only think positive.

— Charlie, 22

This was a long day. I had to constantly remind myself that tomorrow I could go back into my deep, negative hole.

— Jordan, 20

Being positive isn't as easy as it should be. I'm not sure if it's me that makes it so hard and my outlook on things, or the fact that I am so used to accepting the negative rather than the positive.

— Dana, 21

I tried not to analyze or worry about my critical thoughts. This challenge was a good reminder that thoughts are just thoughts. The more I dwell on them, the more negative thoughts develop.

— Alyssa, 20

Challenge 5: Eat Alone

Honestly, the best challenge.

— Christopher, 21

Lonely. I wondered if I would be single forever.

— Isabelle, 19

People looked at me in pity. I was purely happy eating my food. Eating is an individual experience.

— Jayden, 20

I was probably the most confident person in the room.

— Emily, 19

Challenge 6: Surprise Yourself

I texted him first. Why not?

— Sophia, 21

I stated my honest and open opinion on how the dress actually looked on my friend instead of the bullsh*t 'maybe a different color.' She appreciated my honesty.

— Evelyn, 21

I'm the girl who gets scared from watching 'Law And Order' and truly believes that any guy on the Internet will catfish you. But, 'why not?' I went on a Tinder date and actually enjoyed it.

— Zoe, 21

I was amazed by the responses from my friends as a result of this challenge. So many of us have a crippling fear that things are the way they are, and that's it. That right there is where faulty thinking lies.

Life only stays the same if we do. We will always get in our own way if we don't change our thoughts and beliefs, so step out of your boundaries and surprise yourself. You may end up in the place you belong.

Do what you want, and change for yourself. It's time to start living.