Baby Steps: The Power of Yes and Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone
I was in third grade when my baby sister was born. With a gap of nine years between us, I can still remember my excitement when she came home from the hospital, wearing the pink, rose onesie I helped to pick.
I proudly carried her around the house with me. (Not up or down stairs though cause let’s face it—I’m a bit clumsy, and the thought of her third-grader bounding down the stairs with a newborn made my mom sweat). As my sister grew, I held her hands as she tottled from room to room, taking her first steps.
When you hear the phrase “baby steps,” chances are you envision a similar scene—an unsteady tot, so determined to take their first steps, shakily letting go of a familiar hand. It’s a bit cliché, but there’s a lot of power in baby steps—in making the decision to put one foot in front of the other even if you stumble and fall. At the same time, if you’re anything like me—a “recovering perfectionist”—taking that first step is hard. The fear of falling weighs heavy on my mind, and it’s difficult to let go.
I’d rather skip the “I’m not really sure how to do this” phase and head straight to pro status. I’m learning though that there’s joy in the journey, and it all starts with the first step.
This past spring, I started running—something I haven’t done consistently since high school.
To be honest, I always liked the idea of running, but putting in the work to actually run more than a mile at a time (and by run, I mean jog very slowly while trying not to pass out) was not appealing. I eventually caved after someone recommended running to manage the stress of grad school coupled with the daily grind.
The first time I laced up my Nikes and headed out the door, I could feel the nerves welling up inside.
I can’t do this. I’m not cut out to be a runner.
Doubts swirled through my head as I prepared to take the first step. I’m not gonna lie, that first run was brutal—my lungs and legs burning as I struggled to run for more than two minutes.
That’s the thing about baby steps though. The first step is never easy, but the more steps you take—the more you pick yourself up and try again—the easier it gets.
Was I tempted to give up? Absolutely. But over the next few weeks, I set out to finish a 5K training plan, making the decision to show up and lace up my sneakers three days a week.
This week marks my final week of the training plan, and I can just about run those 3.1 miles without feeling like my lungs are going to explode. I have a long way to go to reach legit runner status, but that’s part of the growth journey, and it all started with the first step.
Another reason I like the idea of “baby steps” is that they force you to move outside your comfort zone. It’s so tempting to stay inside the cozy bubbles we create for ourselves, but I truly believe the saying that, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
I recently discovered Yes Theory, a group of guys on YouTube who intentionally seek new opportunities to say “yes”—opportunities to get out of their comfort zones and experience real growth. Their videos feature crazy adventures like a 24-hour hitchhike challenge and asking billionaires to sleep in their mansions.
I’m not saying to go jump in a stranger’s car, but I do think there’s value in intentionally taking steps (see what I did there?) to get outside our comfort zones.
For me, that has meant saying “yes” more often. If you know me, then you know I’m naturally introverted—maintaining the energy level to attend events is hard—especially on top of grad classes and a full-time job.
I remember the first time my college advisor asked me to come back to campus to speak on an alum panel. I panicked, forgot what to do with my hands, and made up a lame excuse about how I already had something scheduled that day.
Even though I initially felt relieved, I regretted my decision. I love my college advisor and my post-grad job, so there’s no good reason why I couldn’t speak on that panel. Instead of taking a chance, I let fear keep me inside my comfort zone.
The next time I received an invite to speak at my college, I forced myself to say “yes” before I had time to change my mind. Driving onto campus, I felt super awkward and out of place, worried that nobody would even care what I said. But that wasn’t the case at all. I got to see my advisor, catch up with friends who were also on the panel, and even rally some job applications from students.
Since taking that first step, I’ve made the trip back to speak in numerous classes and even at other events. Yes, the introvert in me still needs plenty of time to recover after public speaking. But every time I went back to campus, it got easier. With every step—every time I said “yes” when I wanted to say “no”—I gained momentum.
That’s another great thing about baby steps: every step you take builds momentum—stamina to keep going, strength for the journey.
A few months ago, some of the alums from one of the panels decided to meet for dinner and drinks. If we didn’t get to catch up at the speaking event, the dinner (and raspberry margaritas) would never have happened.
It turns out that three of us work for the same company, and we just grabbed dinner again a few nights ago. Taking that first step—getting out of my comfort zone and saying “yes” to the alum panel—led to more connections, more laughs, and more margaritas. And who doesn’t love a chance to eat Mexican food and drink margs?!
Just remember: Baby steps don’t immediately turn into a full out sprint. You have to pace yourself.
I learned that lesson the hard way recently after scheduling too many activities during finals week and subsisting on coffee and stale peanut butter sandwiches since I didn’t have time to cook.
There are still times when I get burnt out and need to pump the brakes, and that’s perfectly okay. What matters is choosing to try again—showing up, putting one foot in front of the other, and saying “yes” more often.
So here’s my challenge to everyone reading and to myself: The next time you’re tempted to let fear keep you inside your comfort zone, take a baby step. Step out and say “yes” when you want to say “no.” You never know where it will lead you.
Windrose Magazine is your guide to navigating life in your twenties through a collection of essays, interviews, and advice that will inspire you to chart your own life course, free of comparison.
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