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say yes to life

One of my New Year’s resolutions – and I don’t typically make many – was to say yes to more things. Looking back, I’ve always sometimes said no to opportunities due to not feeling in the right mood or just because they were out of my comfort zone.

Staying in your comfort zone can be a good thing – for safety reasons and for your own mental well-being – sometimes escaping that bubble can also be good.

It took me a while to put this resolution into practice, but I don’t put time limits on my resolutions.

 In March, I booked a few days off work and decided to have a Treat Me Week. This week focussed on saying ‘why not?’ to concepts and booking things that I wanted to do that I normally wouldn’t have time to do. Along the journey, I would see what opportunities presented themselves along the way.

First up for the week was treating myself to a relaxing facial at Viso Facial at Newcastle where I fell asleep in the chair whilst listening to instrumental music. The week continued by trying out a new cinema to see John Wick 4 – the Everyman Cinema is a bit more expensive than your typical showing but food and drink are brought directly to your seats. I also embraced a new concept and saw an instrumental band play at the Common Room, immersed in the sounds of heavenly music and the flickering lights of candles.

Also, during that week I booked a first-class trip to Edinburgh. Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities to visit, and a first-class train ticket was going for cheap, so I booked 2 days in Scotland. The ticket price is more than made for by the fact that you get food and drinks on the train, as well as extra legroom. On the trip, I tried new restaurants and explored new spaces, including Edinburgh’s Botanical Gardens.

The Edinburgh trip was a highlight because I went alone. A solo trip is something you must do at some point in your life, even if that’s exploring a new city on your own or going abroad and travelling.

I didn’t go for ‘finding myself’ as some of my friends have done but for independence. Travelling solo has many benefits including doing activities exclusively for yourself without being tied down by the wants or needs of family and friends. You will learn more and typically curiosity makes you go even further.

There’s sometimes that stigma that going alone to places is a bad thing but that couldn’t be more wrong. Doing things by yourself shouldn’t hold you back from embracing more opportunities.

Embracing opportunities can be scary. People are afraid of change, of the frightening concept of the unknown. But there is that saying that you don’t know if you don’t try.

We go through seasons of change in our lives, just like the weather changing from dreary winter, into sunny spring. Embracing new opportunities and keeping a positive attitude can lead to great outcomes.

When encountering changes in your life you can: 

Analyse, research and weigh up the positives and negatives – if you like to think changes through, weigh up what the change may mean. Coming at the change from a logical perspective and focusing on the purpose of the change can help to motivate and inspire you.

Remember that curiosity is key – don’t be afraid to ask questions, not only can it help reduce any anxiety you may have about the change, but it will also help you understand it better. It will also enable you to develop relationships with those around you (going through changes together can be better than attempting it alone).

Look to the future – consider the long-term goals of the change and remember that the main purpose behind the point of change is to improve your overall livelihood. It’s easy to focus on the downsides but you won’t know how a change may benefit you unless you embrace new opportunities.

I’ve seen phrases such as ‘killing your comfort zone’ or ‘squashing your comfort zone’ and prefer the nicer and, often more realistic, thought of dipping in and out of your comfort zone. It’s about experiencing uncomfortable situations and life-changing events, persevering in the name of growth before allowing yourself to have the space and time to recover from the effects of that.

It’s about having the conversations you feel you can’t, and trying the things that the voice inside your head says, ‘This just isn’t for you’. Because that voice is wrong and it’s time you started believing that.

Of course, there will be times when it’s easier to do than others. When you’re run down and burnt out, you have the right to spend some time in bed alone. But, when life and circumstance allow it, I wholeheartedly suggest you expand your comfort zone a little more each day.

Identify the things that scare you and make a list if you have to. Then, start saying yes—to the things you’d normally avoid and the opportunities you’d normally dismiss—even if it’s as little as attending a small group event or grabbing coffee with a new colleague. When it feels like you’re awkward and unsure, that is when it matters. That’s growth, right there.

Start small and work your way up to bigger steps out of your comfort zone. Like with any change or habit, it’ll get easier the more you do it. And with the incoming warmer weather you may find it easier to take up more opportunities in the outside world and explore something new and exciting.

Do you have recommendations on how people can expand their horizons? Maybe it’s recommending your favourite place around town, or a new event that people could try. For example, the What’s On pages of this very magazine advertise various fun events and groups across the Tyne Valley that you could try. Help people embrace opportunities and you may even discover something new yourself.

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