A friend who recently went through cancer treatment emailed to say he was doing well. He said it was a bit touch and go for a while but he’s on the upswing. I know him from dancing. He’s one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. He dances with every newcomer, women of every age and skill and always looks like he’s having fun, whether his partner can follow or not.

He said he has taken up a new type of dancing—in between cancer treatments and traveling for work—and he is having a ball. Each style of dance is helping him with the other one, he said. “But it does get a little confusing going back and forth between the two. Fun confusing.”

The other night at a foreign language conversation, the guy next to me was struggling to find the right words. I’ve been there—unable to be as articulate as I would like. The words you want to say in English rush to the front of your brain and then sit like thick fudge in your mouth as you try to translate. I looked at him and smiled “It’s like giving birth sometimes isn’t it?” “Yeah,” he smiled back and let out a big sigh, but still managed to say something we all understood.

On a recent trip, where I had to speak another language, I had moments of exhaustion and frustration. But in the midst of this—in moments of clarity—I reminded myself that we benefit from being out of our comfort zone. Short of sitting on a beach somewhere, almost all travel forces us to confront the unknown and be a beginner of sorts.

Of course, there are good and bad ways to be out of your comfort zone. Not every struggle is the right struggle.

That said, we’re too often sure of the steps we take, the words we speak. We avoid being out of our comfort zone because we can. We default to the known, the easy, the places we’re reasonably sure we’ll shine—if only a little bit.

In a recent yoga class, we were introduced to a new pose. Though we were a class of advanced students, we guffawed at the near impossibility of this pose. Nearly all of us crumbled and fell to the ground with a thud. Some of us laughed. Our instructor said, “This is the kind of pose you just have to have fun with.” Which translates to: you are not going to get it right the first, or even the second time, so you might as well embrace failure and not take yourself so seriously. We were speaking an unknown language with our bodies.

The key to fun confusing is that it should be an activity that uses enough of your potential, without being too much of a struggle that you can’t enjoy what you’re doing. Too easy or too comfortable and we don’t stretch enough. In his great book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains this concept as one of the eight aspects that constitutes a state of focused enjoyment.

So the question is, do you have enough fun confusing in your life? Or are you staying in your comfort zone too much?

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