Cats are creatures of habit. This may be one of the thousands of reasons why I love these gorgeous creatures so much: I love my routines, and change doesn’t always come easily for me, despite the fact that most, if not all, change in my life has always been for the better. And there’s nothing wrong with positive routines. When the Dalai Lama was asked “if you only had one word to describe the secret of happiness, and of living a fulfilling and meaningful life, what would that word be,” he replied without hesitating: “routines.”

But there is a lot to be said for moving outside of your comfort zone.In fact, stepping out of your comfort zone may be crucial to your personal growth, creativity and success.

Jackson Galaxy coined the term “challenge line” in his work with cats. The challenge line is the point where a cat crosses from comfort (“I think I’ll just stay under the bed, it’s safe down here” to challenge (“Let’s see. I may be shy, but maybe there’s more fun to be had in the rest of the house?”) Jackson uses the challenge line to push cats just past their comfort level to see how they react, because, he says, “then I know exactly what I can do to benefit the cat.”

It’s up to us as cat guardians to help our cats cross that challenge line, but when it comes to our own lives, we carry the sole responsibility for pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. Trying new things and stretching may be uncomfortable at first, but ultimately, it will help us grow.

Increase your creativity

Stepping out of your comfort zone makes you more creative. Sharing creative work carries an innate risk: you’re opening yourself up to rejection and criticism. The most successful people fail more often than those who never take risks.

Become more adaptable

Challenging yourself past your comfort zone makes you more adaptable to change in general. Once you’ve experienced that you can step out of your comfort zone and succeed, unexpected changes won’t feel like such a daunting experience.

Age more gracefully

For many people, their comfort zone gets smaller as they get older – yet another reason to push past it more frequently. For many people, their world shrinks as they get older. By forcing yourself to move past your challenge line and embracing new experiences, you remain fully engaged in life, and as a result, your life will become richer.

Stepping across your challenge line doesn’t need to happen in big leaps. Start by taking small steps. Sometimes, something as simple as taking a different route to work can shift your perspective.

Have you stepped across your challenge line? What was the experience like for you?

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16 Comments on Sunday Purrs: Why Crossing Your Challenge Line is Good for You

  1. I crossed a challenge line a time back where television is concerned:

    For quite a while, one genre of entertainment that I avoided like the plague was Westerns– I wouldn’t touch anything of that genre, whether film or television, because the settings seemed to me to be way out in the middle of nowhere (and many of them were set way back in the 1800s).

    About a year or two ago, I got the first-season DVD release of a Western called Have Gun, Will Travel (that one being on from 1957-63 on CBS w/the late, great Richard Boone), which was set way back when in San Francisco. I saw the first episode, and saw how Richard’s character Paladin handled dangerous situations by only using his gun when he needed to use it (no indiscriminate drawing and no gunfights, unlike other Westerns). In essence, Have Gun was not your average Western; it was more philosophical than others. This is what kept me hooked through the first season’s worth (39 half-hour episodes; more episodes then than any season of anything has today), and what led me to get the second one, which I equally enjoyed.

    It was because Have Gun was so good that I decided to try another Western, this one also a half-hour, and also on CBS– Wanted: Dead or Alive, from 1958-61, w/the great, late Steve McQueen as bounty hunter Josh Randall (I have Mill Creek’s all-in-one DVD of that Western [all-in-one meaning all of the series in one release]). I don’t know exactly what it was about Wanted: Dead or Alive that, like Have Gun, Will Travel, led me to be hooked from the first episode forward (I saw all 94 episodes and three seasons’ worth of this Western), but I think it was how Steve McQueen played his Josh Randall character (which I find difficult to express much of an opinion on, outside of that I enjoyed it very much).

    In short, crossing that challenge line from avoiding all Westerns to actually enjoying two television Westerns (both from the 50s, both half-hours, and both from the same network) was something I thought I would never do; I just had to find the shows of that genre that made me think “Jackpot!” (like Jackson does when he has his clients to try different treats on their cats to see what hooks them and gets them to do what the guardians want; I may be incorrect, but I think that’s how he does it).

    I just thought I’d bring this up and share it, because, as I said before, it was something I would never do until now.

  2. This is another great post Ingrid and so true.

    I’ve had a rough start to the year and it’s only mid March. My oldest daughter left in January for a study abroad in Greece, my mother, who has Alzheimer’s, was hospitalized the beginning of February with pneumonia, and my youngest daughter got her driver’s license and started to drive herself to school. As a mother, it’s hard to let your children leave the nest and grow into adults without the worry that something will happen to them. As a daughter, it’s hard to watch a parent descend into the terrible disease of Alzheimer’s. I have been in some form my mother’s caretaker for the past 11 years as she battled 4 rounds of cancer and for several years have made all the health and financial decisions for her. She is in a great retirement community but I still worry and the past three months I have found that I prefer to stay at home cuddled up with my cats when I’m not driving my mom to doctor’s appointments. I have to force myself to get out and interact with people.

    My daughter in Greece wants me to join her there when she finishes classes and I’m going! My husband has already bought my plane ticket. I have never flown by myself and have never been out of the country but I’m flying to Athens and my daughter and I are taking 2 weeks to travel to several cities before flying home. My wonderful husband told me he will handle anything that comes up with my mom and I need to do this.

    So, I’m not just stepping across my challenge line, I’m jumping across it and I can hardly wait until May!

    • What a wonderful opportunity your trip to Greece will be, Jean – and such a much needed break. Yes, I’d say your jumping wayyyy across your challenge line!

    • Good for you! Great that your husband can support your mother whilst you’re away. I imagine that this is a really hard time. I believe it’s important that you can take a break from caring for your mother. Not because you don’t love her, but because you do love and care for her.

  3. What a timely and useful article! My human is facing a major decision today- this morning, actually. So we can apply this article today and certainly in the future. Thanks to the commenter above, too, for the purple hair story.

  4. What a fabulous piece. It’s just what I needed right now. I too am crossing several challenge lines.

    I am the co-founder of a rescue. However I have never quite felt like I had equal say in what was going on. As Adoptions/Feline Director I saw things that that needed to change or should change for the sake of the volunteers and ultimately the kitties. I tried for quite a long time to turn things around, but we all the human world and feline world are not always in sync with each other. No sensible feline would put up with this behavior why should I?

    That is when I decided to walk away from this rescue and form my own. It was a heartbreaking and very scary decision to do this. It’s been a chaotic few weeks trying to get things up and running. I can tell when I’m extra stressed or working too hard, as Pipers will plop herself down in front of my computer and throw me one of her looks. Okay, I get it! Step away and pay attention to the feline!

    Today I am preparing for my first board meeting of the new rescue. We have lots of hard work ahead us, but the outpouring of support has been wonderful. I still feel overwhelmed (what if I screw up the legal paperwork?), what if this and what if that? Yikes! At the same time, I find the challenges invigorating! I am having fun doing what I love. I love the people I have surrounded myself with. Plus Piper is happier because for now, I am not running all over the place doing events and working with other cats! (Shh…don’t tell her that comes later.)

    A friend of mine often said “Replace the word Problems with the word Challeneges”. I’ve always loved that. Not to mention my fortune cookie last week said “You will make change for the better.” Bring it on! This old woman is ready for it!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Great post, Ingrid!

    I have recently stepped over the challenge line. I tend to be pretty shy around new people when I meet them in person, so I went to this pretty big event. It was a little too overwhelming for me. That said, though, I AM glad that I did it. I proved to myself that I *can* do it, even if it’s not comfortable for me to be in big groups of people. I think with more practice maybe I can break out of my shell a little more the next time. 🙂

  6. Whilst thinking about my own experiences, I remembered an incident on public transportation. I was so impressed that I’d like to share an old lady’s story.

    I was sitting in the front row, when an old woman entered the bus. She had difficulties handling her cane and ticket simultaneously, and I helped her. She sat down next to me and we started talking. I commented on her hair; it was purple and looked really great. She told me that she was 80 years and that her hair is white.

    She continued: “In the late 70s, when the punk scene came up, I was admiring those amazing hair colors. I didn’t dare to dye my own hair, though. I was a married middle-aged woman, getting blue hair wasn’t appropriate. Some years ago, I realized that having white hair is a great basis for dyeing, because you don’t need to bleach your hair first. So now I change my color once a month, it’s so much fun! I was first afraid what people in church and neighbors would say, but decided that I was too old to take other’s opinions into consideration. I’m old, I don’t know how many years I’ve left. Funny thing – they are very positive and I get a lot of compliments. My children are actually jealous, but they’re still in working life. They have to think about their jobs, but I can do whatever I want.”

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