Illustration by Kate T. Williamson
So you're eager to move outside your comfort zone—but you can't find the exit ramp, you have no directions, and your destination is hazy. Fear not, brave explorer! We've got the road map to your next adventure, whatever it may be.
Step 1: Get your bearings.
A great leap is about fulfilling passions that already burn inside you. So if you hate sports and heights, daring yourself to climb a mountain by 2011 is inviting disaster. "I ask my clients to draw up a list of five to ten things that make them thrive," says Margaret Moore of the McLean/Harvard Institute of Coaching. "If it's cooking, you might be ready for a culinary adventure. If you love exercise, maybe white-water rafting is in your future." Todd Kashdan, PhD, associate professor of psychology at George Mason University and author of Curious?, suggests simply walking into a bookstore and seeing which section catches your attention.
Step 2: Visualize, visualize, visualize.
When you put aside a few minutes each day to create a mental picture of your adventure, "you start believing it's going to happen, and belief fuels action," explains Jonathan Fields, author of Career Renegade. If your fantasy is to open a yoga center, close your eyes and conjure it: What does that beautiful, profitable studio look, sound, and smell like? Research shows that this mode of "outcome simulation" increases the chances of achieving your goal. Even more effective is "process simulation," in which you picture the mundane tasks required to reach your dream (checking Craigslist for potential yoga studio locations, calling contractors for quotes). "If you go that extra step beyond writing the to-do list and actually visualize doing all of those tedious things, you're more likely to get them done," says Fields. "It's not sexy, but it works."
Step 3: Consult the masters...
Track down role models, experts with credentials, "reverse mentors" (younger folks who might have unexpected wisdom to share), and what Kashdan calls transcenders. "We all know these people who are a little bit punk rock—they're flexible and creative and they've figured out how to break free from the box they're stuck in," he says. These advisers can offer both practical tips ("In Ghana you must check out this wildlife sanctuary that's not in the guidebooks") and inspiration ("The mantra that got me through the last 20 miles of that bike tour was...").
Steps 4-6: Create an entire mindset for change