If someone told me a week ago that I would soon be hanging off the side of a cliff learning how to rock climb, I never would’ve believed it. Why? Because I always pictured rock climbers to be a special breed of radical outdoors people. While I’m definitely an outdoorsy woman, I never pictured myself being capable of achieving something like this.

Anietra climbing cliff – photo: Adventures on the Gorge

But, somewhere between putting on my harness and shoving my toe into a tiny crack on the face of a cliff in West Virginia, I learned a funny thing about stepping outside of my comfort zone: it often opens up a world of possibilities and sometimes–new discoveries about your life or interests or courage that you never knew you had.

My friends at Adventures on the Gorge in Lansing, West Virginia have created a resort and a long list of outdoor activities that safely challenge even the most loosely defined comfort zones.

Whitewater rafting on Lower New River – photo: Adventures on the Gorge

Whether it’s whitewater rafting, zip lining, kayaking, bridge walking, swimming, paddle boarding, or rock climbing, they help you embrace that small moment of decision that sits on the line of “no way” and hell yes!” The MOST difficult part is taking that first step, believing in yourself and committing to something new.

Here’s 4 ways to step outside of YOUR comfort zone and climb your own cliff:

1. Get over yourself. Lots of times we swim in the comfort pool because we are afraid of what other people might think if we look silly or mess-up or fail trying. The fear of your own perception is holding you back. No one memorable was ever the one who sat quietly and politely in the back of the room. Those who step out and are not afraid to laugh at themselves and are not afraid of what other people “might” think are the ones who continue to expand their world and grow.

Anietra on Gravity Zipline course- photo: Adventures on the Gorge

2. Face your fears. Fears, even irrational fears, are very real and most often responsible for keeping you from trying something new. The fear of heights, water, germs and small spaces are examples of things that debilitate people from even entertaining the idea of trying something new. Challenge yourself to face one of your fears on a small level – don’t go extreme right away. You might find that your fear is validated. You might also surprise yourself by getting past it and gain a tremendous level of pride and feeling of accomplishment!

3. Become a risk-taker. Growth does not happen without risks. Period. Your comfort zone is comfortable because you know what to expect– you’ve always done it and you’ve always gotten the same results. Shake things up a bit! Accept that you just might fail- you might fall out of that raft, you might feel uncomfortable on a zipline, or heck—you MIGHT slip off the cliff (no worries, I was harnessed in!!) The point is, yes, failure breeds fear which breeds staying exactly where you are which breeds boring! By becoming a risk-taker, you accept that failure is an option. But, without ever trying something that makes you uncomfortable, failure is a certainty. Learn to enjoy the moments that flourish by living IN the moment, and let go of expected outcomes.

4. Expect the unexpected. Some of my best travel stories come not from the itinerary that was designed–but from the unexpected experiences. Your comfort zone shields you from the anticipation and anxiety of the unexpected. It’s the feeling of nerves and excitement that truly make you feel alive. When you expect the unexpected you leave yourself open to possibility and you will almost always find a prize.

Anietra scaling cliff- photo: Laura Watilo Blake

Before I slipped on my harness to scale that cliff, I had a choice: to remain comfortably in the boat below watching someone else push their limits—or doing all the all the things I listed above and giving it a shot. Taking that step outside of my comfort zone was the best decision I made that day, and I even have cool pictures to show for it!