Story: Curiosity Walks. How I walked out of my comfort zone?

If you ever had a chance to work with me, you know how much I love my routines, and one of them is my lunchtime walk. I don’t think my hour break in the middle of the day should be wasted at my desk. It’s not healthy from a physical and mental perspective. So, If you ever see me at lunchtime in front of my screen, that means the weather is awful outside. Alternatively, something might be horribly wrong with me, and it is worth checking if I’m actually still alive. Take a stick and poke me, hopefully, I’ll respond to such gentle treatment.

How did it start?

About fifteen years ago, I started having problems with my lower back, something familiar to anybody who spends too much time in front of a computer. At some point, I discovered that walking helps me with the pain, and naturally, I stopped driving to work every day and started moving more. Back then, my workplace was only 3 kilometres away, and it was the perfect distance for two out of my 5-a-day. All my back pain problems were gone, as long as I kept walking regularly.

My daily routine now consists of at least 7 to 9 km of walking. During weekends it tends to be a bit more due to extra trips to the forest with my dog, and it can easily increase it to 12km a day. It’s even more when I’m away from home. During holidays it is not uncommon for me to do 20km per day (that’s easily 25–30k steps).

Curiosity Walks

I always treated my walks as a “me time”, a simple way to hide for a moment in my introverted mind and recharge the batteries. Opportunity to think, analyse the day that passed so far, focus on problems ahead, or simply change the environment for about an hour.

“It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth” — Nietzsche

Since I started my work in a new place and didn’t know anybody, a couple of times I asked people around me if they would like to join me at lunch. I was surprised by the response and very often enthusiastic approach to the idea. I continued asking, hoping for the opportunity to go outside with somebody, catch up and have a chance to talk. Our team is quite big, and I don’t work directly with many people. It is an excellent way to create an opportunity to engage with them and learn their stories.

That’s how my curiosity walks were born and how I walked out of my comfort zone.

The whole idea neatly ties with my attitude towards time-wasting by making my lunch breaks more productive and interesting. I got to a stage that I feel a little bit sad and upset whenever somebody can’t attend our walk due to an unexpected meeting in their calendar or busy schedule.

Why I used to call them “uncomfortable walks”?

On the beginning, they were the “uncomfortable walks”. I was worried about the conversation and topics during the 3km trip (30+ minutes) around the town with a person I barely know. It was a bit more relaxed with people whom I worked with daily, and change of environment helped to divert the discussion to non-work related topics. These walks put me in an awkward situation which I actually created myself, and I had to deal with it now. Only after I got more comfortable, I discovered the real value behind my alternative lunchtime and decided to change the name to something less scary.

Every walk still feels a bit weird, but I enjoy each one of them, and I’m not planning to stop walking away from my comfort zone. I look forward every day to my lunchtime, to go out and have a chat, catch up with old friends, speak with my work colleagues or just to get to know somebody new.

So why should you walk out of your comfort zone, not only be walking?

There are many reasons why you should not avoid to put yourself in a bit awkward situation. Being “lucky” happens by creating opportunities for luck to occur. You never know when you will learn something new, that will spark a change in your life. Maybe you will meet a person who can help you with a problem, or perhaps you are such a person to somebody else?

What worse could happen? You ask somebody to join you, and they say NO? That’s OK. I think you will be surprised how often people will actually be delighted to go with you and I’m sure some of them will also feel a bit anxious. Go out there and do something that will teach you how to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations, deal with it and stop using introvertism as an excuse.

Just do it!

Remember that walking on your break is not the only way you can do it. Just grabbing lunch together is a good way to achieve the same goals. Whatever works for you. Follow a simple rule: if you are afraid of something without a real threat or a genuine reason and your anxiety comes only from your internal feelings and assumptions, that probably means you should do it!

Healthy side effects

For me, health was the main reason, and extra social interactions are the side effect.

These days people sit in front of a keyboard way too long, and they should take every opportunity to do something different. Our evolution designed our bodies to move, you know, hunting wild animals and stuff. It takes tens of thousands of years for evolution to catch up, and our lives drastically changed within only last thirty. Plus, humans are the first species that is capable of affecting the powers of nature by stopping the evolution itself (science!).

You probably didn’t know that regular exercise, in conjunction with good eating habits and overall healthy lifestyle, reduces the risk of dementia by 60%. It also helps with delaying diseases like Parkinson’s, which is a nervous system disorder that will start affecting your body and will get worse over time. Exercise is the most powerful contributor to a decreased risk of both general cognitive decline and dementia. It helps with the release of the neurotrophic factor, which promotes the general cellular health of neurons and glia. These are the things we, people who spend too much time throughout the day in front of keyboards, should be worried about. We are in a high-risk group, and any effort to prevent such diseases is essential. Likeliness you will die between 20 and 65 is very, very low. You will get old, and once you do, you want to keep your independence and enjoy the rest of your life.

Now you have fewer reasons to spend your lunch in front of your screen

Covid update

I wrote this post three years ago and re-sharing now after a few minor updates. The most significant change we went through then is called a pandemic. First, my curiosity walks stopped existing, but I kept walking, every day, no matter the weather, alone. Then, I discovered podcasts, and whenever I’m out, I listen to some interesting stuff and keep learning.

With the world opening up again, I can’t wait to get to the office (not as often as in the past) and resume my random and uncomfortable habit that helped me meet people.

Software Engineering Changemaker. Driving digital transformation and sharing experiences and thoughts from my journey. 20 years and counting…