I don't know where this graphic comes from--I've seen it shared on Instagram and Twitter in recent months. So, my apologies up front to whomever was kind of enough to originally create this diagram and share this crucial information.
As a college professor, I tackle the issue of working outside our comfort zones every week in flute lessons, in my online music appreciation course, and with my entrepreneurship students. A college-bound high school senior, more often than not, leaves an environment in which they have been at the top of the heap for years, surrounded by the same people who have known them their whole lives and have already decided they're brilliant. When they set foot on campus as new university students, they become novices compared to their older classmates, not only in school but in general life skills and experiences, as well. This can be a real blow to the ego (there's no shame in admitting this), and I find that it's how any given student responds to this discomfort that will determine their success as they move forward.
If you think of your own life, it has been a series of these waves: you enter into a new community (primary school, high school, college, first job, etc.), conquer its challenges, and rise to the top. Then you move on when you sense there's nothing more to learn or achieve. To me, a happy life is never leaving this process; for some, the comfort of staying put within a conquered world is the goal. It's comfortable to know everything and never need to prove yourself to anyone. But it's BORING. And that's all you need in order to move forward: the genuine conviction that making yourself temporarily uncomfortable in order to absorb new information is worth it to avoid the inevitable boredom of treading water for the rest of your life.
Psychological researcher Carol Dweck describes this perfectly in Mindset, which we revisit and discuss every year in the flute studio at UW. Briefly, if you decide to embrace the discomfort of challenge, you will enjoy it. If you decide you would rather always be correct, you'll never step outside your comfort zone and thereby atrophy. But do yourself the favor of reading this inspiring book; don't just take my word for it!
As my students look forward to graduation in the coming month, moving on to graduate school or their first teaching jobs in new communities; as my colleagues (and I!) look ahead to summer and devise new projects for ourselves to remain relevant and artistically charged; and as my future students march ever forward towards college and the beginning of their adult professional lives, I wish us all the strength to continue challenging ourselves and finding joy in those challenges. I'm doing some internal spring cleaning right now, deciding what life jackets to throw away and what remote island I'll swim to next, and I encourage you to do so, too!