Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Getting Out of Our Comfort Zones - An Exercise in Baking Bread

Do you have a comfort zone?  Of course you do.  We all do.  Your comfort zone is that warm and fuzzy place you go to feel secure.  It includes a list of activities you are familiar with, a list of people you are comfortable around, and a list of places you have already been.

So why do people tell us to get out of our comfort zones?  Do they have some strange desire to see us twitch?

I have often wondered why I cling to my comfort zone the way I do.  I remember a time when I first started working as an engineer when I would become angry (yep, red faced, shallow breathing, angry) when I was asked to do something I didn't know how to do.  This sounds a little nuts as I was a newbie and everything was something I didn't know how to do, but it was my first reaction.  I did not then, and I do not now, like to feel stupid.

What is the best part about my comfort zone?  I don't have to prove anything to anyone in my "zone."  I know I am good enough, smart enough and pretty enough.  The problem is my "zone" starts to feel a little stuffy after a while.  It is like sitting in your favorite chair but noticing everyone at the party is in another room.  Do you stay where you are comfortable or go find out what you are missing?

I have a list of things I want to do.  I'm sure most people have their own version of this list.  My list has some spectacular things on it, such as spending 6 weeks with my husband and kids in Scotland to explore the country.  My list also has some less than spectacular things, such as learning how to make bread, the kind that doesn't resemble a brick.

The problem with this list is that it pushes me out of my comfort zone.  Some items push more than others, but all of them shove in one way or another.  As I do not particularly like change in my life, this can be hard.

The rub is this, I have dreams, and they are not in my comfort zone.  Drat!  I have places I want to go, things I want to experience and people I want to meet.  Not a single one of them is in my comfort zone.  Double Drat! Now what am I supposed to do?

So I have a choice.  I can choose comfort, and eventually boredom, or I can choose growth and possibly fear.  Hmmm.  I have never been a fan of choices that include the word fear.

Now that I have bared my soul and exposed a big weakness, I want to throw a question out to you.  How did you get into your current comfort zone?  Was it an accident?  Did you trip over a log and fall face first into it?  I doubt it.  Somewhere, some time you took a risk, learned a new talent and became comfortable.  You did that over and over until you found yourself right where you are.

So why is it we hit an age where existing comfort is more important than continued growth?  Haven't we figured out the more we try the more we will be comfortable with?  You would think that a world full of bright and intelligent people would know that instinctively.  But we don't.  We sit in our zone and wonder what would happen "if."

So now I am issuing a challenge.  Figure out what it is you want to do.  What is the dream you have that is just a wee bit uncomfortable?  Go for it.  Plan for it, practice for it, and then take action on it.  The worst that will happen is that you don't like it and you can pick another dream.

With this challenge in mind I am off to bake bread.  Wish me, my family, and my teeth, luck.

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