Thursday, November 19, 2009

Comfort Zone, Meet Growth Zone

I am sitting on an airplane ready to take off for a conference. Across from me is a clearly nervous but “put together” looking woman.

Picture an older version of Olivia Newton John in the movie, Grease (before she got all whored out.) Headband on perfectly coiffed blonde hair, pearls, cardigan in a unique color blue which just happens to match her eyes perfectly. She probably spent at least 25 minutes applying dozens of cosmetics - but in such a way so as to look like she is hardly wearing any at all.

For kicks, let’s just stick with the Grease reference and call her “Sandy.” If I didn’t hear her speak and didn’t know we were in Philly, I’d imagine Sandy having a southern American accent. However, Sandy is having a candid conversation with the stranger next to her, sadly sans drawl.

Sandy reveals with quick candor that she is completely terrified of flying.

Yes, it’s rude to eavesdrop but ya know, she’s right there and I have not yet received the necessary permission to use my approved portable electronic devices. Still, I am careful to appear completely immersed in my complimentary copy of the SkyMall catalog. A Deluxe Cushion Keeper for only $199 – well, look at that!

Sandy just celebrated her 50th birthday and yet this is only her third time on an airplane. Ever. She’s going to a funeral and to “take care of family affairs.” (Again I use my imagination and picture she is getting a big fat inheritance. Lucky Sandy!)

There is much conversation about missed trips and opportunities she turned down because of her fear of flying. Romantic getaways. Culinary school. The guy next to her looks like a priest accepting confession. He mostly looks straight ahead with his head tilted slightly towards her, noddling gently. If he's providing actual responses, I cannot hear them. (Probably a good guess he's not assigning Hail Mary's.)

As if counseling herself through some epiphany, Sandy suddenly seems to be questioning all of these sacrifices. Perhaps it is the fact that this particular travel occasion reminds her of how short life really is. Or perhaps it is because this trip is building her confidence in her ability to survive the experience of air travel.

As one of my greatest mentors once told me, “Increased confidence brings increased capacity.”

Right here on this plane I am witnessing personal growth. In my workshops for Personal Strategic Management I talk (and draw pretty pictures) of extending outside the comfort zone into the growth zone. The "rub" of course is that growth sometimes includes risk and fear. They don’t call it the “comfort zone” for nothing. Comfort feels better. Safer. Ahhh.

But what are we missing when we don’t venture out?

This is not a new concept I know. But think about it. How willing are you really to extend outside your comfort zone on a daily basis?

I’m not talking about jumping out of a plane here (especially not the one I'm currently traveling in, thank you). As a simplistic example -- how about just getting out of bed a little bit earlier to do some of the stuff we say we “don’t have time” to do for ourselves?

Bed comfortable. Awake (especially pre-coffee) uncomfortable. I get that.

People tell me that I am CRAZY to get out of bed at 5am to workout or meditate or start my workday earlier. But what pushes me to get going earlier in the morning is the relative comparison about what I will GAIN by pushing myself over to the realm of “discomfort” vs. staying in bed.

When I think about anytime I’ve been in a rut (big or small) or wished that things could be different, it’s typically been about my own fear or unwillingness to step outside my comfort zone.

Increased confidence brings increased capacity. Believe in yourself and get your arse out of that bed. Literally or figuratively, as the case may be.

As Martin Luther King once said, “You do not have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”


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jmvcep said...

I love this post. As a real estate egent I am constantly stretching and challenging myself. Getting out of my comfort zone is something I do every day. Oh and by the way, thanks for making me want to get up and work out in the morning. I seem to be finding every excuse in the book to stay in bed.

UberGrumpy said...

I got up at four this morning for a pee - does that count?

Aimee @ Ain't Yo Mama's Blog said...

Ha! *laughing at the comment above me.*

This is a great post. I like challenging myself and pushing myself into an uncomfortable place. The journey is rarely pleasant, but once I get there it's usually not a bad place to be. I think you nailed it - to grow in life, you need to leave the comfort zone every once in a while.


Rae said...

Great post. I have to challenge myself all the time. The older I get, the worse I am. When I was younger I loved doing new things. Now it is an effort. I guess I am too comfortable.

Maricris Zen Mama said...

This is so true. By getting out of your comfort zone only does one learns the possibilities and capabilities that we never know we have. Great post!

Sarah said...

I just found out your new post is not showing on my reading list. What the heck! I'll fix it in a jiff.

Charlene said...


Sarah - I think that glitch happens whenever I re-post something. This is another one I had originally written during my first months of blogging before anyone read my blog, so I bumped it up. But for some reason the bumped posts don't always show in the readers.

tinahead81 said...

wow, i needed this post!! thanks for the shove! :o)

stopping over from sits!

Richard said...

I always enjoy visits to your site! You are a very talented writer! And this post about stepping outside one's comfort zone was inspiring...except for the fact about her being a much older version of Olivia Newton John and yet we learn later...she is only 50! Just kidding! Great job!

Charlene said...

Thanks Richard! You know, when I wrote that I was thinking Olivia was 18 at the time (i.e. the age of her character); It turns out she was 29 - I had no idea!

50 isn't too far away for me so I guess I do need to be careful. LOL!!!

Thanks again for reading and commenting - very much appreciated! :-)

Blogger_babe32 said...

I don't know why airports are so conducive to epiphanies. I have a few there myself. I must admit the Skymall is one of my guiilty pleasures! Great post!

plainolebob said...

Charlene, it is working just fine

nothingprofound said...

Sandy sounds like an excellent traveling companion, chatty with lots of problems. The time would fly by. I go through active and inactive periods depending on what I'm interested in at the time. I'm content either way so it doesn't really matter which. player said...

It's very hard to get out of our comfort zone. I believe you'll be more mature when you know a lot of things and one must accept some changes to have this like breaking bad habits. Nice comparison with Sandy and about comfort zones

foxy said...

What a great writer you are! And a great reminder to venture into the growth zone. I need to do that more often, but you're right, it's so easy and warm and cozy in the comfort zone.

Thanks for helping to make my SITS day last week so special!

Charlene said...

Thanks for the comments and compliments - much appreciated!

Congrats again on your SITS day Foxy!

a's anonymous said...

Haha, you have a great way of putting it. She sounds like a gem, keep it coming.

hope to see more,

The Guy's Perspective said...

You are right on! And see it works. I'm up and commenting already!!

Charlene said...

Whoohoo - Way to go! :-) I think EVERYONE should wake up at 5am to comment on my blog. LOL!!

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