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.”