"A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there." -Anonymous
An Opportunity... and a Problem
Yesterday was a big day for me. Our local news station wanted to do an interview about this blog, and air it on the 6:00 news.
I was honored. What a great opportunity!
Just one problem... I am extremely camera shy.
I used to teach, and I don't have a problem speaking to groups of people. But there's something about a video camera that makes me freeze up.
Being in front of a camera is definitely outside my comfort zone. It feels unfamiliar. It feels uncomfortable. It feels so... recorded!
A Familiar Voice
When I was first approached about doing the interview, I encountered a familiar voice in my head. This voice is what author Steven Pressfield refers to as The Resistance. It's that voice that wants to keep you in your comfort zone. It doesn't like change. It doesn't want you to grow.
This voice has shown up over and over throughout my life. A couple examples that stand out in my memory are:
- It showed up about 12 years ago when I decided I wanted to apply to PA school, despite having a Master's degree and a good job in a completely different field. At that time the voice said, "That's foolish. What if it doesn't work out?"
- The voice showed up a year and a half ago when I wanted to start this blog. At that time the voice said, "What if people don't like it and you look stupid?"
The voice shows up in a variety of situations, but its message is consistent: "You could fail."
My resistance voice is quite dramatic. It likes to show worst-case scenarios in my mind like horror movies. For example, when I found out that the news team wanted to "meet up with me for a workout" (a run outside), the resistance came up with these scenarios:
- What if my running form is really bad (like Phoebe from Friends), and nobody ever told me? I can see the headlines now: "Local Awkward Runner Gives Health Advice."
- What if I trip and fall, the news people have to call an ambulance, and I end up going to the ER on a stretcher? (My colleagues would never let me live that down.)
- What if I end up on one of those Funniest News Bloopers shows?
The Good News - I Survived.
Fortunately, I survived, and everything turned out fine. I didn't run like Phoebe, there were no falls or ambulance stretchers, and no humiliating bloopers were recorded (to my knowledge).
I am glad I did it.
Stepping Outside Our Comfort Zone
The experience reminded me that if we want to grow, we have to be willing to step outside our comfort zone.
I'm not saying this is fun... In fact, it's rather painful (especially in the beginning). After all, this territory is full of fear, self-doubt, anxiety, and drama. But these are just thoughts, and thoughts eventually pass. If we can just hang in there, we find that this uncomfortable space offers great opportunity.
Facing Your Resistance
In what areas does resistance hold you back? Does the resistance tell you that you could never be one of those "fit" people? Does it tell you that you can't achieve financial freedom? Does it halt your efforts in the pursuit of a calling, a creative art, or a new idea or venture?
The next time your resistance shows up, I encourage you to consider this quote from Steven Pressfield: "The more important an activity is to your soul's evolution, the more resistance you will feel to it."
And this quote from Seth Godin: "When you feel the resistance, the stall, the fear, and the pull, you know you're on to something. Whichever way the wind of resistance is coming from, that's the way to head."
But What If I Fail?
There are no guarantees in life. Failure is a possibility. But it doesn't have to be the end of the story. You have to decide -- do you give it a shot, or do you always wonder "What if..."?
I try to remind myself that successful people fail a lot. What sets them apart is how they respond to these setbacks.
- JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, was a single mother living off welfare in the UK. Despite her manuscript being rejected by multiple publishers, she kept at it, honing her craft. That "rejected" book idea ultimately led to over $400 million in book sales and over $10 billion in ticket sales. She tells us, "It is our choices... that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
- The legendary Michael Jordan didn't start off so legendary. In high school he didn't make the cut for the varsity basketball team. That didn't stop him from becoming one of the best basketball players of all time (many would say the best of all time). This famous quote of his sums up his thoughts on failure: "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
- Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, was removed from the company he started at age 30. After working on other endeavors that eventually merged with Apple, he became the CEO again and revived the company to what it is today. Before his death, he offered these wise words: "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life... have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."
- And then there's Oprah. She was born into poverty, molested as a child, and became pregnant at age 14 (her son died in infancy). Despite these circumstances, she worked hard to create the life she wanted. She eventually became a news anchor but was fired from this job because she "wasn't fit for television." Not only did she become a TV superstar, she ended up becoming one of the most influential people in the world. Oprah reminds us that "failure is another stepping stone to greatness."
As You Consider Your Goals for 2017...
Ask yourself if the resistance has been holding you back. Do you have an unhealthy fear of failure? Have you been spending too much time in that comfortable place where nothing grows?
I like Albert Einstein's definition of insanity: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If we want different results, we must be willing to take different actions. And different can be pretty uncomfortable. Fortunately, the discomfort does subside with time.
Instead of doing the same comfortable things over and over, how about we set sail toward the resistance, in that uncomfortable place where growth and transformation take place?
This post was originally published on January 12, 2017.