When have you stepped out of your comfort zone without knowing it?
I have. My fashion faux pas was so comfortable the other day I didn’t notice it. After work, I stopped by the grocery store but first redid my hair in the car. Yeah, I’m that type of gal. The temperature was getting way too hot in the car, so I rushed out, forgetting a detail. I picked out fresh fruits for my sister and a friend as quick foods they could eat during a busy time. The shoppers and a coworker’s family were friendly, smiling when they saw me. It wasn’t until I was loading the bags into my vehicle that I noticed I had on one pump and one tennis shoe. “At least they are color-coordinated!” I thought. I have an extended drive home after work, and so have a driving shoe. I am surprised no one in the store asked if my foot was injured.
Fact: I was fine even if embarrassed, and what mattered was two people would be blessed because I went shopping. If the ‘comfort zone’ is “a situation or position in which a person feels secure, comfortable, or in control” (dictionary.com), who would want to leave it? Some thrive on tackling uncertain, grueling events. Not me, unless the rewards outweigh the anxiety of stepping out of the norm.
When I finished grade-school, my tiny church had a graduation church service for all the graduates. Since most the of graduates had a sibling graduating, too, and it was Mother’s Day weekend, the youth leader decided the teens would tell their moms from up front what they appreciated about them. Thankfully, my older sister enjoyed public speaking; but once up there, she became overwhelmed with emotions, and started to cry. Thinking fast, I took the notes and finished the speech strong. My pastor stood up, and announced, “This is the first time I have seen the older sister speechless, and the younger one speaking for the older!” Obviously, I wasn’t upfront much.
I’m working on this area, though. When as a newcomer my boss asked if I would lead staff worship, I said ‘yes’. Two different times. Since the group was smaller than the hundreds at my church, I was all right with sharing with the group.
Does being willing to have an hourlong interview for the job you would love mean you will get it? No, but you might. Repeat the rewards of new, positive behavior as you prepare for it: you can grow, overcome fear, do it next time with more confidence, and have more understanding of the reality of what it is like. But, sweet sister, don’t push yourself so much that your body collapses the next day.
Some say it is motivation a person needs to do what feels impossible, but what if it is God’s strength filling in where she thinks she is inadequate? We don’t have to do hard tasks alone!
This week, visit that friend in jail when you would rather not, ask for the raise you have waited for, stay by the bed of your dying grandma even while you cry, and stick to your opinion when that overbearing person disagrees. Recognizing your self-worth and sharing kindness go a long way in making the life you really want—the one without regrets.
The research on growth
According to the Yerkes–Dodson law, if a person’s stress level is too low or high their ability to grow will be limited. I have volunteered at a food-bank, and for some, that type of place fits within what they are comfortable doing, for others, it does not. We all have different strengths. Work from your natural talents, and also try out a new area outside of your routine to grow in.
Start the journey to the reward
Overwhelmed? Focus on what you can do. For one woman, a simple action, such as greeting a visitor at church, is her big step, for another, an actual move to a new city. I’m not talking about seeking perfection. We could all use a little less thought of it.
We women tend to think if we can pull off one more awesome event, maybe we can go from feeling insignificant to admired. What if connection was the better option? loved + blessed presents the idea of how to “turn your misery into ministry.”
C. S. Lewis said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” And that’s wisdom. When your plans turn into action, the action might become a habit.
How many times do you think Jesus went out of His comfort zone while on earth? In the Luke 5 story, a man covered with leprosy cried out to Jesus, ‘“Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean”’ (verse 12). What went through Jesus’ mind before He touched the man, and said, “‘I am willing,’...And immediately the leprosy left him.” Luke 5:13 (NIV). Think of the impact on the man because of what Jesus did when His culture said to shun the contagious.
In Stained Glass Hearts, Pasty Clairmont wrote about how God brought her beyond her usual life into ministry: “And to think I almost didn’t go [on the African speaking tour] because it was outside my comfort zone. Live outside the lines of your list” (page 176).
Realistic tips to meet your new goal:
Start with a small step that leads to the finished action.
Try the task more than once before you make a final decision about continuing it or not.
Ask a good friend how you did to show the difference between your inner criticisms and reality.
I’m talking to me, dear friend, in this list. ‘Possible high risk’ will never make my favorite words list, but to be a person that really cares is a priority. ‘Stepping out of your comfort zone’ means action, as in do something hard today, and start with telling yourself the truth about it. Jesus teaches that you have so much worth no matter how much you accomplish.
That line is worth repeating every day whether you are in or out of your comfort zone, as is Psalm 119:114: “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word” (NIV).
Young professional Emily writes encouragement from a small, western town. Two of her main focuses are nonprofits and family. Her life is filled with caring for kids, mountain photography, facebook ministry, sweet pets, and finding humor. Knowing what it was like to go through a difficult accident, she frequently illustrates hope as a graphic designer and writer. She is inspired by the extravagant kindness of Jesus’ kingdom.