I am a fairly cautious person.
For good reason! The world is a dangerous place! Not just physically, but in every way! You never know what could happen! (Someone could not return your hello..! Or the new menu item you order could turn out to be terrible!)
But despite those realities..
I don’t want to stay in my comfort zone.
The comfort zone is a place of complacency, mediocrity, and general not-greatness. Ew. Why stay in that?
But so often I do.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about why. And here are 3 factors I’ve identified that I’ve determined to work on.
[What’s been keeping you stagnant? Feel free to share in the comments below! I love hearing from you and gaining insight through your comments.]
1. Lack of Motivation (laziness)
I’m pretty good at being lazy. My ability to waste time often amazes me.
Caveat: There can be a thin line between laziness and legitimate rest. So much of society these days is over-obsessed with work (at least in the cultures I’ve lived in: America and Korea), and that’s not good either. We can easily make an idol of accomplishment and busyness.
But, complacency is not good. And complacency comes from lack of motivation.
Why not just stay here? Maybe right here is good enough..
So what should motivate me to risk-take?
I’ve thought of many motivations: self-growth, self-improvement, to break out of the status quo, to reach my full potential, to not miss out on opportunities, etc. But most of those reasons are some form or other of: Do it for yourself.
I’ve been realizing more and more that love is the only thing that can motivate me to stick it through when the going gets rough. Love is what compels me to take risks and do scary things. Love is what makes it worth it.
Rather than thinking about this abstract concept of wanting to reach my full potential or achieving a certain level of success, I’ve been thinking about what I love and value. I’ve been challenging myself to love more and to love better.
This does include loving myself. It includes self-care. (So often Christians overlook self-love. We are so afraid of being selfish that we fail to be good to ourselves.) I’m learning to eat right and exercise, for example, out of self-love.
Love also includes ideas and passions––for me, writing and music, among others.
But mostly I’ve been thinking about people. Many, many people. The people who are right next to me whom I’m tempted to overlook. Children who need affirmation, friends who need encouragement, strangers whose days I could potentially brighten.
Am I willing to step out and take a risk for the sake of someone else?
Love is always a risk––there is always a risk it won’t be reciprocated, or worse, that it will be abused or taken advantage of somehow. But when I remember who I am––God’s daughter––I realize that I want to be like my Father, who does everything He does out of love, of people, of justice, of truth, of beauty, of good.
2. Fear of getting hurt.
A lot of my comfort zones are emotional ones. Vulnerability is uncomfortable. Being vulnerable in a new way with a new person is especially uncomfortable. Yikes. But that is often what love requires.
A few weeks ago, in a moment of idiocy, I cut off a little piece of my pinky near the knuckle. It was just a small chunk, but because my hand was numb at the time, my brain didn’t register the level of pain it should have. So when I looked down at what I thought was a little nick, I was shocked.
The wound bled profusely, but that didn’t disturb me nearly as much as the fact that I had forever lost a piece of myself I couldn’t recover. My coworker told me it would grow back, but I didn’t believe him.
Well, less than a month later, it has grown back, and I am marveling at the scar on my pinky knuckle–proof of an amazing resilience I never knew my body had.
It strikes me as an apt metaphor for the heart.
What I think will alter me forever often only leaves a little scar, something too small to even notice most of the time. Parts of myself I think I lost actually grow back.
It might take a little while, the process might be a little painful, but I am stronger than I think.
The scars can even be seen as a trophies. A reminder of our boldness, courage, and strength to endure.
3. Fear of failure.
This is perhaps the most obvious fear that keeps me in the comfort zone. There is a very real possibility that I will fail. And no one enjoys failure. Right?
My pride hates when others perceive me as less than capable. My pride hates to put on display less polished parts of myself, to flail around and make mistakes (which is necessary if you’re trying something new). To publicly go all in for something, to give it my best, and then to fail––which for a perfectionist like me is almost a certainty, because I’m hoping for perfection?
There is nothing quite like that pain.
So, I often distance myself from what I really want. I rationalize and pretend I don’t care when things go wrong. I convince myself not to go all in. In protecting my reputation, I not only miss out on possible accomplishments, but I miss out on who I could potentially become.
I’ve decided embracing failure as a part of life is the key.
I love this video:
So many people these days seem to expect instant success. That’s just not how it works, and not how it should work. I can’t help but think of Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus (am I dating myself?): “Time to take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” A rather profound exhortation, now that I think about it.
We could stay right where we are for the rest of our lives. Physically, emotionally, relationally, intellectually, and positionally. But I’m guessing that’s not what we want. At least not deep down.
So, let’s recalibrate ourselves to expect failure. Let’s examine some old scars to remind us of how resilient we are. And let’s let love pull us forward––into unknowns, discomforts, and risks.
Let’s get messy! :)
Are there any other fears or obstacles that hold you back from stepping outside your comfort zone? Any inspiring stories to share? Please do so below!