A little more than a year ago I recall reading a quote that stuck with me. "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." I liked it. Liked it so well that a few weeks later when I was talking with a student about how she might get members of her student organization to try new things in order to make membership more meaningful, I commended this quote to her as relevant to her organization and their plight.
This morning I am looking at that quote in a new light. I understand, and agree fully, that staying in our comfort zone--that place where our norms, our habits, our viewpoints are familiar and unchanging--can stunt us. It's hard to make new discoveries in a place that doesn't expose us to new thoughts, ideas or experiences. We may be content to remain where we know what to expect, and where our choices serve us.
It has been my experience in life that when I risk stepping beyond the boundaries of what is known and safe I benefit from the experience. Sometimes my boundary--my zone--expands to incorporate a new idea or ritual. Other times I find that what lies beyond does not serve my needs or enrich my life. Not every experience will, or should be life-changing. When we taste something new we may find that it is sweet or bitter or on our tongue.
Yesterday I was invited by a friend/acquaintance to attend a training meeting for members of her direct sales team. I've spoken with her several times about the opportunity her business offers, and lord knows that since I no longer have a paycheck the need for some income is great. The potential of what can be achieved and earned through Sandy's company is tempting. In less than three short years in this business she is earning more than $20,000 a month. And she's happy.
I'm familiar with direct sales. I've lived the regimen for the last five years as a consultant with The Pampered Chef. I love PC. Love the products, love the perks, think the training is second to none, and the support I receive from my director and other team members is beyond sufficient to succeed. The Pampered Chef provides all the tools for me to do well and become its poster child. The only thing standing in the way of banking a big commission check is me.
Here's the bald truth. I don't "do well" with my PC business. There are aspects of working with customers and promoting the products where I excel. But the nitty gritty, nuts and bolts parts that stand in my way are outside of my comfort zone. We're encouraged to step outside that zone, to push ourselves to take the steps that will lead to success. Can I do it? Of course. But I hate how the effort to dig down to find the energy and the courage to perform the necessary tasks makes me feel. To paraphrase another quote that has circulated and become popular, it's like asking a fish to climb a tree. No matter how badly that fish may want to climb that tree, it just isn't equipped to do so.
I am not equipped for direct sales. As I listened to the encouragement and motivation Sandy offered yesterday to her team and the guests present, I knew that it would be a mistake to sign on. I'm already living outside of my comfort zone selling Pampered Chef. What I take away from that experience is that my "limits" are confirmed, my deficits highlighted. I am reminded that when I play to my strengths my life is richer and happier, and I have energy that enables me to offer the best of who I am to the world.
Life doesn't begin at the end of our comfort zone. Rather, at that fuzzy edge between comfort and risk we have the opportunity to examine that zone, to consider how what lies beyond might transform and empower us, or cause us to seek retreat. The willingness to step beyond is critical. Staying there is not always to our advantage. The discomfort of being out of our zone is also instructive.
My present circumstances require my presence in the territory of the unknown and yet-to-be-revealed. It serves me well to step outside my comfort zone and listen for what the world has to offer as well as to heed what I already know. I have put my hand into the hand of God, whose wisdom is sufficient and whose guidance I trust. That is the only zone I really need.