Sunday, August 26, 2012

the comfort zone

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.


Carolina Linthead said...

I agree completely with this post...we are very much alike re: direct sales. I've struggled in the past with opportunities that not only pushed me outside my comfort zone but also promised to highlight my deficiencies rather than allowing me to use my gifts. That's one reason I'm sticking with my current job. It is not all I had hoped my career to be...not at present, anyway...but it plays to my strengths, helps me give the best of myself to our students, and the sweet fruit of that is already very much in evidence. Grace, peace, and much love to you, dear friend, and best wishes for you, always.

Jayne said...

This is the very reason after 28 years in my field, I have remained a "staff nurse." Yes, I could have climbed that ladder and become a manager. I even had an opportunity for a while in Home Health and hated every minute of it. I could have gone back to get my Masters and again, been further removed from patient care. People are my strength... caring FOR people is my gift, not managing others. I think as you said, we have to be honest with ourselves about where our strengths lie and not try to be who we are just not, which in the end, makes us feel we are always struggling and unsuccessful. I applaud you my friend and your ability to be honest with yourself. XOXO

Terri said...

We live in a world that endorses moving up the ladder, always seeking the next higher level. And that is not always wise or healthy. It's a whole new paradigm to live on the edge of comfort - a little inside the zone and a little out -

YAY for you. (and your wise friends who have posted here).

troutbirder said...

Most interesting post and I agree completely with Jayne. My own experience in the classroom was exactly the same. I love the kids and the classroom and though other activities & organizations proved to my self that I could organize and motivate adults, I choose to stay where I was in the classroom...
Then I ran across your post on Anne of Cleves and just finishing Hilary Mantels latest in her series on Henry VIII I was most intriguied. :)

The Bug said...

I was going to mention Mike's brief foray into direct sales, but he beat me to it.

I've been pushed out of my comfort zone many times in the past - & you're right, sometimes it's successful & sometimes I just learned what I shouldn't do.

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