Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone We’ve all been there. Wake up in the morning, commute, work, commute again, dinner, tv, sleep, repeat. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with routine, we actually need it. Our brain goes on autopilot so we can accomplish more, using less mental capacity. But what if you want more?

I stumbled upon this picture a few years ago and immediately it resonated with me. It has such a beautiful way of putting things in perspective. Since that time I have referenced it when coaching staff, pushing them a little, and urging them to see the bigger picture. Obviously it had some impact because when a cake was brought out at my going away dinner, this picture was on it. I gulped, got more than a little emotional, and thought, “shit, time to walk the talk”.

Last weekend was the end of my ten year restaurant management career. Why did I stay so long? Honestly, I was afraid to leave my comfort zone. I knew the company, it’s culture, and what they expected from me. I was (sort of) working towards a big promotion. But when I was honest with myself, it wasn’t what I wanted; and my performance showed it.

There are two feelings, or clues, your body gives when it desires something more; longing and discontent.

Discontent comes when things don’t quite fit, when you’re unhappy and not quite sure why. Your body is saying there’s something more out there for you, you just need to figure out what that is. With longing, you daydream how your life could be different, yet haven’t taken any of the necessary steps in that direction. They key to both, is being aware and honest enough with yourself to admit you’re feeling this way. And that, can take some time.

It was almost two years before I could be honest (with myself) enough to admit that I didn’t want that promotion.  Even longer before I had the courage to have the conversation with my boss. With time it gets easier, and start small, baby steps.

When I first started meeting with a coach my first challenge was listening. For a whole week I did nothing but listen and get curious. In that week I learned more about my friends, family and myself than I had in the last year combined. The next week we moved on to truth. I was challenged on telling the truth with everyone in my life, including myself. All of a sudden I had to come clean with my feelings, not an easy thing to do. It also started conversations that had been put off for a long time. On the third week we moved on to openness, which again was an amazing (and scary!) experience. All the things I was afraid of being judged for (like the fact I wanted to leave my very safe salaried job and start my own business) were now out in the open. And guess what, the people I thought would be my biggest critics, actually turned out to be the biggest supporters. Through these three weeks the coolest thing started to happen. My “stuckness”, showed the first few signs of movement.

What are your thoughts around listening, truth, and openness? I challenge you to pick even one and practice it for the week. It will feel uncomfortable at first, but that’s exactly where you should be. Discomfort signals growth.

When you have longing or discontent to get out of your comfort zone, start with your thoughts, as small as they may be. Not only is this less scary, it’s amazing how the rest seems to fall into place. When we change our thoughts, feelings change, and finally, behavior changes. Baby steps. The first thing a turtle does before he moves anywhere is stick his neck out. Be like a turtle; take the (baby) step of sticking your neck out. If it’s scary you can always hide back in your shell. But I promise you, once you’ve seen how magical the world is outside your shell, you won’t want back in.

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