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The Uncomfortable Zone

The question on Quora

“In what ways do you get out of your comfort zone in order to improve your life? Have you ever taught someone how to get out of their comfort zone?”

My answer

I still remember the night that Scott turned to me and said in a snarky tone, “You used to be nice.”

Scott was the manager of the family restaurant where I had been working for a year. He was replying to a sarcastic remark I’d made, and what his statement really meant was, “You used to be a doormat. You used to be afraid to talk back. Heck, you used to be afraid of the little old lady customers that come in here every single night.”

I had grown up painfully shy, and when I first started the job at age sixteen and a half I was terrified to approach the customers. But I needed a job so I could start saving money for college, so I forced myself out of the comfort zone. A year later, I was not only not afraid of talking to strangers anymore, I was boldly talking back to my smart-aleck manager.

When I finally went to college, I chose to attend one where I would have to stay on campus. I’d never been to summer camp or anywhere else that required me to be away from my family for any extended period of time, so that first week among strangers and having to learn a whole new routine was frightening.

But there was no such thing as getting an online degree back then, and I had to go to college to get the teaching degree I thought I wanted. To achieve my goal, I had to get out of my comfort zone.

After graduating, realizing there were few teaching jobs available in my home state, I moved over 900 miles away, into an almost completely different culture. To this other planet called Texas.

To achieve my goal of getting a job in my chosen career, I had to get out of my comfort zone.

Getting married? I’d never had a roommate in my life. Out of my comfort zone, but it was one of the best decisions of my life. Getting pregnant? I was terrified. I don’t recommend that any woman do it for the mere purpose of getting out of her comfort zone, but I’m telling you, it does. As does raising a child.

But the result is that I have learned so much more than I ever would have, had I not had a child.

All of that leads up to the one person I know I have pushed out of his comfort zone: my husband. Early on in our marriage I saw that he really didn’t like his job, so I began scheming and planning different ways to get him out of it. Ultimately, we realized that by a certain year we would have a large enough nest egg that we could retire super-early. But as the day to turn in his resignation grew closer, my husband’s feet grew increasingly colder. But I knew that he wanted out, knew that he’d caught the vision of being able to be the master of his own days. So I kept encouraging him that everything would be all right.

It’s been almost five years since he quit his job, and he’d be the first to tell you that it was one of the best decisions he ever made.

After marrying me, of course.

I have only achieved my goals and been able to grow by leaps and bounds as a person by pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and the above story illustrates only a few of the ways that I have done so.

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