We talk blithely about getting out of our comfort zone. And while we recognize that we need to be challenged to go somewhere extraordinary, we are reluctant to do so.
Why is that? What attitudes keep us there?
I'm too tired.
It has to be perfect.
I'm okay where I am.
There's not enough time.
It's not that important.
What if I fail?
(Read my story farther down to see what held me back, and how I got past it.)
Steve Chandler, author, speaker and corporate trainer, says, "The comfort zone is a place to rest, not live." When you take up residence in the comfort zone, you may be living, but not growing and thriving. It's too easy to stay there. After all, it's... well, it's comfortable.
Chandler observes that "the human system does not really want comfort, it wants challenge. It wants adventure." You have only to look at teens and young adults to see that in action. In spite of their need to fit in, so many are seeking ways to stand out from the crowd, to try new and daring things, and to differentiate themselves from others. (We parents pray a lot that they find safe ways to do this!)
When you look back on your life, what stands out for you and makes your face light up? Is it your collection of possessions? The crazy hours you work? Or is it the time you took a chance and accomplished something you didn't believe you could do? Or maybe when you tried, failed and picked yourself up? Yes, it was probably one of the times you went outside your comfort zone and took a risk.
Take note: This isn't about your achievements. It's about who you are and how you show up in life.
Now to put my parent hat back on...
One thing I learned is that double standards are not allowed. If I expect something of my children, I'd better be prepared to hold myself to the same standard. There's a big difference between knowing the right thing to do and actually doing it. (Talk is very cheap, and I'm definitely a work in progress.)
If I'm my children's most important teacher, then I must teach and inspire them by my actions. It's no wonder that at the Hyde School parenting is called ‘The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have’ (also the name of the book about their program). Our children learn how to 'do life' from us. What's more important than that?
When I was a Hyde parent, I was asked to co-chair the regional parent group. My first reactions? "What if I can't do this? Who will listen to me? I'm going to mess up. I'm not a leader. Too many people in leadership positions abuse their power and are unlikeable. I can't risk not being liked, so I won't put myself in that position." I had a million reasons not to do it.
I had one great reason to do it. My son was being asked to stretch and grow in ways he never thought possible. How could I give in to my fears and live in the comfort zone? I chose to be courageous, too (mentally kicking and screaming along the way). Being the co-chair of a group of 60 parents challenged me greatly. There were lots of moments of confusion and self-doubt. Things didn't always go smoothly, and yet we all lived through it. I consider this to be a major success during those years. And the icing on the cake was my children telling me how proud they were of me.
It's true - our children want us to inspire them. That happens outside the comfort zone. In all honesty, though, I think it's my kids who inspire me. Either way, it's a good place to be.
Fern Weis is a Parent Coach and Family Recovery Life Coach. She works with parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, from the homework wars to addiction recovery, and all points in between. Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive and be successful through life's challenges. FernWeis.com | 201-747-9642