7 August 2015
“Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.” ~ Robert Allen
I love this quote, even though I don’t fully subscribe to it. It’s patently not true about a lot of things for me. The smile of a friend, a deep yoga stretch, a strong bitter latté—these things are not outside my comfort zone and my life is enriched by the presence of each of them.
However, there is truth in this quote that snags me and holds onto me. The physical connotation of the quote, about the rewards of pushing ourselves in a tangible way by hiking out into adventures, I have experienced and found both strengthening and satisfying. That’s not what keeps the thought circulating in my mind.
There is also a more subtle level to the quote which intrigues me. A truth that pertains to everyday paths where joy or satisfaction often lay just beyond our comfort zone.
Like with the dog that came racing right up to me, its owner assuring me it only wanted a sniff. Despite the owner’s nonchalant friendliness, uncertainty piled up into discomfort in me—A sniff where? Maybe a jump up on me, too? Could the owner really know the dog wouldn’t smell something it didn’t like and the sniff could snap into something different? A growl, or a nip?
My comfort zone was invaded. My defenses went up. My anger kicked in. Perhaps not unreasonably, yet defensive behavior often creates a series of events, like dominoes set in a line, that begin to tumble forward with force and without brakes.
Sometimes finding satisfaction requires that I apply brakes, veer off the path of an automatic response as quickly as I can. Creating joy can require more from us. More attention. More intention.
In the face of grumpiness, a dose of gratitude challenges me to find a larger mood to dwell in. In the face of discouragement, trust challenges me to take a wider perspective. In the face of an argument, love challenges me to expand my viewpoint.
Even though we want to be open to joy, it’s easy to lock ourselves into tight spaces and rationalize that they are the only reasonable place to be.
But they’re not.
The smaller place can be familiar and safe, while being the person I want to be can dangle just outside my comfort zone. Seeing this, understanding the push-pull here doesn’t always make it easier to step into the expanse of unknown territory, but it does clarify why we want to, and why we courageously do.