Thursday, November 11, 2010

Comfort zones and growth

You've heard it before, right? "Get outside of your comfort zone!"

But it's an uncomfortable place!

I don't recommend getting uncomfortable for the sake of discomfort. That's just crazy and well, uncomfortable.

But rather, I think of it in terms of "no pain, no gain."

What do you GAIN by going outside of the zone?

Last month I helped a client clear some stuff blocking her piano. I asked her how long it had been since she'd played it ... and she said ... years.

When I asked her if she'd play for me, she said, oh no, she couldn't do that. I then suggested that at some point, maybe she could just sit on the bench and see what it felt like. Then maybe even just put her hands on the keys. No pressure to play, just little steps outside the comfort zone to become familiar with her piano once again.

Well, before I left for the day, she did sit down on the bench. She put her hands on the keys.

And then she played.

Music streamed out of her heart, down her arms, through her fingers onto that piano. There was no sheet music anywhere. The most wonderful sounds filled the room as she played a classical piece. It nearly brought tears to my eyes. More than just clutter had been blocking that piano. She found the courage to experience a little discomfort and bring an entire world of music back into her life.

A friend visited me recently who hadn't been in the area in over a decade (although she only lives a couple hours away and even has family here). I don't know all the dynamics of why she had stayed away, but I had offered some entertainment, a chance to reconnect (we had been out of touch for years, ourselves) and some food and some fun. I hadn't realized what a discomfort zone I invited her into until later, but I was happy that she had stretched herself to make this visit and really respected her for how much discomfort she was willing to experience in order to have a new experience. I was honored and touched and I can only hope it was just the start of more visits here (and not such a shock that it was a setback!).

So, think about your "zones" and what getting outside of them will do for you. Will the discomfort last for long? Will it even be not as bad as you thought? Will it help you reach just a little bit farther in order to attain a goal? Sometimes small steps help us in distance, but sometimes those small steps help us in acclimatizing to the situation, too.

I am touched and honored when I have been a part of someone's growth through getting outside a comfort zone, and even more honored when I get to witness an act of courage. I see it whenever a client lets go of an item that is no longer useful to give them more space in their house, when they change a habit or routine they've had for decades in order to improve their enjoyment of the day. Change is not usually comfortable. But that's OK ... it gets easier. Pat yourself on the back when you make changes, honor your discomfort and notice and value what you have gained.

How will YOU get out of the "zone" today?