“All progress takes place outside the comfort zone.”
-Michael John Bobak
In the beginning of 2016, I had a goal to create a business built with a mission to inspire, educate, and empower the chronically inflamed. I knew why, but I had no idea how. I’m an introvert with no marketing sense that loathed social media, but God has been speaking and birthing something in me and I knew I had kept silent too long. Now I sit, in December 2016, to reflect with gratitude and amazement. It’s not been perfect, easy, lucrative, convenient, or exactly as planned, but it’s mine. This is what I have learned from a year spent outside my comfort zone.
Comparison keeps you trapped
Comparison makes me want to stay comfortable. It keeps me from creating and sharing.
I remember sitting in a chair in the living room of a friend’s house several years ago, listening to some women chat. My head was down, browsing the latest Pottery Barn magazine. Most likely considered by my friends as part of the conversation, I was disengaged. They were discussing openly- like soul healthy people do- about personal issues. I stuck to the magazine, quiet and awkward, knowing full well my point of view could help speak new life to the situation, but I was too comfortable staying silent.
Stepping out of my comfort zone has helped me find my voice and not fear using it.
John Acuff says, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” Comparison makes me judge myself more than others, trapped in the shame of not being good enough.
Shame kept me trapped in silence from sharing with my friends that day. Stepping out of my comfort zone to begin my business meant I had to fight against telling myself that my voice doesn’t need to be heard. There are women with hundreds of thousands of followers, who am I? Look at her beautiful photos and delicious recipes, who am I? She has more knowledge, who am I?
These are the shame questions that keep us stuck. One baby step after another out of my comfort zone has actually strengthened me, made me more resolved (and less afraid) of who I am and whose I am. When God calls, He equips. When God believes in you, it doesn’t matter if you or the world think you are aren’t good enough. Let his words over you not be silenced by comparison.
I can do hard things
A comfort zone implies safety, security, and control. I rather like being comfortable and dislike being inconvenienced. Step outside the comfort zone and you invite anxiety and fear. Failure though is letting anxiety and fear win. One thing I learned about myself is I can do hard things.
I spoke my voice. I asked for help. I reached out. I learned new things. I created. I risked. I built something sustainable from the ground up. I inspired. I educated. I empowered.
I’ve learned to attune myself to the anxious voices rising, realize mistakes are how I learn, loosen control when I need to, and judge when it’s time to step away from it all because performance alone isn’t worth living for.
Stepping out of my comfort zone has been more of a step by step process than one giant leap. Simplifying is the same way. It’s not just doing less or buying less. It is living with less stuff, less noise, less chaos, less regret, less worry, less fear, less need. “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” (Hans Hofmann)
Here’s the truth. Simplify your life enough to where you don’t need anything but Christ alone. Fullness of life comes from Him. When He is the one filling your heart then there is always enough, because He is more than enough. All else may fail, but it is still well with my soul.
Anxiety is counterproductive
I’ve spent more time this year online than the past 10 years combined. Too much screen time literally makes me feel claustrophobic. Some days I did it all wrong: I have put work over conversation with my boys; checked for likes and comments on Facebook in the morning before desiring communion with God; forced myself to work as soon as I wake, and impressed other people somewhere in the world wide web because it was more convenient than human connection with friends and family.
It has become more clear this year that simplifying my time means first doing what is necessary for my soul. Forcing myself to produce and perform drives my anxiety. I can do hard things, but I must take time to breathe. Breathing is calming. Breathing while praying centers me. Breathing and praying while outside exercising gives new life.
I can’t do anything well with an overwhelmed, anxiety driven, fear ridden soul. No one can. I had a conversation with a lady who reported she has spent most of her life “powering through”. It reflects in her body. She has compensatory patterns in which the large dynamic muscles take over while the postural and stabilizing muscles (which require more precision) shut down. Guess what, she holds her breath as well. She has to be shown how to slow down, breathe, listen and connect with her body to engage the proper muscles.
Our bodies and our mind will work on autopilot, powering us through, until one day, we malfunction. The constant state of feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated “…impairs our ability to think creatively, to plan, organize, innovate, solve problems, make decisions, resist temptations, learn new things easily, speak fluently, remember important social information, and control our emotions. When we feel like there isn’t enough time in the day for us to get everything done, when we wish for more time, we don’t actually need more time. We need more stillness. ” (Christine Carter)
I can’t do all things-alone
Progress and sacrifice are close friends. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this well, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
This year outside my comfort zone, sacrifice has been inevitable. Sometimes, I sacrificed the wrong things and learned the hard way. Working three part time jobs may leave less time for being a wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, self. In her book, The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp says, “Perfectionism is slow death by self. Perfectionism will kill your sense of safety, your self, your soul.”
A year spent outside my comfort zone has brought more grace for myself. It has let me recognize my brokenness and not hide it. It has forced me to ask for help, and also to let go when my plate is too full. I can do all things through Christ because his strength is far greater than my own and recognize that if he calls then he makes the way. However I have noticed that when I am overwhelmed and I think “I can’t”, it is usually when perfectionism is knocking at the door.
Community is meant to keep us sane, show us we can do more than we think, remind us of our imperfections, and love us anyway. My husband has been my biggest supporter, helper, encourager, motivator, partner, and voice of reason. The community you want around you are people, like my husband, who realize you aren’t as far out of your comfort zone as you may think because they’ve believed all along that who you are on the inside needs to be shared. I may be able to do hard things, but I can’t do all things-alone.
Authenticity over Salesmanship
A year spent outside my comfort zone has strengthened even more of a passion in me to educate others on nourishing their body, mind, and soul. Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Education is part of my mission; it is what I am passionate about. It is time consuming, but it is not an area I am willing to sacrifice just to gain quick popularity.
Stepping outside my comfort zone to sell myself or my product is extremely uncomfortable for me. Whatever you want to purchase on the internet, you can find. You can even buy followers and likes. My approach is much more grassroots and probably counter intuitive to growing any sort of brand. I gauge success by whether the people I pour my time into are inspired, educated, and empowered because together we change the world.
Connecting with one person’s story is more fulfilling than impressing thousands with my own.
Remedy for others
Serving others through my business, to help create remedy stories, would not have happened if I stayed comfortable. I would not have connected with amazing clients or been able to listen to their stories. I would not have found community with an amazing tribe of people on a similar mission as I. I myself have been inspired, educated, and empowered through the clients I have worked with. They have shown me the power of the human spirit as they themselves have left their comfort zones. I am forever indebted that they chose me to lead them and be a part of their story.
Remedy for myself
It’s a funny thing. stepping outside my comfort zone. Maybe what I thought was comfort before was a false sense of safety. Maybe it was fear and shame all along. I am more confident in who I am and what I do. Yes there is cost and risk still, but I have found a deeper sense of myself. My true self, how God gifted and created me. No longer in hiding. A year spent outside my comfort zone and I am more willing to share, be, give, love, serve. I am more myself.
Several years ago, God spoke three words over our family: simplify, sacrifice and serve. I used to think we lived a season of each word at different times. Sometimes feeling as though we were stuck too long in the sacrificial season, wondering when we may get to serve. Reflecting on this year has made me realize that each one of these spoken words can be in continual harmony in our lives if we make room.
Life is simplified when you choose to live as though you need nothing, but Christ alone. Pursuing the Gospel allows you to sacrifice the areas in life that hold you back from using your gifts to serve others. Serving others keeps you from filling your lives with things that don’t matter. A life simplified offers thanksgiving to God as you sacrificially serve outside your comfort zone.
Go be you!