Am I Ready for the Biggest Comfort Zone Leap of Them All?
Turning 70 last year was (gulp) a big step. Hey, do you even know about “collagen drop?” I didn’t. Now I do. Go look it up. Yikes, suffice it to say I now know and well, it’s happening. There’s so much I’ve taken for granted about my body and now it seems to want more of my attention.
Turning 71 just about a month ago somehow feels like more of a challenge to me. My age is saying, “How are you going to handle this one, Susanna?”
Maybe this is why I’m so focused on comfort zones and leaving them. Someone… – who is it that the ancients felt measured time? Ah, the Fates – those rather creepy women…
Consistently portrayed as three women spinners, each of the three Fates had a different task, revealed by her very name: Clotho spun the thread of life, Lachesis measured its allotted length, and Atropos cut it off with her shears. Sometimes, each of the Fates was assigned to a specific period of time: Atropos – the past, Clotho –the present, and Lachesis – the future.
It must be Lachesis…she’s deciding right now where to tell Atropos to cut off my thread of life. Hold on, Lachesis! I’ve got more growing, learning, and evolving to do. I’m not done yet!
No, I don’t feel I’m being morbid. I’m being realistic and trust me, I’m not known for being realistic. So, this is good.
We hear it all the time, life is short. But the phrase takes on new meaning as the years go by. Maybe I’m moving into the biggest comfort zone leap that there is – aging! Aging comes with so many questions – how am I going to deal with it? Will I stay healthy? Will I have to keep reminding myself about Judy Dench’s quote:
"Don't prioritise your looks my friend, as they won't last the journey. Your sense of humour though, will only get better with age. Your intuition will grow and expand like a majestic cloak of wisdom. Your ability to choose your battles, will be fine-tuned to perfection.”
They won’t last, Judy? Are you sure? No, I know they won’t unless we mine the latest in anti-aging science.
And I can say that I’m proud that my intuition, (is there anyone else out there who uses their intuition to do Wordle?) sense of humor and wisdom have grown. Here’s some wisdom that I’d like to share with you that I know works for me and for the women I coach.
What I offer up in my School for Real-Life Heroines is this bit of encouragement for whatever leap you’re on the cusp of…just look back and remember your comfort zone leaps in the past. Whatever you’re about to face, you’ve taken a risk and leaped before and you survived.
This next one? Start stepping in and you’ll see. You’ll be OK.
Comfort zone leaps come in all shapes and sizes. They are unique to the individual – what’s hard for some will be easy for others.
Don’t compare – just begin.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Another tip I espouse – look for ways to leave your comfort zone regularly, in little ways. It helps your psyche get used to change. You will be more adept at handling surprises and transitions. Dare I say it, you could even get to a point where you embrace change and like to live mostly out of your comfort zone.
Little ways. I describe it often as “dipping your toe” into something new. Here are a couple of my examples.
Dipping a toe in – Literally
Freezing cold water. We have lots of that here in Maine. Even in the heat of August I have a hard time going into the ocean at Reid State Park. It is so cold it numbs. (I know you people out there, you Wim Hoff people who regularly bathe in ice…and you polar bear swimmers – that’s not me…but I admire you!) You can’t feel your feet in this water! But if I decide to be brave, I don’t immediately run screaming back to shore – “It’s too cold!”
I stand there, ankle deep (yes, ankle deep – I know, pretty tame), and deal with it. I live in discomfort. And then, of course, you know this, it gets a little less freezing as time goes by. And then maybe I move to my knees. But there’s always that wave that comes in when I’m not looking and all of a sudden I’m wet to my waist - and then, yes, for sure I run screaming back to shore to my towel, and my book.
Find a Dancing Master
Here's another one, English Country Dancing. Think Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Bridgerton…the 1800s, the Regency Period in England. Two lanes of partners, graceful…lots of steps. Dancing skill was required for genteel young women and men. Their mamas hired dancing masters to teach them. When I saw the sign in our local health food store – Do you want to learn how to dance like in Pride and Prejudice? I quickly took down the number to call. I am a long-time reader of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. I loved reading all things “regency” and thought maybe I could coerce my husband to join me.
Remarkably, he did, and we both ended up loving it. We danced with a like-minded group of people for three years – until the pandemic brought it to a crashing halt. We even went to a ball, my first and possibly only, in a real ballroom in Salem, Massachusetts. Suffice it to say, we got totally into English Country Dancing.
Were we out of our comfort zones? OMG! Initially, we had absolutely no clue what to do. We had a dancing master – he would carefully guide us through the steps. We’d go through the dance several times but then all the couples, not just us, would get mixed up and we’d have to start over. (There was lots of laughter – sometimes hysterical laughter with tears – which is the best.) No one (well, just a few) had done this before. It was new terrain. And besides, you had to remember the steps!! You had to remember what comes after back-to-back and siding and …. then do it to music. (Yes, this was very good for our brains, by the way – another thing that ages!)
We probably spent the entire first year in discomfort…forgetting the steps, feeling foolish, feeling like we looked foolish, comparing – how come she remembers to do that turn in place and I don’t? All the things that happen when one leaves their comfort zone.
But, just like my icy water example, we persevered. And we loved it. Finally, we got to the point where we had trained our brains. We remembered what came next…and we found that we could then just enjoy the movements and the music and what it looked like – all these couples swirling around so gracefully – and not worry so much about the steps.
And we watched new people come in, some could stick with it, being OK with however they thought they looked because they knew they were learning. And there were others who just could not bring themselves to look foolish in front of strangers. They quit.
Isn’t that a big part of it – we feel like we’re looking foolish when we are learning something new. Most adults have found their “comfortable limits” and tend to remain in them. So when any of us venture out in front of these comfortable adults, trying a new something, well, the potential to look silly, stupid, ridiculous, ….all those words – well, we’re just inviting criticism. Look at her, she’s trying to act…young, …and we don’t like criticism, do we?
No, we don’t – but if you believe in the practice of leaving your comfort zone as a good thing – as a good thing to practice regularly, then you eventually revel in finding yourself uncomfortable because you know how it benefits you – how it enhances your brain, your creativity, your ability to see beyond your perceived limits.
All of these started out as “can'ts” for me:
- I can’t speak in front of people.
- I can’t deal with conflict.
- I can’t sing.
- I can’t dance.
- I can’t…
Comfort Zone jumping is a great way to move beyond your I can’t. It’s not easy but as in wading into the icy water at Reid State Park – rest assured, you can just go up to your ankles at first.
The Joy of Leaving
Part of the joy (joy?) of leaving your comfort zone is you’re always navigating, and finding your way…it’s frustrating, challenging, and exciting…and calls for tons of perseverance and patience, with yourself. It calls for loving and not judging yourself.
Leaving invites in wrong turns and blind alleys and the discovery of what’s not right for you as well as what’s right. That’s called a clarification, affirmation, and verification and that’s what’s such a good thing about this practice (art?) of leaving your comfort zone.
When I left my twenty years of business consulting to begin learning how social media worked and how it could help me market my book and myself, I was not only learning something entirely new to me but I was figuring out – who is this Susanna outside of her comfort zone who is no longer the experienced and confident conflict resolution professional? Who is this Susanna with a book about the Heroine’s Journey? And what in the heck will she talk about on social media?
Who am I becoming?
Constant comfort zone leaving, and its accompanying changes invites rebirth, re-evaluation, and re-invigoration!
Now, that’s a great way to deal with aging! Bring it on, ladies who weave our fate! Lachesis, you’re going to have to wait. Just put those shears away!
The only way to end this is with Dawna Markova’s call to action!
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
Of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
To allow my living to open me,
To make me less afraid,
To loosen my heart
Until it becomes a wing,
A torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
To live so that which came to me as seed
Goes to the next as blossom
And that which came to me as blossom,
Goes on as fruit.