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Stepping Out

I accomplished two cool things this past week:

1) Wrote a syllabus for an undergraduate level course

2) Wore a 2 piece bathing suit to a crowded pool.

What do these 2 things have in common? They both pushed me waaaaay out of my comfort zone! Getting uncomfortable has become sort of my thing over the past twelve months.

I moved from the house where I lived for over ten years into an apartment neighborhood an hour away.

I joined a leadership group full of people I did not know in “real life.”

I started playing golf with strangers.

I stepped away from a career that spanned two decades without a real backup plan.

I accepted a part time faculty position at a university (hence the syllabus).

And yes, I spent several hours at a resort pool wearing a two piece bathing suit (I don’t think my midriff has seen sunlight since the 1970s)!

Some years ago, I came across this visual on Tumblr.

The concept was new to me then, although over time I have seen it echoed across many platforms, with slight variations in wording and/or design. At the time, I was so intrigued by the idea of getting out of my comfort zone, that I recreated this exact visual on a white board in my office. I was feeling stuck, and this became a constant reminder to me that I didn’t NEED to be stuck.

I just needed to be willing to get uncomfortable. Some of you reading this are thinking, “Duh, Eleanor. If you don’t like the way things are, do something about it.” I applaud you! I love that, for some people, changing direction… navigating away from a stuck place… is a no brainer.

I’m not wired that way. For most of my life, I’ve approached each life change, each course correction (no matter how slight), from a place of fear. I’ve talked myself out of more things than I’ve talked myself into. “Stuck” might feel frustrating, lonely, or overwhelmingly sad, but it can also feel comfortable. Making a choice to stay comfortable in the face of frustration or hurt is still a choice, and many times it’s the easy choice.

But something happened when I kept that visual front and center. My comfort zone began to feel suffocating, and I started spending a lot more time thinking about the place where the magic happens. I began to see opportunities where I hadn’t seen them before. And I learned to quiet the negative self-talk that kept me from saying yes to those opportunities.

Slowly, but surely, I allowed myself to be drawn out of my comfort zone and I stepped out into the magic. Remember that list of personal achievements I listed above? None of them would have happened if I hadn’t learned to embrace change!

I’ve spent the past years getting unstuck, and it hasn’t always been easy. For every moment when I took a tentative step out of my comfort zone, there were plenty more when I snuggled up right back in there and slammed the door. Learning to be ok with some discomfort is something that I will continue to practice, every day.

Are you able to get out of stuck places easily, or does it feel overwhelming to you? How can I help nudge you out of your comfort zone?

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