step outside of your comfort zone

Good evening! I just put a batch of local heirloom tomatoes on the stove, making a sauce that smells divine. Fresh tomato sauce is such a treat. As the tomato season comes to a close here I am thinking of making lots of Italian type foods just to keep making sauce – it is so good!

I have probably written a post with a similar title already since this is definitely one of my themes for 2012. Each passing week it becomes clear that in order to grow to the depths that I believe I am capable of in all areas of my life, taking risks and being uncomfortable is part of the process. I lived many years avoiding discomfort. For lots of reasons it terrified me so I turned to all sorts of activities to not feel, some more immediately destructive than others. And yes, I still have times when I don’t want to feel discomfort but the difference today is that I have evidence that supports it being a positive force in my life. Discomfort often propels me to expand beyond what I imagine for myself and this keeps me willing to take whatever chances I need to take.

This morning I spent a good two hours outlining my career goals and plan for the next six months. I thought about what I am the most passionate about and sent benchmarks to help me along the way. Taking the time to be transparant regarding what I want for myself brought me energy. Instead of spinning my wheels doing something I am not super excited about I decided to focus my attention and efforts towards dreams that I have.

Staying stuck (i.e. comfortable) is a copout at this point in my life. I am no longer interested in working at 75% on something I am not fully behind but is easy. I’d rather give 100% to a goal or a project that is inspiring and meaningful to me even if it means failing. Life just isn’t worth living if I am not willing to push myself and create the life that I want deep down.

And yeah. I’m scared. I am working on a new website and a few new things for this blog that could fail and not only that but I could totally embarrass myself – not my favorite thing in the world ;) And I keep saying to myself “so what?!” So what if it fails, so what if I look stupid, so what if nobody likes it. Nothing bad is going to happen. My ego might be sore…and? So what?! That is not a good enough reason to not try new things. Think I’ve never been embarrassed before? Um, hello, I’ve been an artist my entire life. I know what it is like to try something and have it not work out. This is the experience that I have been calling upon in recent weeks. For years I sent my work to galleries, grant committees and the like and didn’t hear a word back. I know all about stepping outside of my comfort zone in my career life and am grateful to have had such a wide range of experiences.

I have also been stepping it up in this area in my personal relationships – now this is way scarier to me than in my work life ;) It is. Truly. What I am learning as I continue to practice speaking up for myself in terms of what I need from people is that it is helping me to see that just because I have needs does not make me a needy person. This is huge. Seriously huge. I was taught to never have any needs and learned early on that I was going to have to take care of myself because my needs were unimportant. I’ve lived most of my adult life not asking for what I need out of fear that I would be perceived as needy based on a few people that responded to me that way when I asked.

Today I know I have to let go of those past experiences with people in order to grow beyond them. Just because they were not capable of showing up in the ways that I needed does not make me “needy” or them “bad”. We are all doing the best we can and I have to forgive and move on with my life. This year I have been practicing, very ungracefully and sometimes unskillfully, asking for what I need from others. Sometimes I can just ask, sometimes they have to draw it out of me a bit – I am a work in progress to be sure. Regardless I am doing my part with as much kindness and compassion for myself and the benefits are incredible. I am learning I can trust people in ways I did not think possible and that it is totally healthy and okay to ask for what I need. Of course I have to be willing to let go of the results but to me that is much easier than opening up my mouth to ask.

Look at all aspects of your life. Where are you holding back? Where are you hanging out in a comfort zone? Where could you step it up and take risks? What goals have you been too afraid to set? I encourage you to spend some time with these questions and if it helps jot down responses in a journal so you can get an idea of what needs work. Taking risks isn’t easy breezy but not fully giving yourself to the world would be a waste of a precious opportunity.



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