It was the first day of practice. I’ll never forget it. I was in the 7th grade and my coach started talking to us boys about the game. I couldn’t believe how serious he was. All business. He told us that if we were going to be a great basketball team, we were going to have to be tougher, scrappier, and in better shape than all the other teams. I remember thinking, “Wow, this guy is pretty serious, but I’m sure we will get around to having some fun soon.”
No such luck. The very next thing he did shocked me. It shocked all of us! He put 4 buckets in the 4 corners of the court and said, “We are going to run. If at any point you have to throw up, just run to a bucket… and then get back on the court!” And he was serious! Imagine how a bunch 13 year olds must have felt! The message was loud and clear… say goodbye to your comfort zone!
You must leave your comfort zone
Michael Hyatt said, “If you are out to accomplish significant things in your life, you are going to be spending a lot of time outside your comfort zone… the really important stuff happens outside your comfort zone.”
This is just how life works. Nothing worth having comes easy. When you and I stay tucked away in our comfort zones, nothing of significance occurs. If you stay where you are comfortable, things in your life will stay the same. It was Todd Clark who said, “Comfort zones are invisible cages”.
We all want to live better lives. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t. The harsh reality is that the better life that you seek only comes to you as you push beyond what is known and familiar. You must push into the discomfort zone.
You must get comfortable with discomfort
People who achieve significant results are willing to put in the extra practice. They make the difficult phone calls. They persevere past the point where a normal person would quit. They forgive when they don’t want to. They do the hard right, as opposed to the easy wrong. They learn new skills and push hard to fix a character flaw.
But this is not the case for most of us. Most of us like to take the path of least resistance. We make the choice that causes the least pain and discomfort. We avoid whatever is difficult.
If the comfort zone leads nowhere good, why do we stay?
We want life to be safe
Fear is a big motivation. We fear failure. We fear what people will think of us. We even fear what would happen if we actually succeed.
We like things comfortable
Our comfort zones require very little from us and they keep problems to a minimum.
We like predictable
As humans we like to be in control of our lives. Once we step out of our comfort zone things can get very hairy.
We have tried before and failed
We suffered a loss and the pain still stings; we don’t want to do that again.
However, if we want a better life, we must push out into uncharted waters. The main reason is this:
Growth only happens outside of our comfort zone.
We stretch. We learn new skills and new character traits. This is how strength training works. The growth happens when we strain the muscle… our muscles get stronger and bigger when we spend time outside of our comfort zone. If we don’t leave it, we won’t grow.
What does this look like for you?
Do you need to be more outgoing and meet more people? Do you need to speak up more in meetings at work or with your spouse? Do you need to talk more to your teenager about their behavior? Do you need to volunteer somewhere in your community? Do you need to start a business, change careers, or learn a new language?
It’s outside of your comfort zone that you grow. You were created to grow. Don’t be your own worst enemy by staying locked up in your comfort zone. Spread your wings! Put the buckets in the four corners and get going!
Where do you need to step out of your comfort zone?
Danny Anderson is the senior pastor of Emmanuel Church, in Indiana, and a coach for CourageToLead.com. He married his college sweetheart, and together they have three awesome kids.