It’s 5:30 on Sunday morning. Barely awake, I hear someone clomping down the wood-floor stairs in our home. It’s my 19-year-old daughter, Haley. Seconds later, I hear the back door slam. Curious, I roll out of bed, stumble to the window and watch as she hops into her little s-10 pickup and pulls out of the driveway.
I can’t help but wonder where she might be headed on a Sunday morning. Especially at a time when most folks are still sound asleep in their warm, cozy bed. I grab my cell phone, and send her a text message.
“Where ya goin?” I inquire.
She replies immediately, “Sunday lab, 7 till 7 ugh.”
“Holy cow,” I respond. “Drive safe. I love you.”
Haley’s in her second year of college at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island where she’s learning to be a chef. Rather than live on campus, as she did last year, she decided this year to commute from home.
We live about 35 minutes from campus, and it’s a pretty easy drive straight up Interstate-95. Still, there’s nothing easy about dragging yourself out of bed at 5:30 on Sunday morning. There’s nothing easy about spending 12 hours of precious weekend time in a classroom.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch
I’m inspired by her drive and commitment. I know how much more comfortable she’d be if she was still nestled in her bed, sound asleep. I know how much more comfortable she’d be if she could spend her Sunday – like most people – relaxing and having fun with friends and family. But she’s doing neither. Instead, she’s giving up her comfort today in exchange for a brighter tomorrow.
“Life shrinks or expands,” wrote Anais Nin, “in proportion to one’s courage.” While I love that quote, I think the reality is more nuanced. To me, life shrinks or expands in proportion to your willingness to endure the discomfort that often arises along the path to a better life. I suppose you could call that courage, but we normally associate courage with fear, which is only one form of discomfort.
In their recent book, The Tools, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels write:
“Avoiding pain wouldn’t be a problem if we did it once or twice a year. But for most of us, it’s a deeply ingrained habit. We barricade ourselves behind an invisible wall and don’t venture out because beyond the wall is pain. This safe space is called the Comfort Zone … The Comfort Zone is supposed to keep your life safe, but what it really does is keep your life small.”
Have you fallen into this habit of living within your comfort zone? As you go about your week, I invite you to entertain this question. I invite you to look for moments when you allow fear, pain, uncertainty – or any other form of discomfort – to stop you from taking action toward your long-term goals.
Further, I invite you to reconnect with those long-term goals. Imagine what your life might be like if you were able to endure the short-term discomfort it takes to achieve them. Imagine what your life might be like if you more often lived outside your comfort zone rather than inside it.
“Nobody ever died of discomfort, yet living in the name of comfort has killed more ideas, more opportunities, more actions, and more growth than everything else combined.” – T. Harv Eker -