The past year has been difficult….rough…a dumpster fire. And most of us have been searching for a way out, instead of a way through. We want to escape back to the known- to what’s comfortable, instead of wondering, “How can I grow in this season?”
We like comfortable things. Cozy blankets. Bowls of macaroni and cheese. Sweatpants. And I get it. I’m all about living that hygge life. But, what happens when our aversion to discomfort keeps us from the things that strengthen us, teach us, and help us grow?
We have a semi-converted garage just off of our kitchen. It’s warm(ish), dry, and features a bathroom and a Murphy bed. And, earlier this week, I found a small mouse in it. We live up in the hills, and up until yesterday, our yard was covered in snow. It makes complete sense to me why this little mouse sought refuge in the garage. I’m sure he saw the door and thought, “surely, an indoor area would be far more comfortable than another night out in the cold.”
But, what the little mouse didn’t know, was our cat is currently residing in that garage, along with her new litter of kittens. A place that had appeared to be a safe haven, was ultimately where the mouse met his untimely demise.
Sometimes the best possible place for us to be is somewhere that makes us uncomfortable.
We’re not so unlike the mouse. We just want out of the “snow” so to speak. We’ll do just about anything to avoid feeling uncomfortable. We don’t like doing hard things. (If we’re honest, we don’t like doing even mildly unpleasurable things.) And so we seek refuge in our comfort zone – and then we set up shop and never want to leave it.
Here’s my working definition of a comfort zone:
Comfort Zone [kuhm-fert zohn], noun
1 a self-imposed boundary you refuse to push past, often due to fear or anxiety
2 a situation in which you feel comfortable, where your determination and ability are not being tested
3 a place in which one finds themselves stuck
Sound about right?
There’s no stress in your comfort zone. No pain. No difficult feelings. There’s no growth, vulnerability, or life change either – but we tend to gloss over that part.
I once heard someone say, “As long as opportunity means change, and as long as change means pain – we’ll continue to miss our chances for growth.” And it’s absolutely true. Change is uncomfortable. Growth is uncomfortable. And while I think it’s healthy and normal to have seasons of comfort and rest, seasons change. It’s not spring all year.
You don’t get to find out what you’re made of in the comfort zone. You never have to dig deep or find the grit within your soul. We think we can’t do the hard things – that the fear and anxiety are just too much to overcome. But, I just keep thinking about that mouse. What if he’d decided to just endure the discomfort of the elements a little bit longer?
I’m not saying that looking for an escape to your comfort zone will kill or hurt you. But it could hold you back, stunt your growth, and keep you stuck.
If you only did what felt comfortable, what would your life look like? I don’t know about you, but I’d probably never set down a book or talk to anyone I didn’t live with. Ministry would be out, along with writing and creativity (because let me tell you, sharing your work is one heck of a risk!) I wouldn’t worry about what I ate and I certainly wouldn’t exercise. And I’d be exactly the same. Forever.
Change and growth aren’t comfortable. Neither is vulnerability. And if we’re being honest, neither is parenthood, deep friendship, marriage, or love. Some of the best things in life require us to be uncomfortable – to stretch – to change – to grow.
So let’s stick it out and see what we’re made of. I know – it’s harsh, cold, and overwhelming. But we’re going to make it. We just need to push through the pain, knowing that what’s on the other side is worth it! Find the breakthrough. Change your attitude. Shift your perspective. Make a new habit. Change your life.
Want to read more about my thoughts on comfort zones and change?