Study this chart carefully and thoroughly, as this is a HIGHLY important concept to wrap your head around. This is true in every aspect of your life, and everyone else’s life as well. If you look closely, you’ll begin to see this pattern emerge very clearly in the people around you which will eventually help you read between your own lines and see where you fall as well.
Here’s the thing…we are all a work in progress, but each of us has a different starting point. In this example, I am not talking about socio-economics, I am talking about personality traits. Each of us has a running dialog in our heads that set the tone in many different areas for our behavior. Some things we eagerly dive into unknown territory and in others we cringe at the thought of changing from our current path. Being human is never easy and it is always a complex maze of sensible and illogical thought software that we run our lives with. It’s always been this way, and it will always be this way.
But here are some things to consider:
Does your fear of the unknown really outweigh the
potential joy of the new thing you are considering?
Of course there is a sliding scale, if you are trying a new flavor of ice cream the downside is minimal and temporary. If you quit your job or move to a new city, that is tough to undo if it turns out to be necessary. So you react accordingly, for the minor changes you dive in, and for the major stuff you (hopefully) give it some real thought before taking the plunge. Or at least that is what you SHOULD do. Maybe you think and overthink and never take action on the big stuff. So let’s explore this in phases…
Back to the ice cream example, I am bad about this. It sounds funny, but I am a creature of habit, and if I find something I really like I stick with it. My wife is always happy to hear me make that statement, but when it comes to things other than my marriage maybe this is a limiting approach. How many other flavors have I missed out on by just ordering the same chocolate ice cream with Reese’s Peanut Butter cups smashed up in it from Culver’s or Cold Stone Creamery? In some ways…all of them. If I never try anything new, I’ll never know. Then again, I am not a fan of vanilla, I know I don’t like anything coffee flavored, and I would rate strawberry as “just okay”. So am I really missing out?
Stepping up a notch or two, let’s use dating again after a break up. We’ve all been there, and depending on how often or other circumstances, we drag our feet getting back in the game. You’re more cautious next time around, looking for warning flags that you missed last go-round. You don’t want to get your heart stepped on again, but the desire to be with someone eventually overrides this in almost all of us. Some takes weeks, others months, and a few of us, yours truly included, it will take years before we are ready to be open and vulnerable like that again. You are stuck behind that next layer of the chart above…FEAR. You have (in this example) a very valid reason for your concerns. But for the most part, this will eventually fade to a level that you can break through that circle and enter the next phase where you learn. Eventually you get into the final phase which is growth, the happiest phase of all.
Yes, you may think that the Comfort Zone is the happiest place to reside, but I disagree. And I do think many people would also concur, but the numbers dwindle quickly. And there is a reason for that…not everyone can get comfortable with change. Growth requires change, there is no other way. As the old saying goes, doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results is the definition of insanity. This statement alone shows the need to do things differently and thus change being a requirement.
I think I have been settled into my comfort zone for too long in certain areas. While Public Speaking is a big leap into the uncomfortable phases outside of the comfort zone, in other ways I have been stagnate. Despite having a year and a half away from the game of racquetball due to COVID shutting everything down, I recommitted to yet another year of teaching classes and coaching the club. Don’t get me wrong, I still love coaching the club kids, and I enjoy the beginner classes I teach (and get paid for). But I have been there and done that in the sport of racquetball. I was a top 20 Professional for three of my 6 years as a full-time athlete. I have my name on the AZ State Championship trophy. I won a National Championship title as a coach, and my team has been a perennial contender. I have helped over three dozen kids become Collegiate All American Athletes, some of them from players who never touched a racquetball racquet before college. Despite still loving the moments of connection and influence I continue to have within the sport, maybe it is time to move on to other things.
So, to ramp up the scary factor of this discussion, here is a possible future I am exploring: Moving out of Phoenix for the first time in my life. That was something I had never really considered doing until very recently. But life has been different over the past year or so and it has opened my eyes to a lot of things. My wife is considering doing an out of state work assignment as a traveling nurse, and of course I would go with her. I work remotely for my day job and have the flexibility to go with her. She would have a chance to make WAY more money doing this versus staying put in her current role. We have financial goals that we as a couple want to hit, and although if we stayed the course we are on we would get there, this could greatly expedite the timeline. I have thought about searching for a job that pays me much more money, but the lifestyle I lead and the job I have which I really enjoy are too good of a combo to walk away from. I am hoping that the speaking career will take off and I will get paid handsomely to share my stories on stage. This would mean I am upgrading my income earning without sacrificing my day job.
We may consider living in a travel trailer and doing the “RV Life” thing for a while. If my wife works three days a week and I arrange my work schedule to somewhat match hers, we would have tons of free time in a new place like Colorado or Montana. We love to hike and explore, and my favorite thing to do is fly fish, which would be much more accessible than here in Phoenix. The most time we have ever spent in a travel trailer is two nights, so we will be experimenting with this before taking the plunge. But it seems reasonable that given our lifestyle and our collective ability to focus on the prize at the end of the grind, I think it will be just fine.
So, I guess you could say we are willing to sacrifice what we have for what we may gain. This is a core tenant of growth, so let me repeat the exact quote attributed to Eric Thomas:
To be able, at any moment, be willing to sacrifice who you are now
for what you may become.
Couldn’t have said it better myself. This is the whole concept summed up in one sentence. You can’t live in the comfort zone and expect to lead a full and exciting life. You have to let go of the past and venture out through the different phases to get to the Growth Zone. For the most part I have been willing to do this; I left school to go play on the Pro Racquetball Tour, I started several different entrepreneurial ventures, and I have begun plenty of jobs or undertakings without a clue how to do them. Eventually I figure things out, and I believe in my own ability to do this to dive into yet another unknown. I have always dreamed of a lifestyle that is far different from what others call normal. I have no desire to work in a cubicle, live for the weekends and distract myself from my life with sports and video games. I don’t want to have two weeks a year of vacation that are a hectic run to a sandy beach somewhere only to dread the return to my regular life. I know WAY too many people that live like that, and I believe that most do so because while they are not as happy as they could be at least they know what to expect. They are comfortable in the misery. People do it in bad relationships too, it is an easy trap to fall into. The familiarity brings comfort despite the downsides that accompany it.
I don’t expect you to follow in my exact footsteps and start living life on the road. But I do STRONGLY ENCOURAGE you to find whatever it is that makes you excited to accomplish or change in your life and start putting the steps in place. You only get one shot to live this life, so you better give it everything you’ve got, otherwise you are going to look back upon your life and have some serious regrets that you can’t do anything but live with. Here is my prediction for the next five years for my wife and I:
Completely debt free, including paying off our house
Living outside of Phoenix for at least half of the year
renting our house as an income property
accruing one million dollars of net worth
Pick your path and start laying the groundwork. Don’t copy mine, create your own and get to work. Challenge yourself, and break out of the terrible thing called your Comfort Zone. Explore, expand and grow, be the architect of the life you’ve always dreamed of. Consider this a challenge and get to work. Be uncommonly uncommon. We’ll welcome you to the club with open arms. See you on the other side…