I've realized that I have a choice in life:
I can let my fears call the shots and play it safe in my life. I can stay in my cozy little comfort zone forever. If I choose this path, I drown in sorrow and regret. I know I can do better, but I'm afraid. I hate myself for being afraid, but I am not willing to face the fear.
I can face my fears, and live life based on what thrills and excites and terrifies me. If I choose this path, I'm riddled with stress and anxiety. My eye starts twitching, I have trouble sleeping, I'm constantly "on alert" and rarely ever able to truly relax. Peace and tranquility are distant memories.
Neither is easy.
I listened to a podcast by Michael Hyatt recently, in which he urges us to set up camp in the Discomfort Zone, and to learn to live there. I agree with him on many levels, but this is not an easy thing for an introvert like me. I am easily overstimulated. I need time to pull back from the overstimulation to process things or I become completely overwhelmed and unproductive. I don't mind being in the Discomfort Zone, as long as I have a place to retreat to every now and then to catch my breath.
I admire and envy those who can run full force into their discomfort zones, and just chill out there while they figure things out. Oh how I wish I could do this. But this approach is not in my nature. I am introspective and careful and I need to be alone to process, analyze, and reach conclusions. I used to get upset with others for not instinctively recognizing this about me and helping me to put myself in the best and most productive environments. Now I know that is my job, and mine alone. Part of my job as a human being is to understand and accept my nature, learn to care for myself, and make sure that I communicate my needs with others. Sure, I'd like to be different than the way I am sometimes, but we all have limitations, and it is my job to know mine and honor them. Of course, it's still important to consistently expand the limits of our comfort zones, otherwise life becomes stale and depressing. It's up to each of us to determine how much and how quickly we can expand.
This dynamic fueled a recent job change for me. I went from being a project manager at my firm to the marketing coordinator. My decision was based on several factors, some personal and some professional, but in the end, it was the best thing for me at this time in my life. The decision was not easy. I lost sleep over it. I shed tears. I questioned my motivation. I questioned whether I really even wanted to make the change. Finally, after weeks of careful deliberation, I went for it. Then I questioned if I had made the right decision. Was I throwing my career away? What did others think? It was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done. But in the end, I had to be honest with myself, and the truth was that I was not happy being a project manager. I was not working within my talents and strengths and passions. Yes, I was in my discomfort zone and I was learning and stretching and growing every day, but I was also terrified every day. I was lacking a sense of an underlying strength and overarching purpose to what I was doing. I was stretching in the wrong direction. And my body didn't like it. I was stressed out, I couldn't sleep, and my eye was twitching constantly. There was no relief in sight.
And most importantly, there was no passion.
My new job brings challenges and Discomfort Zones of its own. But it also brings what I call the BUZZ zone. The BUZZ Zone is when you start to talk about something, and you become so excited that your head starts buzzing. Literally. Buzzing. This happens to me during conversations about WHY we as architects do what we do, or how to best structure a project team, or how to best display our firm's strengths on the website and printed materials, or how to highlight our strengths in an emotionally compelling way in interviews. I was explaining this to my friend Kate and she said, "of course. you enjoy telling the story of your company." Yes I do. This is my BUZZ Zone. And I'm starting to spend more and more time here. Of course there were some BUZZ-worthy moments in my time as a project manager, but they were few and far between.
So while it's crucial to push beyond our comfort zones, we need to make sure that we're stretching in the right direction, that we're caring for ourselves in the process, and that we're spending plenty of time in our BUZZ Zone.
Maybe it's not so black and white after all, maybe there is a middle ground somewhere in the shadows between anxiety and regret... I sure hope so. If you find it let me know!
What about you? Do you push the limits of your comfort zone on a regular basis? Do you spend enough time in your BUZZ Zone? In the comments below, let me know the last thing that you did that took you out of your comfort zone, and the last thing that you did that put you in your BUZZ Zone. I'd love to hear from you!
Till next time,
© Haley McManigal 2016
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