They don’t call them ‘comfort zones’ for nothing.  It’s our natural tendency to stay in these zones and when things push or pull us outside of them, like rubber bands, we may stretch a little, but generally come back to our original form.   But, every once in a while, the tension in our bands loosens and we grow.  There are also times when the band is pulled too far and snaps.  But, for today, I’d like to discuss when our rubber stretches, thus leaving us bigger, with more space to encircle the things in our lives.

I’ve found that I don’t often recognize when I’m living in my comfort zone and not stretching much outside of it.  That’s the trap of the cozy feeling a comfort zone offers.  It’s easy to be there.

Recently, my business world grew exponentially by winning a bid to partner with a national association.  After the excitement wore off, it dawned on me how many things it entailed that were outside of my comfort zone.  That included spending a lot of money to prepare for the three year commitment and launch of the program; having to hire an outside marketing person; needing to create and prepare for my company’s very first trade show booth; and most of all, needing to speak to an audience of about 400 people.

None of these things were completely foreign to me.  I’d had marketing done by hire in piecemeal; I’ve spoken to audiences, just none of that size; and I’ve done countless trade shows, but never on my own, under my own company’s name.  So, while somewhat familiar, all of it was daunting, scary, and not comfortable.

After weeks of stress and spreadsheets, I boarded the plane to Vegas to meet my nerves face-on and cross my fingers one last time that this leap outside of my cozy comfort zone would be well worth it.  And that’s just it. There are no guarantees when you leave the comfort zone.  If there were, you’d still be in it.

So, off I went to tackle it one piece at a time, since at that point, I’d done all the prep I could.  Step one: present to the 40 person Board.  Step two: Set up booth (and compare it to everyone else’s….big sigh, we fit right in and didn’t look like amateurs).  Step three: Speak to the 400 person audience (sans power point since they forgot the A/V).  Step 4: Exhibit.

After four days, I not only was relieved it was all over, but was elated.  My expectations were positively shattered and I felt so grateful as well as pleased to be reminded of this important lesson.  You can’t grow without pushing yourself and I faced this head on last week.  Now, I know we’re capable of this and more and I excitedly await future opportunities that are included in my expanded comfort zone, as well as ones that will help it to grow even further in the future.